Wednesday 21 December 2011

Malvinas/Falkland Islands

First landing, first albatrosses and first penguins! And, of course, first encounter with the variable Malvinas/Falkland Islands unpredictable weather. The landing at New Island started with pretty miserable conditions, improving while we were ashore to not so bad, quite good and extraordinary. We enjoyed the perfect light for photographing birds, which is something that our passengers took advantage of, filling their memory cards to the limit of their capacity.

Black-browed albatrosses with chicks were the stars of the day, followed in close pursuit by the always devilishly looking rockhopper penguins and the elegant blue eye cormorants. The perfect setting of the rookery, like a natural Greek theatre hanging over a cliff facing the open ocean, did the rest.

And for those souls for whom nature is not enough, the little touch of history in the tiny museum of the settlement gave them the human dimension to this nowadays almost uninhabited place. Rusty harpoons, flensing gear and old cauldrons reminded everyone that this astonishingly beautiful island once was the first and only land whaling station of the whole archipelago.

Remote Carcass Island, with its most hospitable owners Lorraine and Rob, was waiting for us in the afternoon. A paradise for serious and occasional birdwatchers, the beach has been a hotspot for a great variety of endemic and non endemic birds of the Malvinas/Falklands.

Delicious cookies from four corners of the British world welcomed all of us that decided to pay a visit to the farm and meet Lorraine and Rob at their warmly decorated home. Tea time found most of the passengers savouring their coffee and tea at the house, but few decided to burn out some cookies and made it to the top of the hill located just behind the house, a short but steep and strenuous walk facing strong winds that almost took some of our thinner passengers to the neighbouring island!

A quite wet and bumpy Polarcirckle boat ride back to the ship was the final adventure to deserve a well earned buffet dinner after the first activites ashore.  We ended the day sailing along the uninhabited northern cost of the islands heading towards Port Stanley, the “big city” of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, where new adventures and experiences are waiting for us tomorrow.