Thursday, 7 June 2012

Bonfire of the Loyal Subjects

News from the Falkland Islands......the remote outpost of Britishness, anchored in the middle of the South Atlantic.  Residents and visitors brave wild weather, banana shortages, and aggro from the neighbour, but sometimes all that is forgotten when we enjoy an event that links us with millions across the globe, and with our ancestors millions of years ago!
A few hours later, the sea was beyond the flagpole!
Along with other parts of the world that used to be coloured pink in Atlases, there were celebrations here to mark the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth 2.  On Monday, as millions watched Her Majesty light the beacon outside Buckingham Palace, several hundred Falklanders gathered on a beach outside Stanley.
Biggest Beacon in the World?
All weekend, volunteers had collected valuable pallets and stacked them on the beach.  As the day progressed, the pile got higher and the sea came closer!  The full moon may have raised the High Tide mark by a few metres!  The surf was well and truly up, and local residents of the furry kind were enjoying body surfing in the huge waves.  We watched this guy (below) for about 30 minutes, throwing himself onto the rollers.
Relaxed seal surfing in Surf Bay...
Come the appointed hour (6.25, Stanley Time; 22.25 BST), the pyre was lit , and the crowd looked on in wonder.  Would the fire take hold, before the tide came in?
Will the waves put the fire out?
It was a close-run thing, as the crowd was gradually moved higher up the beach to avoid the encroaching sea.  The beer tent was not so lucky, as the waves came under the walls.  Some people had had the sense to wear wellies, and so continued drinking until the bonfire reached its climax.
The sea makes an appearance in the beer tent!
As well as the beer tent, there was a BBQ and hot drinks, plus loud music.  But the star of the show was not Rolf Harris, or Tom Jones, as in London, but the Beacon!
Going up in flames; encroaching waves on right.
Having watched the "bush TV" a few times in Africa, I can understand how this ancient form of heating and lighting has captivated Man down the millennia.  I think there is something that transports us back to those pre-historic days.  Watching the flames devour the wood, and feeling the heat through 5 layers of clothing,  I could imagine staring at a fire at the entrance to our cave, as the whole tribe settled down to chewing the cud after a successful day hunting mammoth....
Fascinating... .. Could our ancestors have watched a fire like this?

Hypnotic - the fire and the waves...
All too soon, the flames began to dwindle, as did the crowd.  (The Jubilee concert from London was about to be shown on Falklands TV!).  But the bonfire builders looked to have planned it to perfection. The incoming tide would gentle extinguish the last embers, thereby saving the the Falklands Fire & Rescue team having to be called out to rescue any penguins that strayed too close.
The flagpole and fire about to be engulfed

The hackle of a Fusilier.
Some of the spectators came from the Mount Pleasant garrison.  I noticed their distinctive hackles, which I thought were traditionally only worn by Scottish Regiments.  But chatting to some of the soldiers, I learned that the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers are allowed to wear the hackles to commemorate the stealing of them from defeated French troops  at the battle of St Lucia in 1778.

Something reminded me of that classic film noir, "The Wicker Man"!

The next day, I returned to the beach for some exercise.  If I hadn't have seen it, I would never have guessed that anything had taken place as there no evidence, except some bulldozers tracks.  The wood had had been consumed by the flames, and the ashes washed out to sea.  The tents had gone, hopefully onto a lorry and not out to sea.....

Verdict - Better than TV!  

And no annoying commentators to spoil ones' enjoyment.  Hip, Hip...HOORAY!!



  1. Thank you Peter that was very interesting. I just love the combination of fire and sea. There is something fascinating about an open fire each one is very different. Still enjoying
    all your news. Sue

  2. Thanks, Sue. Yes, it was very hypnotic. Just a bit off-putting finding the sea coming round my ankles. Hmmm. Just noticed a typo at the end - ones' - a phantom apostrophe! Sorry!

  3. Love the pics and glad you had a great Jubilee so far from London.

    Just read an amazing article about the sex lives of penquins. Apparently recorded by Scott and hidden from the public as 'too racy for the times to be published' - now unearthed in Natural History Museum papers. They were recorded practising necrophilia, homosexuality and rape and murder of minors!

    Perhaps you can update us in this area!!

  4. Hmmm. It can be a lonely life on an iceberg, so maybe that explains the behaviour. I'll look into it!

  5. Coincidentally, I follow the British Antartic Survey on Twitter and they just reported that story too. Seems that dead penguins look pretty much like live females to the males....

    "They are not distinguishing between live females who are awaiting congress in the colony, and dead penguins from the previous year which just happen to be in the same position."

    Don't forget, there's little decomposition in Antarctica, so last year's mate may look just as fresh and attractive as when she was in her prime!

  6. Hi Peter, it's certainly looking chilly down there mind you it's not that hot here. Are there any further celebrations planned for the anniversary of the liberation later this week. 2012 is certainly a year of significant anniversaries and one off events.(bit like 1969)

    I was smiling to myself about the age defying effects of the Antarctic - may be that'll be the next Botox, freeze your face to stay looking young!

    take care

  7. Hi Bx,

    Maybe the males down here just appreciate that beauty isn't skin deep; or perhaps they like females not to be too chatty. (Are we still talking penguins?)

    Yes - the 14th is Liberation Day. Big crowds, parades, drink-ups; etc. BBC Radio5 have asked for volunteers for their live broadcast from Stanley at 10.30pm (UK time), but I think they are struggling to find locals who will be not be partying around then.