Friday, January 22, 2016

Final Stop - The Falkland Islands

I wasn't planning on writing a blog about our final stop on these two voyages, the Falkland Islands. But a request from a reader prompted me to reconsider. I'm so grateful to my readers of these postings - thank you one and all. The Falklands are an interesting set of islands but we only made two stops on this itinerary - the capital at Stanley and West Point Island.

Welcome sign on the dock in Port Stanley.

I took a tour of the Falkland battlefields with this veteran of the conflict. Here he shows the official military planning map at a strategic location west of Stanley.

The Falklands are famous for their stone runs, one of which we saw and is shown here. These were first described by Charles Darwin when he sailed here in the 1830's in the Beagle. These are peri-glacial landforms involving the freezing and thawing of permafrost during the Ice Age, which progressively brings rocks to the surface where they collect in the valley floors.

They truly are spectacular features.

 Here are the ruins of an Argentine Chinook helicopter destroyed in the conflict.

The islands are largely composed of Silurian to Devonian sandstone, deposited in nearshore currents when this block of crust was located east of the South African coast. It was engulfed within the Gondwana supercontinent but then broke away and followed South America to the west.

Tumbledown Mountain where the final assault to retake Stanley took place.

War Memorial in Stanley.

Detail of the brass plaque to the conflict. Everywhere one goes in Argentina, signs proclaim "Las Malvinas son Argentina" - The islands are Argentinian.

There is definitely a British feel to the islands however.

The Anglican church with its famous whale-bone arch and summertime lupines.

Here is the dock at West Point Island where we landed by tender.

Roddy and Lillian Napier are now in their 80's and retired in Stanley. The place is being kept by caretakers and I was intrigued by the floats that are being overgrown by the gorse.

The rocks here are overgrown completely with a carpet of white lichens.

Detail of the lichens.

And a pan view of the same rock and sea cliff. This is the wild western side of West Point Island.

There are two landscapes here - a subdued upper surface composed of rolling hills and under construction for a few million years, and the steep cliff landscape being pounded by waves of the South Atlantic Ocean everyday.

Moss campion.

Note the red jackets in amongst this nesting colony of Black-browed albatross.

A mother and chick on the nest.

In flight.

They are very gentle birds and allow folks to approach quite closely.

The nest is made of compacted mud and is about two feet off the ground. Many of them have been used for decades if not centuries.

Colorful scene at the Napier's place.

Inside the house where tea is served. Lars Eric Lindblad first brought Antarctic bound tourists to this small settlement in 1967 and they are still coming. Part of his ashes are spread in the garden here. Thanks for reading this blog! Stay tuned in February for photos and stories from Death Valley.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

South Georgia Island and Farewell to the Deep South

The two voyages have come to an end and only South Georgia is left to report on. After four glorious weeks of sunshine in Antarctica, we were bound to pay the price with rain and snow. Oh well, some good shots were had anyway in this sub-Antarctic paradise.

Our first stop was at Grytviken, the former headquarters of the whaling operations that were undertaken here in the early 20th century. The former managers house has been turned in to a bang-up museum shown here.

Whale bones litter the grounds, which have now been cleaned up and stabilized by the British, who administer this island. In fact, Grytviken was the first place taken by the Argentines in the 1982 Falklands War.

The last time I was here in the early 2000's, all of this equipment was beneath rusting, dilapidated buildings. They have now been removed and the equipment is exposed to the elements.

Note the fur seal resting near there keel of the boat.

This is the Petrel, one of the last whaling boats to operate here. Whaling ceased here in the early 1960's as the stocks became depleted and everything has been aging since then. I first visited here in 1993 when things were not so far gone.

This church has been beautifully restored.

Inside of the church. The library still holds all of the books just to the left of the altar (out of view).

Tanks that rendered whale oil sit out in the pouring rain.

A replica of the James Caird, is located in the Museum. This was the boat that Shackleton took from Elephant Island to South Georgia in 1916.


Sir Ernest Shackleton's grave at Grytviken. Shackleton came back to South Georgia in 1923 and died of a heart attack here. His wife radioed to bury him there where his final glory was attained.

Our only sunny morning came at St. Andrews Bay where we enjoyed a sunrise Zodiac ride ashore.

This gives you a sense of the dramatic South Georgia landscape. Here the glaciers are receding and there is lots of open ground. But the attraction here had to be the wildlife!

King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) are many people's favorite penguin. They are colorful, graceful, and so much fun to watch and photograph. Check out the link provided to learn more.


Sharing the beach with the King penguins were nearly 200 southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonine). These are a hoot to watch!

The males are frequently scarred because they battle for the girls.

Here are two adolescent males who are sparring, getting training for later in life when they will fight other males to protect their harem.

Biting and sparring.

This guy had recently been in a fight and although bloodied, may have been the victor.

They have incredibly versatile backbones and often look over their shoulder to see who is nearby. This was a fantastic stop!

The third morning, we woke up to a summer snow storm.

Visibility was poor but it gave the area around Gold Harbor an eerie look.

Out for a cruise in the snow. This was about all from this day.

On our last morning, we went ashore at Fortuna Bay where I saw this light colored fur seal pup.

This was another snowy day but this fur seal didn't seem to mind.

King penguin trudging about half a mile from the beach to the colony in a blizzard.

Penguin tracks in fresh snow. How I longed for the sunny days in Antarctica!

But then, the colony of King penguins was attained and what a sight and sound of 15,000 pairs and their chicks.

This young King penguin has it's soft down still attached. 

The banned whaling station at Stromness, where Sir Ernest Shackleton walked into one April morning and announced his arrival.

Shackleton Falls after a 1.5 mile hike from the shore. Thank you for reading!