Friday, 8 March 2013

The Last Landing

The high winds of yesterday blew right past us during the night. We awoke to blue skies and a light breeze blowing from the west. We had ideal conditions for our final landing of what has been a truly epic voyage.

Before 07:00 the Expedition Team was on shore and ready to receive the first eager passengers from the ship. Our last landing was a dry landing on a really nice slipway. The ambiance is hard to describe. Imagine Falklands/tropical: turquoise and azure waters and the odd very palm-looking tree scattered around the edges of green gorse bushes. Add in blue skies, 10˚C and a generally green landscape and voila, Falklands/tropical.

And anyone that thinks that penguins don’t belong to tropical landscapes doesn’t know anything about penguins. Just 30 metres from the slipway was a group of moulting Magellanic penguins. Almost every species indigenous or endemic to Carcass island was represented right at the landing site! Amazing!

The screeching, strident calls of no less than 20 young Striated Caracaras filled the air at the landing site. The young raptors seemed to be everywhere and were definitely attracted by the arrival of so many people.

Fearless Little dun-coloured Tussac Birds hopped right up to people on their ceaseless search for food. Cobbs Wrens flitted in and out of the gorse.  Upland Geese grazed higher up the track on the way to the settlement while Kelp Geese explored the intertidal zone. Fat Falkland Islands Flightless Steamer Ducks whistled and clucked at the waters edge. And throughout the morning, as unbelievable as it may seem, we had visitations from Commerson’s Dolphins right at the dock! They came singly, in pairs and even a group of six dolphins came right up to the slipway. They were at times a mere metre away! If that’s not a cool wildlife experience, I don’t know what is.

Lots of people chose to hike right on past the settlement where they gained a high vantage point looking out towards West Point Island. Sooner or later everyone paused for refreshments in the home of the McGill’s for a cup of tea and to sample some baked goods from an extraordinary spread of delectables laid out in the dining room. The scones were to die for!

Carcass was a bittersweet experience. On a long voyage like this it is always the same. Everyone is reluctant to leave. Everyone ekes out everything they can from the last landing. The Falkland Islands are extraordinary and everyone now has indelible cherished memories of Port Stanley and Carcass Island.

Now, once again we are at sea. It will be three days until we reach our final port of Buenos Aires.

In the afternoon we had a full program of lectures and documentary films. In the evening it was a real treat to be entertained by the crew in the Observation Lounge. After more than two weeks on Fram, everyone knows one another very well. It was like being entertained by your friends. Needless to say the Observation lounge was packed for a very fun show!