West Point Island and Stanley, Falkland Islands

Windswept and gorgeous West Point Island, Falklands

West Point Island
After our rewarding morning watching Rockhopper Penguins on New Island in the Falklands, we were eager to see more. The captain and activity leader continued to follow the weather reports and decided to keep us on the north side of the island group to find more sheltered conditions for taking out the zodiacs and for our landings.

We headed toward West Point Island for our afternoon’s adventure. The 5.67 sq. mi. island is on the north-west tip of West Falkland—a location that was judged to provide good protection from the prevailing winds (which incidentally reached 8, gale force winds, later that night).

Landing
Once again our groups took turns going over to land and touring in the zodiacs because only 50 people were allowed  on the island at a time. When we were on land, we walked about a 1.5 miles to a rookery and again were mesmerized by the activities of the Rockhopper Penguins and the Black-browed Albatross.

Privately held island
Like New Island, the terrain here was largely grassland, but with the addition of large masses of bright-yellow gorse and eroded sandstone cliffs. It probably would not have been safe to veer off our designed trail, but I wished we could get an even closer look at the rock formations.

 

The island is privately owned, but we were able to look into and around the collection of old barns and other weathered farm buildings. 

 

 

 

Stanley (or Port Stanley)

Stanley is the capital  of the Falkland Islands with a population of approximately 2,500 residents. It’s on the northern side of the island of East Falkland and is one of the wettest places in the archipelago. It’s a favored landing point (no zodiacs required) because it’s a unique British outpost. We were able to visit the small museum, a church, post office, and pub.

Commemorative stamped envelopes in Stanley’s Post Office.

We also had time to walk up the hill into the residential area where we’d been encouraged to visit because the home had a front yard filled with statues of leprechauns. 

Later, back on the ship we had a crazy hat competition as part of the Christmas Eve party. Some very interesting hats were created out of whatever props the participants could come up with—penguins were a popular theme.  

After spending Christmas Day at sea, our next stop would be South Georgia. The excitement in anticipation of seeing the wildlife there was in the air! 

An old pillowcase turned into a head for her penguin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antarctica & the Falkland Islands

Black browed albatross

Strictly speaking, the Falklands Islands (also known as Islas Malvinas Islands) are not part of Antarctica. However, on our recent cruise to the southernmost continent, it was one of the places our ship, the Ocean Endeavor, visited. In fact we made  three different stops—at New Island, West Point Island, and Stanley.

Avoiding Seasickness
Not, though, until we had spent one full day at sea. I found that day difficult; I was worried that I would get seasick.  Perhaps this was fueled by the many sailors’ tales that I grew up reading about the Drake Passage (named after British Explorer Francis Drake), which is still considered by many to be the roughest stretch of water in the world. 

Hearing the weather forecasts each night, did not ease my concerns. At one briefing, we learned about the Beaufort Wind Scale—(developed in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort, U.K. Royal Navy), which  rates wind forces on a scale of 0-12. Zero indicates that the water is as smooth as glass; twelve is a hurricane with winds 64 knots and waves  over 45 ft high. The reports indicated we would be experiencing seas in the 6-8 range—”strong breeze, near gale, or gale.”

Chairs bolted to the dining room’s floor was a sobering sight!

Precautions
It was suggested that we keep any heavy objects in our room on the floor instead of counter tops, and that if we did not want to hear objects in the drawers rolling around, that we stuff objects around them. One of the activities’ crew members said that he had been in seas so violent that he had taken his mattress off the bed and put it on the floor. 

I noticed that the chairs in the dining room had been bolted to the floor. 

But it seemed as if I was the only person worried about the motion of the ship; many of my shipmates appeared totally unconcerned about the ship’s bobbing up and down, side to side, and lurching. Those who were transfixed with the abundant bird life were rewarded with sightings of albatross and petrol ((and occasionally spouting humpback whales and dolphins).

Part of the problem was that my doctor had refused to prescribe medication—asserting that  such  meds were highly risky to those over 65, so I had brought ginger tablets and wrist bands, but I didn’t have confidence that they would work. As it turned out I did fine with what I had, but my fear definitely got the best of me for a time.

Landing by zodiacs on New Island, Falklands

Happiness is a zodiac ride!
Though the weather forecasts were sobering the first few days, it helped when I studied the maps and realized where we actually were in relation to South America and Antarctica. The Falkland Islands are actually NE of Argentina—we hadn’t even entered the Drake Passage.

We could have watched these Rockhoppers all day!

Things became much more exciting!
When it came to Days 3 and 4 on the ship, things definitely improved as far as I was concerned. We began to visit the islands by zodiacs. The Falklands were the first of the several stops where the amount of wildlife we would find was surreal. Not only did we see thousands of Rockhopper penguins on New Island and West Point Island, we were thrilled to be able to get so close to them. These entertaining birds have no natural fear of humans and so they don’t flee when people  approach. The colonies were full of activity and the best moments were spent watching them strut, mate, sitting protectively on their nests, or feeding their young.

Rockhopper colony

Please come back for more about Falkland Islands and Stanley in the next post.