Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Whales, Wales and Wet Penguins

First of all, Congratulations to Wales for their Grand Slam at the weekend.  Well Deserved, as was Scotland's Wooden Spoon.  I'm not sure why we don't just play against Italy as a one-off, like England for the Calcutta Cup, and save a lot of raised hopes and subsequent disappoint.  (I'm Scottish, by the way, for anyone stumbling across these pages...).  Anyway, you may be interested in another Falkland Islands blog, which describes the trials we sometimes have to go through to watch important Rugby matches.  (There's a big Welsh contingent here and in Patagonia!).....

Practising 'fishing' stories.."It was this size"...
 Kay, who writes that blog, phoned me last week to say there were a couple of spare places on a boat going out that evening to try to see whales in the next bay.  Boat trips are frequently planned, and almost as frequently cancelled due to weather or sea conditions.  But, happily for us, this one braved the choppy ocean, and we arrived in Berkeley Sound around 7pm, with about 45 minutes light left.
"Thar she blows!
After only a few minutes drifting on the tide, we saw spumes of exhaled breath from the whales.  There seemed to be about 10 of them about 500 yards away so we slowly motored closer.  With about 20 pairs of eyes looking in all directions, we often caught the tail-end of a whale or the ripples where it had been, but seeing them swim by was proving difficult......
"Move back, please, I can't fit you in!"
Then, suddenly, lots of shouting and pointing, and we were surrounded! Some were so close you could smell the breath as it wafted across the waves.  Fishy, if you must ask.
Sei whale
 The whales were Sei Whales, we were told, and you can identify some whale species by how far back the dorsal fin is and how much of the body is revealed when it breathes.   It's also helpful to have a reference book handy, as different species of whales rarely swim side by side to help you compare them!
20 metres long - 30 tonnes.
 All too soon, the light faded, and the grey whales merged into the grey waves.  We headed for home excited about seeing the gentle giants in their own habitat, and obviously relaxed.  A big "thank you" to Kay for alerting us to the trip, and to the crew of the Speedwell (the boat I worked on in February), for a fantastic evening.
Light fading. Last look.
Meanwhile, back on dry land, the egg shortage seems to be over, and I think there may have been some holding back of eggs, whilst waiting for the Horticultural Society Show.  Now that's over, owners are happy to release them to the general populace.

Typical flock of chickens in Stanley garden
Probably due to the need for self-sufficiency, most of the gardens in Stanley are very productive in terms of vegetables.  However, I did hear that there was an infestation of earwigs a couple of years ago from a timber shipment, that caused havoc with the potato crop.  So, everyone is very vigilant for alien species with no local predators.
Potatoes, cabbages, carrots galore
Later on in the week, I was asked if I could help take a group of tourist on a Nature Trek.  The ship, Veendam, was calling and a group of passengers wanted to do a 3 hour walk and hopefully see some penguins.  Sadly, the good weather disappeared that morning and the rain was what is called "persistent".

Still, everyone was well-dressed for the outdoors and no-one seemed to mind.  As the walk-leader put it to me...at least we won't be standing there for hours waiting for all the penguin pics to be taken!

We did manage to spot a few bedraggled Magellanic penguins, but, most of them stayed sensibly in their burrows.
Yorke Bay
 However, as we predicted, the afternoon and evening were completely different.  The sky cleared and bright sunshine dried the ground.  It was so lovely, I decided to head back out to the cove where we had taken the tourists earlier.
WW2 gun guarding entrance to harbour.  Trawler in bay.
 Sure enough, the good weather had brought out the penguins in their hordes!  The dunes echoed to their noisy braying.  They are also known as Jackass penguins in South Africa.
Lady Elizabeth, with Stanley and mountains in the distance.

So, I took a few photos of the glorious sunset, and headed for home.  I just hope the Veendam passengers don't think it rains all the time in the Falklands!

Don't forget, it's the first day of Spring/autumn wherever you are.  We all have the same amount of daylight today.   Equinox.....
And, if you read this, Leah, thanks for the message.

Next instalment - the world's most southerly Marathon;  and 300 tons of frozen fish need unloading!  Decisions, decisions!

More penguin capers soon,


  1. I saw whales off NZ coastland many times and found their size breathtaking and a little scary. I never got near enough to check out whether or not they had bad breath!

    So glad to hear the next post is about the Marathon as I heard something about it last week on Radio 4 and have questions - like will you be taking part or just taking photos?

    We wondered if you had settled there for good or just a period of time relevant to work? Do let us all know the plans - guess by bringing a car it would be a long posting.

    Do rear some chickens - it is great fun with no predators - ours in T.D. were eaten by the local foxes.

    I do so enjoy your posts and the pics.

  2. Thanks, again, for you comments. Much appreciated. Without giving too much away about the Marathon, I can say that I didn't participate, except to cheer on the runners (and wheelchair athlete).

    I may have mentioned the deal in an earlier blog, but I'll recap in the next posting. It's a 2-year contract here, with possible extension.
    Still debating about the chickens. Someone in the house gets attached to animals, even stuffed penguins!

  3. Good to see you are getting more wildlife encounters Peter. Great Whales.
    Remeber when you keep chickens and it is time to 'harvest' the odd one, they can look at you so reproachfully you almost cry!

  4. "more wildlife encounters". Well, they are virtually on the doorstep. Less than 5 miles as the turkey vulture flies. Getting a boat that actually went was the hard bit.

    I agree with you about looking the chickens in the eye. Much easier to deal with frozen chicken fillets!