Sunday, 25 March 2012

Marathon; Fishy tales; Cruise ship sails on by....

Last week, the sporting highlight in the Falklands was the Stanley Marathon!

Eric Kinyanjui, eventually 2nd, coming down Sapper Hill

The most southerly (and windiest) marathon in the world.    I understand explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes competed in the race in 2003, as part of the "7x7x7" challenge - 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents!

Sir Ranulph had trouble getting to a marathon on Antarctica, so hopped over to the Falklands from Chile and claimed it as "Antarctica"!

Patriotic support car
An amazing achievement - all the more so, considering he'd had a heart attack 4 months earlier!  In fact, just getting to the Falklands, and away again quickly, is a pretty good achievement.  Some intrepid Japanese runners were still  to be seen wandering around Stanley all week, waiting for their flight on the following Saturday. 
Robert Harden, eventual winner, striding along at 15 miles
Anyway, my marathon days are long gone, but I felt it would be good to cheer on the runners, as they passed my house (twice) on the route.
At 11 miles, the headwind is slowing the chasing pack as they tackle Sapper Hill

We walked to the corner of the road where it met the Stanley Bypass, and chatted to a well-wrapped spectator while we waited for the runners to appear.....
"Hello....nice day...bit nippy.....Are you local?"
"No - just arrived"
Oh, where do you work?"
"I don't - my husband does"
"Oh, what does he do?"
"He's the Governor!"
"Ah, right, yes, good.  There he is!  C'mon, the Governor!  Keep going!  Only 12 miles left, Your Excellency!"

(His Excellency, Nigel Haywood, finished in 3 hours, 42 minutes, 14 seconds, in 15th position, out of 58 finishers).
Warmly-dressed spectator awaits the Governor

The wind was quite strong from the west, but the route zig-zagged quite a bit, so the runners might have 6 miles into the headwind, then 6 miles with a tailwind.  This was quite useful for those in the relay race (6.5 miles per leg). You could easily tell those with fresh legs haring down Sapper Hill,  with the wind behind them, overtaking those who had just ran 12 miles up to the summit!

The Governor, in yellow, grabbing his water bottle from supporting wife

Some of the course was on gravel, especially the route out to Stanley airport.  I suspect there isn't 26 miles of tarmac on the islands.  In the end, the winner was the recently-arrived Physical Training Instructor, Rob Harden, (2:52:39) closely followed by  Eric Kinyanjui, from the Mount Pleasant base.  Third was the Argentine visitor, Pablo Ureta, at 2:56:16.  Quite amazing times considering the wind and hilly route.

The first lady wasn't far behind.  Claudio Camargo was 5th overall, in 3:12:13.  The next two ladies to finish were also Argentine.  It was good to see healthy sporting competition with  the neighbours.

There was also an incredible wheelchair athlete, and 1982 veteran, Swasie Turner.  Unbelievable determination to get round the course.

Full details and better photos in Penguin News.

Malvina House Hotel, near marathon finish line


A few days later, I got a call from shipping agents, asking if I wanted to help unload a trawler?  Always keen to experience new activities (and get paid), I accepted.  The ship's crew would do the actual handling of the thousands of boxes of frozen fish, but the agents needed help in weighing and recording the catch.

1000kg of frozen fish

The 20kg boxes were emptied from the hold via a large net, then sorted and stacked onto pallets by species.  The pallets were then weighed; and then transferred into dockside, temperature-controlled, containers.  These will later be loaded onto a container ship, for the Spanish market.

Some of the fish would be familiar to northern hemishpere eyes and palates - hake, sea bass, squid and so on, but the majority was hoki and kingklip.  I've tasted hoki in New Zealand, and kingklip in South Africa - both very tasty.  But we don't see much of it in local shops and restaurants here.

I've tried Patagonian Toothfish - an ugly beast, sometimes marketed  as the more palatable "Chilean Sea Bass" and Wahoo, from St Helena - great name, great fish!  And this weekend, I had locally-caught mullet in Goose Green.  We watched the fisherman land about a dozen from the jetty, and the local cafe expertly battered and fried some.  Couldn't have been fresher!

Yellow weighing machine, awaiting pallets of fish.
Like so much to do with fishing in the world, only a couple of countries "harvest" the oceans - Spain and Japan come to mind - and as local seas become empty, they have to roam further afield to satisfy the domestic demand.

Temperature-controlled containers 

And sure enough, all of these fish were destined for Vigo in northern Spain, and onward to the fish-loving Spanish kitchens.

If you are worried about the sustainability of the fishing in the world's oceans (and you should be), you may want to read the excellent work by Charles Clover - of "The End of the Line" fame.  I think he inspired Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's fish campaign

Hugh has recently been filming in the South Atlantic, and there will no doubt be a TV series about it soon.  He was on board a Falklands boat - the Hans Hansonn, which was also used for several years to film the BBC Frozen Planet series.
Hans Hansonn
Does all this fishing take food from penguins' beaks?  What is of more value - fishing or tourism? That's the subject of  a lot of scientific research and a topic for another blog.
Guns from HMS Canopus, last used in WW1
Finally, to round off the week, I was asked to assist on another Nature Walk - taking passengers from the cruise ship, Veendam (again), as it sailed south to Tierra del Fuego.  Unfortunately, the captain felt the wind was too strong to anchor, so he continued to sail south without stopping.   Very frustrating for passengers and Falklanders alike.  And very costly.  Enjoying an end of the week tin of Tennents in the Victory Bar, I was offered a vast selection of sandwiches and packed lunches which had been prepared for the 1300 expected passengers!
Sunset over the hills
The walk would have taken in the coves and bays at the east end of Stanley Harbour.  Also in the area are some low hills, topped by remnants of a World War 1 conflict, The Battle of the Falklands.  On the 8th December 1914, these guns (then on HMS Canopus) fired shells 14 kilometres (9 miles) at a German fleet commanded by the Admiral Graf Spee.  British warships gave chase, and sank the fleet.
In another war, 25 years later, another "Graf Spee" was sunk by another Royal Navy fleet out of the Falklands.  "C'est la guerre!"

So, I learned quite a lot this week; enjoyed some excellent fish; made my first steam pudding; explored more of these islands.    Next week promises a celebration as 3 million square metres of land, previously minefields, are returned for use by Islanders.  

On a mundane note - most of the northern hemisphere moved their clocks forward today, but a recent decision here (now being contested), means that the Falklands clocks did not change, so we are now 4 hours behind the UK.

So, a 'long lie' on Sunday, and listen to Rangers vs Celtic on the radio.  Bizarre.

Penguin photos return next week.



  1. Yet another fascinating article. Loved the marathon news. I heard recently that the hostilities are still so great that they even affected the Argentinian version of "Come Dancing" when Esteban Tries refused to partner a 'Kelper'! Are you directly affected by this overwhelming dislike of the English - and if so - how?

  2. I wasn't aware Strictly Come Dancing was affected - in fact, I wasn't aware there was an Argentine version!

    And I'm not aware of an "overwhelming dislike of the English". If anything, there are traditionally a lot of cultural links between Argentina and the UK. The docks in Buenos Aires, and the railways, were British legacies. When I visited last year, we were met only with hospitality and friendliness.

    The antagonism is fomented, I strongly believe, by a small clique of politicians and their acolytes, who use the Falklands as a distraction from domestic deterioration. I've read that the Argentine economy is nose-diving and import taxes are now threatening trade with neighbouring countries. So much so, that Brazilian bananas are now as scarce in Buenos Aires as in Port Stanley!!

    The next few weeks will no doubt see many veterans (from both sides)of the War re-visiting the Falklands. If local feelings are respected, I doubt there will be any incidents. However, it is rumoured that some government-sponsored troublemakers may infiltrate the veterans' groups, with the intention of getting themselves on the news. We'll see.