Sunday, 6 November 2016

Stanley and the Falklands!

Welcome to the Falklands and quite possibly the friendliest people ever! We made port at Stanley on Thursday morning. It was a beautiful day, with the sky a bright blue over Stanley and the morning sunlight picking out the orange roofs of the city. (I’m reliably informed that it is, in fact, a city and not a town because it has a cathedral.)
Entering Stanley

Leaving Stanley

The scientists were regrettably busy with writing up their cruise reports and packing away their equipment, but as soon as the gangway was down I was off the ship like a greyhound from the trap! We proceeded along the shoreline from the harbour with the wind whipping our hair into snarls and bringing colour to our cheeks and marched into Shorty’s Diner which is apparently a Stanley institution. It was so exciting. After six weeks of having food provided, the luxury of being able to select food from a menu and pay for it was giddying. I had a chocolate milkshake and it tasted like liberty!

After these gastronomic transports we moseyed into Stanley itself and explored the city. It reminds me very strongly of American fishing towns on the east coast. The buildings are predominantly one or two storey clap-board, painted in bright colours. The traffic is so minimal that it’s easy enough for persons just off the ship to start ambling into the street and realise with a start that a land rover is attempting to acquire them as a hood ornament. The focal point of the city seems to be the West Store where most things can be purchased. It feels a bit like frontier life with one shop supplying most needs although I imagine that a lot of internet shopping happens these days.

 On the other end of the spectrum there are a multitude of tourist shops supplying everything penguin orientated that could ever be needed (or wanted). Naturally I now have a penguin t-shirt and a penguin mug. Opportunities for commerce should never be spurned! In the spirit of lavishly splashing money about I went into the Waterfront cafe and had my first latte in six weeks. It was accompanied with a piece of chocolate pie roughly the size of my pillow and led to me bounding about Stanley like a puppy on springs.

We visited the Historic Dockyard Museum which was fantastic. It discusses the history of the islands from Darwin’s rather damning assessment (until he found some exciting rocks- then he was totally pro-Falklands) of the islands as rather miserable windswept lumps of rock in the southern Atlantic right up until the Falklands War. That part of the museum was particularly well done. I knew very little about those 74 days in 1982 and I found it extremely moving. The museum curators have created a movie narrated by people who were children in 1982 and there were a few minutes when I definitely had some dust in my eyes! One woman was evacuated out of Stanley to the north of the island, where her father was located. She said that “the dads were there and we knew that it would be ok then. We would be safe.” There’s something about the innocence of childhood that is deeply heartbreaking; I can only imagine how helpless and frightened her father must have felt.

Still others talked about sitting at breakfast and seeing Argentine tanks rolling up the streets. Suddenly the vast numbers of British flags visible in Stanley started to make sense. It’s easy to dismiss patriotism when you’ve never felt under threat. There’s a bust of Margaret Thatcher looking out over the Atlantic from the comfort of Thatcher Drive and it becomes apparent that for these people she is not the author of unemployment and broken cities; she is the woman who drove the Argentines back into the sea. Whatever your opinion of Thatcher, and I don’t think it can be denied that she was incredibly divisive, the Falklanders see her as a hero.
The Bust of Thatcher

I went for a glorious walk to Gypsy Cove this afternoon. It took just over an hour to reach it from the ship’s berth, due in most part to the strong winds plastering us to the rocks. It was worth every bit of wind burn though!
The wreck of the Lady Elizabeth


 The sand was pure white, and the seas a delicate aquamarine shade. The hills leading down to the cove were covered in a kind of prickly gorse bush thickly coated with brilliant yellow flowers.
Gypsy Cove

The Magellanic Penguin

Gypsy Cove is a popular walking destination because once the summer is in full swing, the beaches are covered in penguins. We saw one Magellanic penguin (I have been informed), clearly getting his beach towel out early. The hillsides have a few ominous signs present warning about the possible presence of landmines which effectively did away with any interest I might have had in going for a paddle!
That's slightly unnerving!

On our way back to Stanley and the ship, we waved at a driver to check that we were heading the right way along the road. Bless her, she opened her window with the words “Do you want a lift? Where are you headed?” We didn’t need asking twice and shot into the back of her car. There was blissful warmth and the wind had gone! I thought that was a wonderful sign of a more trusting world where people are happy to offer and accept help although more prosaically we may have looked too exhausted to do any harm!

Arriving back at the ship I found that a parcel had arrived for me! My lovely parents have sent me emergency supplies of chocolate, books and bias binding for the quilt. All that remains is to see if I can actually restrain myself and not devour all the chocolate over the next two days before we sail for Signy and Rothera. Next stop Antarctica!
My parents are wonderful!

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