Monday, 27 February 2012

"When the Boat Comes In..." and the Voyage of the Beagle

Taiwanese jigger
Two of the mainstays of the Falklands economy are fishing and tourism.  The surrounding seas are rich in food like krill and squid, and everything that eats them.  Hence why huge numbers of seals, penguins, whales and seabirds can be supported in the southern oceans.

 During the fishing season, huge fleets of Asian factory ships (jiggers) fish in the waters for squid, after obtaining licences from the authorities in Stanley.  Sometimes there are 15 ships in the harbour at one time, all wanting to be re-supplied with food, while customs and fisheries checks are done on the vessels and equipment.  The Falklands' seas are some of the best-managed in the world, and efforts are made to reduce the terrible toll fishing hooks make on albatrosses.  Millions are killed every years as the lines full of squid are brought to the surface.  The birds see the squid and dive for them.  The Falklands fishery authorities insist that barbless hook are used, so that birds can free themselves easily, but there a many unlicensed fishing fleets out on the ocean.

The Tong Young.  Perhaps a relation?
 The jiggers' equipment includes long arms that are lowered when fishing, and from where miles of fishing lines are dropped into the sea.  When fishing at night huge lights are turned on to attract the squid to nearer the surface.  Quite a sight.

Sammy sleeping
 Although most of the fishing boats are Korean or Taiwanese, many of the crews are from all over the region - Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia.  These young men often spend a couple of years away from home, and it can be a hard life.  One friendly Bangladeshi crewman asked which country they were in.  He's assumed that, due to the weather, and the Union Jacks that could be seen on vehicles ashore, and the language spoken, that they were in English waters....Another was a Liverpool fan and wondered how far Liverpool was?  8,000 miles that way, I pointed north.....
Ocean-going tug and the inter-island ferry, Concordia Bay, from the Beagle.
One of the boats I was working on was The Beagle.  The original Beagle brought Charles Darwin to the Falklands  on the 1st of March 1833.  As well as some unique wildlife (some sadly now extinct, like the Warrah - a fox-like mammal found nowhere else), he found fossils, which were nothing like those he'd picked up in South America.  This is because the Falkland Islands used to be off the eastern South African coast, possibly near Durban, before the super-continent, Gondwana, broke up about 400 million years ago.

So, if there are  disputes about who was here first, the South Africans may stake a claim!
"Sammy".  No, really....  Shares our jetty.
Fast launch with medium-size cruise ship, Adonia
 On the tourism front, cruise ships of all sizes, from 12-berth to those like Star Princess with 2,500 passenger (plus crew) on board, call at Stanley on their way to Antarctica or wherever.  We took a Canadian ashore around lunchtime on Saturday, well after the rush of visitors had arrived ashore.  I commented that he may be too late for island trips, as most had left for the day.  He explained that he'd already been ashore, but had gone back to the ship for his camera and address book.  He discovered he'd left them behind and his wife was wanting to send postcards to the grand-children.  However, they were sailing all the way to San Francisco, so he had another 25 days to make up for his mistake!
Star Princess disgorging passengers into tenders 
 STOP PRESS......  Both these ships, Star Princess, and Adonia were refused permission to dock in Ushuaia, in Argentinian Tierra del Fuego, today (27th February).   This seems to be as a result of the new law banning Falklands Islands shipping from South American ports.  However, these ships were not British- (or Falkland Islands) flagged, and the ban was meant to be on ships involved on exploitation of the resources of the South Atlantic - eg oil and fishing vessels.
Star Princess
 The ships have continued to Punta Arenas in Chile.  It means a huge loss of income for a poor, remote region of Argentina.  Plus it could mean the ship run low on fuel if they had planned to re-fuel in Ushuaia.
Star Princess (2,500 passengers) and Adonia (700)
 But, overall, it is an unnecessary escalation of the "war" of attrition that the politicians in Buenos Aires have been waging on the Falklands for the last couple of months.  It's obvious that an economic blockade is the aim.
Looking west in Stanley Harbour
 Meanwhile, back to our typical working day on the launches.... as the day drew to a close and the last passengers were returned to their cabins, the harbour and town were suddenly very peaceful again.  As we refuelled the boat, an inquisitive heron perched above us and watched for about 10 minutes.
Black-capped night heron, taking close interest in boats.
Anyway, I am of an age that I can recall a wonderful BBC TV drama series of the 1970's, "When the Boat Comes In", starring James Bolam.  Although Stanley doesn't resemble 1920s Newcastle, there is something transforming when a 'boat comes in' here.  The pavements are packed.  Hundreds of people learn for the first time we drive on the left!
The shops and pubs are busy, rather than having more assistants than customers.

And this tune keeps coming into my head -

"Dance ti' thy daddy, sing ti' thy mammy,
Dance ti' thy daddy, ti' thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a haddock when the boat comes in....."

Another interesting week in the Falklands,


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful evocative article yet again Peter. xx