Bluff Cove Lagoon

The muted wintry landscape sped by, shaded a weird blue hue by the vans tinted windows carrying us across the island to Bluff Cove. The browns of the tall withered grasses and deep greens of the heather lying close to the ground were broken up by weird rivers of broken rocks. This “stone run” landscape is unique to the Falkland Islands, caused by the erosion, thawing and freezing of the last ice age.

the landscape was so blue looking through the windows
this is more like it really looked

Bluff Cove Lagoon lies on the opposite side of the island from Stanley, about a half hour drive. Final approach to the farm passes over low rolling hills on a rutted dirt track to a wide spot where we traded in our vans for a fleet of 4 x 4’s (jeeps).

Speeding along in our jeeps, bouncing across sheep-shorn green grass and grinding through deep muddy ruts, we’re dropped off with a short speech at the rookeries near the beach. A flock of about 1000 gentoo penguins along with another 20 pairs of the kings we’d come to see were nesting there. Squeaking and preening, poaching rocks and tending eggs, they paid us no mind as we stood at the marked boundary and hustled for photos.

Along the edge of the lagoon, another 10-15 kings and their chicks- looking like fluffy brown puff balls- huddled in the steady cold wind. They paid no attention to us, but threatened the occasional goose that wandered to close to their chicks with their long sharp beaks.

It was wonderful to get so close to these wild birds. We were told not to approach closer than 5 m, but the birds apparently never got the memo. 🙂

It was a beautiful sunny day, but the wind was strong and it got so it was hard to hold my camera steady. With hundreds of penguin photos, I was ready for a hot drink. Picking my way through the fields littered with pellets of goose poop, I stopped at the top of the rise to take in the gorgeous seascape before me.

impossible to avoid the poop

The ocean was a dark teal color, with breakers shining electric blue as they rolled onto the blindingly white beach, the wind blowing streamers of spray and sand upon the few brave birds searching for food along the shore.

The Sea Cabbage Cafe beckoned with the smell of hot chocolate and baked goodies in the air. The small kitchen bustled with friendly chefs, all ready to suggest their favorites among the many options to choose from: lemon drizzle cake, Hattie’s famous carrot cake, scones with local diddle-dee jam and farm fresh cream, chocolate chip, peanut butter and coconut lace cookies, chocolate cake and even gluten free varieties. Yum!

Maybe I should’ve spent less time with my cameras and more with the cookies? I didn’t even have a chance to check out the gift shop before it was time to head back to the vans. Next time, for sure. 🙂

Stanley

The capital of the Falkland Islands, Stanley is a small town of only about 2500 pop (2016 census). I wondered how isolated and deprived the local people might feel, or if they missed much the ‘advantages’ of the big cities of the rest of the world. I wonder if they get sick of all the tourists tromping through their town when the cruise ships come in?

I think I wouldn’t mind living somewhere like Stanley. It has all I need- boats to work with, friendly people to talk to, museum, shops, restaurants, hospital, pubs, and beautiful scenery to walk around in.

they even have a distillery...
and a brewery

Sadly, I didn’t get much of a chance to hang out and BS with the locals or sample the local delicacies. We were only there for the day and there was so much I wanted to do.

After stopping in to check out the local Seaman’s Center, I followed the paved footpath along the harbor front from the ship into town. There were informational signs along the way to describe the sights and the different birds to see along the way.

I detoured across the road to take a look at the cemetery. A large monument- the Cross of Sacrifice- tops the central stairway flanked with poppy- painted stones in remembrance of those killed in war.

The gates were closed, so I just peeked over the fence and continued walking along the harbor front, appreciating the history lessons I was getting from the signs along the way.

I noticed a couple of sailboats at the boat yard as I approached downtown. I was expecting more traffic, this being pretty much the only port for thousands of miles. But I guess maybe that’s why there wasn’t more?

There used to be a lot more. I really wanted to see the old sailing ships. Stanley Harbor is littered with the wrecks of about 20 ships- 100 more scattered around the Falklands. I had already passed by the wreck of the Afterglow- a 1920’s patrol boat- next to an old chimney used to burn the bones in ‘Hutchies’ slaughterhouse. All that’s left of the Afterglow is the boiler.

wreck of the Afterglow
remains of Hutchies slaughterhouse

Downtown Stanley looked like a what I imagine a small British town from the 1950’s would look like. A two-lane main street with shops, cafes, and government offices clustered in the center. The famous whalebone arch and cathedral are right across the street from the Post Office with the red phone booths outside. The streets are lined with neat little houses and well tended gardens. A couple blocks from the Post Office brings you to the Falkland Islands Museum.

looking past the whalebone arch to the names of ships that have protected the islands
interior of the ‘Southernmost church in the world’

Continue past the museum to find ‘Victory Green’ with a few old cannons and the mizzen mast of the SS Great Britain. The famous six master of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. She was launched in Bristol (UK) in 1843. She was the longest (322′) and most advanced passenger ship in the world from 1845-1854. She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic in 1845 (in 14 days). She had a troubled lifetime, including being sold for salvage once and being sunk for 33 years in Stanley. Eventually, she was raised, restored and is now a museum ship back in Bristol.

For such a small and out of the way town, they do have a lot of war memorials, and they’re all well tended to. The 1982 Liberation Memorial is just past the museum, and after another couple of war memorials (Royal Marines, Battle of the Falklands, and 1914 Sea Battle of the Falklands), you’ll finally find the wreck of the Jhelum.

1982 Liberation Memorial

She was an East Indiaman, built in 1849 in Liverpool. Abandoned in 1870 after suffering much damage in a storm and just barely able to limp into Stanley. I was a little disappointed. There really wasn’t much left of the Jhelum. The weather had turned nasty again, with high winds and cold, so I decided to head back to explore the museum.

wreck of the Jhelum

It was full of all sorts of interesting items explaining Stanley and the Falkland Islands. History, battles, biology, botany, Antarctica, and stories of day to day living were on display. I was especially fascinated by the artifacts of nautical history upstairs (of course). They had photos, paintings and pieces of the ships that called on their port during the heyday of the great sailing ships.

They had ships wheels, and ships bells, figureheads and furniture, chart tables, samples of salvaged cargos (ink), silverware, and so many more interesting items.

ink bottles salvaged from the John R Kelly

I would’ve loved to stay longer, but signed up for the tour over to see the king penguins on the other side of the island, so had to get going. Maybe one day I can return to spend more time.

Stanley- Arrival

We had smooth sailing all the way up from Elephant Island to Stanley, where the weather abruptly turned overcast, cold and windy. If it had been like that on our crossing, I think we would’ve had a pretty nasty ride. Almost 1,100 miles of heavy weather might not have been too much fun. 😉

We took on a pilot on arrival. I was out watching, it looked like we drug up quite a bit of mud coming in. Of course I wasn’t really paying attention to any charts or navigation since I was on vacation, but I still take an interest in that sort of thing.

Stanley Pilot Boat

It was windy as hell. Probably blowing about 35 kts. The pilot boat did a great job coming alongside to give us the pilot. It looked like a straight shot to the dock, but like I said I wasn’t paying any attention to charts, tides, rocks, bottom conditions, etc. That’s what pilots get the big bucks for. They know all the details for their port by heart.

one of the many shipwrecks around Stanley Harbor

Personally, I never really wanted to be a pilot, tho so many captains do. It’s the top job for a ships master. I just figure I would be bored to death. Just in and out the same port every day. Like a bus driver, just with a different bus to drive every time. I guess if I was going to be a pilot, Stanley looks like a good place to be one (so does Freeport, where I live- easy).

It took a couple of hours to get alongside the dock, once we we were all fast we were free to go. It was nice to be able to walk off the ship for a change.

There was a nice little seamans center right at the end of the dock. I stopped in to say hello. I always appreciate the people who do so much to help the worlds seafarers fell welcome in their ports. It’s not very often we can get ashore any more, and very hard to get out of the port area, so I really do like to see places like this.