Leaving the Antarctic behind, we had the longest open sea leg of our journey, taking two nights and a day to reach the Falkland Islands, deep in the Southern Atlantic and just about as removed and forlorn a place as we have ever visited. When first encountered by Europeans–Ferdinand Magellan is often credited with the first sighting–the islands were without human habitation. Finally in 1764 the French established a small outpost before any effort was made to settle it. This was followed by a Spanish invasion from Argentina in 1770 which consisted of five ships and 1400 soldiers, and they held a small garrison on the islands until 1811 when they withdrew. Left barren of human habitation again, it wasn’t until 1833 that the British appeared and administered the island until 1982.
On April 2nd of that year the Argentinian military attacked the islands and were able to rout the small British force and take control. You might recall that Margaret Thatcher was none too happy about this, and in short order the British returned with more than enough air, naval, and ground troop power to quickly stomp the Argentineans, who surrendered on June 14th of the same year. Since then the British have established several serious military bases on the islands, and the sense one has in visiting is that almost every inhabitant has some connection to the British forces.
Port Stanley is a rather small town though the capital of the islands, and houses the Governor’s Mansion where he still lives today.
It somehow catches the genteel sense one has of a British settlement, perhaps more so than the principal local tavern,
its interior filled with flags, bric a brac, and a military customer.
But as you might have guessed given the photo at the top of this posting, we were here not for history, not for a little time in a British outpost, not even for the good English beer, but for penguins, tons of penguins, thousands of penguins!
They seem to congregate at a place called Volunteer Point, but to get there took a bit of rough riding in Land Rovers across the open fields,
where we encountered those beasts that have long been the dominant ‘industry’ on the Falklands.
A lot of the Falklands is boggy and wet, and just about the only animal life that seems to thrive there is sheep, who seem to show up everywhere. But for the penguins!
Once we reached Volunteer Point, we were absolutely overcome by all of the penguins. Closest to us in the video below are King Penguins, second only to Emperor Penguins in size. We were told that there were about 1500 penguins in that bunch.
And visible beyond them are a couple of groups of Gentoo Penguins, smaller than the Kings but still perkey, busily social, and rather pretty with their yellow beaks and feet.
And when still juvenile, they are over the top for cute!
It was cold and had been raining, so there was a bit of huddling and cuddling going on.
But it is the King Penguins, with their yellow “ear muffs” and bills, and their vast numbers, that are a bit flashier and more ostentatious than the Gencoos. Here’s a bunch of dudes out for a little stroll around the neighborhood.
As one might expect, there were always a few sheep hanging around, particularly when some of the Kings just wanted a little afternoon nap.
Now you may have noticed that the back of one of the Kings above looks a little ‘sheepish’ as well. That’s because when juveniles, the Kings are deeply feathered with what appears to be almost fur.
We encountered them as they were molting, and some had more of their ‘baby feathers’ than others, even when playing tough and ferocious.
But the prize went to this fellow–who seems to have taken on the appearance of our most illustrious President!
We wondered if he too had to glue it down when in high winds or climbing the stairs into his Air Force One.