Did You Know?
Around 70% of the world’s population of black-browed albatross can be found on the Falkland Islands. The largest colonies are on Steeple Jason and Beauchene Islands, the former is included on some cruise vessel itineraries. Other smaller colonies are more easily accessible to visitors, for example on Saunders and West Point Islands.
Previously classified as endangered, population numbers are thankfully rising as measures have been put in place to reduce mortality in fisheries. The bird makes a stunning sight as it soars gracefully along the shoreline and in close-up due to the beautiful eye-markings. Chicks are balls of grey fluff, waiting impatiently to be fed!
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral celebrates 125 years in 2017. Consecrated in 1892 by the Bishop of South America, the Anglican Cathedral today hosts important annual memorial events and welcomes all visitors to weekly services or just to look around and learn more about the historic building and its importance to the Islands.
Christ Church Cathedral has many attractive features including beautiful stained glass windows, a working pipe organ, intricate carvings and hand-crafted kneelers. Queen Victoria reputedly gave £30 towards the construction of the building which is made from local stone and London brick.
Sheep in the Falklands
Falkland Islanders enjoy some of the greenest conditions to rear and shear sheep in the world. Falklands’ sheep graze over the natural landscape so are free from contact with chemicals. No dipping is necessary and no pest-preventatives are needed, meaning no chemicals are present in the wool shorn from the sheep.
The wool is very fine and beautifully soft. Local spinners, weavers and felters enjoy working with the wool, creating a range of individual, hand-crafted items from chunky knitwear to exquisite, delicate lace-like scarves (nuno-felting). Falkland wool can be purchased in the Islands, as tops for felting and spinning or as yarn, ready to knit, as well as finished wool products.
The Pale Maiden
The Pale Maiden became the national flower of the Falkland Islands by popular vote in 2003. This beautiful, delicate plant has six white petals with thin purple stripes, creating a lovely bell shape to a yellow middle. It is just 20cm in height with elegant leaves protecting the lower part of the stem.
Flowers appear in the springtime, from November to January, and in some places form pretty carpets of pure white. Look out for them in coastal heathland areas; there are many to be seen close to Stanley.
SS Great Britain
The SS Great Britain was shipwrecked off the coast of the Falklands in 1886. The steam ship was the first of its kind to be built, screw propelled and from iron, in 1843 in Bristol (UK) by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Badly damaged in a gale, the vessel lay for many years in the outer harbour of Stanley before being towed back to Bristol in 1970 for restoration.
Today the mizzen mast from the ship can be seen on Victory Green, Stanley, left as a memento for the Falklands. The bell from SS Great Britain had found its way to Goose Green; this was also returned to Bristol and a replacement is now hung at the entrance to the Galley Cafe in Goose Green.
Peat is found in pockets all around the Falklands with large deposits in the area around Stanley. Without such a handy supply of fuel, settlement of the Islands would have been unlikely. The use of peat continued for many years though today has been replaced by kerosene or diesel in most households.
The smell of peat burning is very nostalgic and remains in the air at some places around Stanley and elsewhere. The first Monday in the month of October is still designated as a public holiday, Peat Cutting Monday.
Southern giant petrel
The southern giant petrel breeds at various locations around the Falklands. Known locally as the stinker, due its habit of scavenging dead seals, whales, penguins, sheep and any sewage remains it can find, the bird is very elegant in flight and soars gracefully along the shore. It appears to break the speed limit alongside vehicles in Stanley!
The bird is silent at sea but raucous in disagreements over food. Mainly grey in appearance, it has a cream-coloured bill tipped with pale green, making it different from the Northern Giant Petrel, a visitor to the Islands.
The twinning of Stanley
Stanley is twinned with Whitby in the UK. 2017 marks the 35th anniversary of the twinning of the two towns and was celebrated with an exchange of paintings of respective whalebone arches. Stanley’s Whalebone Arch was erected in 1933 to commemorate 100 years of continuous British administration of the Islands and is constructed from the jawbones of blue whales from the South Shetland Islands.
Sir Rex Hunt suggested the twinning when Governor in 1981, recognising the shared whaling history of the two coastal towns. The painting of the Whitby whalebone arch is on display at the Dockyard Museum in Stanley.
Dancing in the Falklands
Dancing is a popular activity in the Falklands. Dances have been held in Stanley since its founding in 1843. Outside Stanley, dances would be held frequently, especially in winter months. Today a number of dances feature annually including the May Ball, Winter Ball and Poppy Ball. Dancing is also part of Falklands “Sports” events.
Traditional dances include the Palais Glide, Valeta Waltz, La Rinka Waltz, Boston Two Step and the Falklands Circassian Circle. Though some events may be ticketed, anyone is welcome to attend, find a partner and join in the fun.
Usborne is the highest peak in the Falkland Islands. At 705 metres (2312 feet) it may not compare with mountains elsewhere for height but it offers an enjoyable, challenging hike for keen walkers with fantastic views, even on the climb upwards.
Stone runs cascade down the southern slopes which are the usual route to the summits – the top is a long plateau with two separate summits marked. Take time to tour the plateau and enjoy the views in all directions, including Black Tarn.
Nearby settlements are Darwin, Goose Green and San Carlos, all of which offer accommodation and make great jump-off points for a journey up this alluring hillside.
Usually penguins are black and white. Their colouring is for camouflage with the black backs making them more difficult to see from above and the white underparts from below, assisting them as both predator and prey.
Leucistic penguins are very rare. This gentoo was spotted at Bull Point, Lafonia, East Falkland. Leucism is a genetic mutation that prevents melanin production in feathers. The condition is not the same as albinism which results when melanin is not produced throughout the entire body. It is noted that whilst the condition may make fishing difficult, leucistic birds are found breeding normally.
Fishing in the Falklands
Few places can offer wilderness fishing akin to the Falkland Islands. There are no crowds, just remote locations to enjoy the privacy of the coastal estuaries, rivers and streams. Brown / sea trout and mullet are noted for their size. The record for the largest sea trout caught in the Islands is held by Alison Faulkner at 22lbs 12.5oz (approx 10. 3 kg). Beat it if you can!
The trout fishing season runs from 1st September until the 30th April. The best months are September/October and February/March with larger fish usually caught during the latter period. Few fish run in December and January, a better time for estuary fishing. Mullet can be fished for all year round.
Scurvy Grass is a common plant found throughout the Falklands with an interesting name! This edible plant has pretty white flowers with a delicate yellow middle and unusual clusters of grey-green leaves.
All parts of the plant are rich in vitamin C, hence the name of the plant; it was found by sailors to prevent or cure scurvy. The sharp, citrus taste is very pleasant, particularly the shoots, and can be made into a refreshing cordial drink.
Flowers are at their best in the spring and early summer but can be found as late as February. Look out for scurvy grass on coastal heathland amongst diddle-dee and white grass.
The role of the horse
Horses played an important role in Falklands’ life for many years. They were introduced to the Islands in the mid-18th century and became the main mode of transport. In recent years, Government officials would ride from Stanley on business, doctors and the clergy would make their rounds on horseback. The use of horses decreased after 1983 when many large farms were broken up and new farmers brought in motorbikes and quadbikes.
Horse racing has featured for over a century in the Falklands’ social calendar. Races are short but highly competitive. Today there are three major events, two held in Stanley and one at the East Falkland Camp Sports.
The southern elephant seal
The southern elephant seal is the world’s largest pinniped with males reaching 5m in length. Males have a trunk-like proboscis (snout) and a thick band of skin round the neck and shoulders. This chest shield often has scars from fighting over breeding territory. These fights are common at the start of the breeding season and can be seen on Falklands’ beaches. The winner becomes the beachmaster and gains mating rights!
Pups are born from September to November and quadruple their weight in just three weeks. There are many places to see the impressive Southern Elephant Seals around the Falklands on a day trip from a cruise vessel or during a longer stay in the Islands.