The Falkland Islands

Tumbledown


The first thing most of us think of when we remember the Falklands Islands is the conflict. Over 200 British service men and women died in the fight for the islands. Many of the infantry who were killed lost their lives in the battles of Goose Green and Tumbledown. The memorial cross shown above stands on the very top of Mt. Tumbledown and commemorates the sacrifice made by the Scots Guards who took this key position, despite heavy resistance. (NB Thanks to Dereck Gibb, a former Scots Guard, for correcting these details).

Mined beachesThe conflict has left many marks on the islands, not least of which are the numerous mine fields. Many of the mines laid by the Argentinians during the Falklands conflict were dropped randomly by helicopter and no record of their placing exists. Efforts to clear the minefields have also been hampered by the use of 'plastic' mines which are particularly hard to detect. Consequently, many areas of the Falkland Islands remain out of bounds.

The Falkland Islands remain heavily influenced by the military. Around 2000 service personnel are stationed there - effectively doubling the total population of the Islands. The local people are extremely welcoming and the whole place has a real frontier spirit to it. Admittedly the weather is pretty atrocious at times and it's the only place I know of where the weather forecast includes advice on when to shear sheep to avoid running the risk of them subsequently freezing to death.

 

Blue Eyed Shag colony
Around the coast of the Falkland Islands there are many bird colonies, including those of many penguin and albatross species. Here you can see a colony of blue eyed shags drying their wings and digesting their meals of Southern Ocean fish. Like Penguin rookeries, it's usually easy to find these colonies first by the smell and then by the noise!



Stanley is the main town of the Falkland Islands, its harbour is littered with the hulks of wrecked and abandoned ships. Many date back to the beginning of the century when whaling was in it's heyday and Stanley served as an important staging post for whaling expeditions. The wreck below is that of an old steam powered fishing boat, now abandoned in a sheltered corner of the harbour.

 

Falklands wreck

Today most of the fishing boats coming into Stanley are 'long liners' from Japan and Indonesia. These boats primarily catch fish and squid using miles of fishing line interspersed with bated hooks. Unfortunately, aside from the threat this fishing may pose to squid and fish populations in the Southern Ocean, this method of fishing also leads to the drowning of many Albatross. The Albatross dive into the water after the baited hooks/hooked fish, they then become caught on the line and drown. The sheer number of Albatross deaths resulting from long line fishing is seriously endangering Albatross populations, and with increasing numbers of long line fishing boats the outlook is bleak.

Falklands wreck

The wreck on the left is another of the steam powered boats made redundant by the internal combustion engine. Behind the wreck you can just see one of the many bridges erected by the British Armed Forces after the Falklands conflict. The bay on the other side of this bridge remains out of bounds due to unexploded ordnance.

Falklands wreckThe impressive wreck on the right is that of an early steel sailing ship abandoned at the eastern end of Stanley harbour. At low tide it is still possible to walk out to the wreck, although beware of all the jagged and rusty edges (and the tide coming in!).

 

All in all the Falkland Islands are well worth a visit, with some stunning scenery and amazing wildlife.


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Last updated April 24, 2003 email: dave_reay@lineone.net