May 04, 2012 in Falkland Islands 2012
Falkland Islands 2012
Apr 24, 2012 in Falkland Islands 2012
I spent my first few days in the Falklands in a state of destitution. There is just one bank, and it doesn’t have a cash machine, so visitors arriving on a Saturday like I did have to wait until the bank opens on the Monday before they can get any money out. If they have the bad luck to arrive at a time when that Monday is a public holiday then they’re in trouble. And if they also have the bad luck to have only managed to get hold of 40 pounds of Sterling in Santiago before they arrive, and for those 40 pounds to turn out to be old bank notes that are no longer valid, then their first few days in the islands will require them to impose on the charitable nature of the Falkland Islanders. This was the situation I found myself in, on account of the Monday being the Queen’s birthday. This is something that we would never dream of celebrating in the UK and it certainly isn’t a public holiday. But here, before I’d arrived on the Saturday, there had been parades and ceremonies, and most things were closed on the Monday. Fortunately I was […]
Apr 23, 2012 in Falkland Islands 2012
On the way back from Volunteer Beach we drove back past Mount Kent. The hills near Stanley were the scene of fierce fighting during the war, and even now, 30 years later, relics still remain. We made a stop at the wreckage of an Argentinian helicopter. Keith told us that in the later stages of the occupation of Stanley, when British forces were shelling the town, senior Argentinians would leave at night for safer refuges in the hills. This helicopter had been ferrying officers away from Stanley for the night when it was attacked and shot down by a British aircraft.
Apr 23, 2012 in Falkland Islands 2012
There were two other tourists on the islands while I was there, Claudia from Germany and Lynn from Singapore. Claudia was staying in the same place as me, and we decided to share the cost of a trip to Volunteer Beach. This beach is not far away from Stanley, in terms of distance, but at this time of year it feels amazingly remote, as it requires some serious off-road driving. We got a lift there with Keith, a local with some impressive driving skills. It was an awesome journey there, over the snow-blanketed hills via road to Johnson’s Harbour, and then off road over rough terrain to get to the beach. We were the only visitors today, and probably the last until spring because the track was about to close for the winter. This was the first time I’ve seen penguins in the wild. Straight away we could see that not all penguins are the same, as the tall and dignified king penguins strolled out of the way of Keith’s car, while the smaller gentoo penguins scrabbled away frantically, sometimes tripping over as they ran. If we had been here in the summer there would have been magellanic and maybe […]
Apr 22, 2012 in Falkland Islands 2012
For the last six months I’ve been enjoying Santiago’s incredibly stable weather. More or less every single day has seen clear blue skies and temperatures in the thirties. And when I haven’t been in Santiago I’ve been in the Atacama. Between early October and last week’s incredible downpour, the only rain I’d seen was literally a few drops which fell in January. So I knew, really, that it was going to be cold in the Falklands, way down south just a few hundred miles from Antarctica. I knew that. But I had forgotten what cold really was. I rediscovered the phenomenon as soon as the plane door opened after we’d landed at Mount Pleasant airport. By the time I got to the terminal I was shivering. I’d seen snow on the high ground from the plane as we descended, but much worse than the snow was the wind, a wild icy blast which sapped my body heat and swept it away over the hills. I suffered on the day that I arrived in Stanley, and I suffered much more the next day, when the snow had come down from the high ground all the way to sea level.
Apr 21, 2012 in Falkland Islands 2012
I arrived in Chile at the end of September 2011 and by April 2012 I still hadn’t left. The last time I spent more than six months in one country, it was 1999. So even though this six months has been spent in a foreign country, I’ve still been getting ever itchier feet. But a nightmarish situation with a herniated disc meant that for a few of those months I could barely even leave the house let alone the country. With the back situation easing a bit, and having just completed my first solo night shift at the observatory, I decided the time was right to hit the road again. I’d long fancied a trip to the Falklands, had started actually planning it a few weeks ago, and finally a week before I wanted to go, I booked the flight. And what a flight it was. I came down from Paranal on Thursday, had Friday to get used to daylight again and pack, and then at 4am on Saturday I headed out into the streets to grab a taxi to the airport. I had a fun ride with a friendly driver who thought it was really funny that I was […]