Friday, 27 March 2015

End of Summer

Welcome to this occasional look at life in the Falkland Islands, from the point of view of someone who moved here 3 years ago from the UK.......
Huge luxury yachts visit Stanley
Summer (December to February) in the Falklands sees a lot of activity.  Not only do about 500,000 sheep need to be shorn, but about 50,000 cruise ship passengers arrive into Stanley Harbour,  Their ships are either shuttling round Antarctica or plying between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso, via Cape Horn.  .  Many head off by 4x4 to be driven across country to see the penguins.  I lead walking tours in and around Stanley - a very pleasant job when the weather is good, which it mostly was this year.
Small cruise ship doing handbrake turn through the Narrows
 We had one day of heavy rain, and at the halfway point of the walk, we take a minibus for 10 minutes to another location.  However, on that day, everyone was so wet we just headed straight for the penguin colony to at least see some of the Falklands' famous wildlife.

But, usually, most people are happy to walk for 3 hours and soak up the Falklands experience for the day.
Jiggers in the harbour
  And in February, about 100 squid fishing ships (jiggers) from the Far East, call in to collect their licences to fish in Falklands' waters.  Sadly, some crew decide this makes a great opportunity to jump ship, and 9 men tried to swim ashore this year. Tragically, only 7 made it.  They were repatriated to Vietnam.     The day after this photo (above) was taken, a fierce storm blew through the harbour and two ships had to be towed off the shore.  So, even the harbour can be very dangerous.
Memorial to scientists who died in Antarctica.
 Stanley has been the final port of call for ships heading South for over 100 years.  After the exploits of Captain Scott, Ernest Shackleton and others, the scientific research and exploration continued, leading to momentous discoveries such as the hole in the ozone layer, and climate change evidence stretching back millennia.

Recently, a party of (mainly) retired scientists from the British Antarctic Survey raised a memorial to 28 of their colleagues who left Stanley for Antarctica, and never returned.  The most recent to lose their life was Kirsty Brown, who was killed by a leopard seal in 2003.  It is a stunning, and moving,  memorial, and it is the southern part of an installation - the northern part being at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.
Winner and 2nd place in the pot plant category.  Well done (and thanks to Edmonde).
March saw the last of the cruise ships come and go.  The next to arrive will be in November.  Life settles down to less esoteric pursuits, such as growing vegetables, and cultivating plants.  My wife won a prize for a spider plant in the Horticultural Show!  The vegetable entries were superb, and our crop of tomatoes stood little chance against competition from gardens which have been regularly fertilised by horse manure for decades!  (Many thanks to our ex-neighbours for leaving us their plants when they left at Christmas!)
The long straight of Ross Road
Last week. saw the very competitive and arduous Stanley Marathon -  the most southerly in the world.  Competitive, as two runners smashed the course record by about 7 minutes.  For a change, the weather was not too windy or cold, merely damp.  But the course is a hilly one and the wind did pick up towards the end, just as some runners were turning into it for the final section.
My shoes, powered by a Zimbabwean de-miner,  running up a steep hill
 It's also very competitive as many runners enter as teams, each of the 4 runners running about 10 kilometres (6 miles).  A group of Zimbabweans, over here to clear some minefields made a request for some running shoes on the eve of the race, and I was happy to hand my size sevens to the chap in the photo above, just prior to the start.
Tim Drew about to take 7 minutes off the course record
The military also enter many runners - the runner-up was in the RAF - and teams of Gurkhas were encouraging each other throughout the course.  None could get near local primary school-teacher, Tim Drew, who had an amazing run.

There were also about 17 Argentine runners, some of whom fly over every year in an attempt to steal the glory and the headlines in Buenos Aires.  However, I doubt the local conditions can be found in Argentina to allow them to train for this event.

As there is only one flight per week, we've had the unusual sight of these runners jogging around Stanley, killing time till their flight tomorrow, back to the South American mainland.
I'm on that flight, too, as I am hoping to meet up with my wife who has just sailed across the Atlantic on a Royal Mail Ship to St Helena and Cape Town!  Anything to try and experience the golden years of the British Empire!

Hopefully, I can report on how she got on next time.   We are hoping to explore the Chilean Lake District.  We don't see much of Chile on the BBC News, but in the last month, I've watched the reports of huge floods in the Atacama desert, forest fires around Valparaiso, and an erupting volcano in Pucon, where we will be staying.....!!

Never a dull moment!  And, if you are interested in seeing more of life in the Falklands, there's a new series starting tonight of  the BBC2  "Island Parish" !  I'm not sure if it will be available online or broadcast in other countries, but worth looking out for, I hear.