Stanley & Bleaker Island, the Falklands 2&3 February 2019

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February 2nd 2019
Published: February 19th 2019
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Saturday 2 February – Day 1: Stanley & Bleaker Island, Falklands before we travel to South Georgia & Antarctica

The information we received from One Ocean about our 18-day adventure through the southern globe was:

THE CLASSIC VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY VISITING THREE UNIQUE LOCATIONS This is One Ocean’s most far-reaching polar expedition and includes visits to three different locations. The sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands and the island of South Georgia are home to a proliferation of unique wildlife and birdlife. There are penguin rookeries with more than 100,000 nesting birds and the beaches are covered in fur seals and elephant seals. Seabirds, including many of the albatross species call these islands home, nesting and raising their young in this wild and remote environment. Both locations feature a fascinating history and stunning scenery.

To the south lies Antarctica – the frozen continent and our final destination on this outstanding voyage. Icebergs in all shapes and sizes fill the waters, and yet more unique wildlife can be found living in sizable colonies. The waters are full of life and we frequently encounter whales including humpback, minke and orca.

On this voyage, our days will be spent exploring on shore in the company of expert guides – including naturalists, marine biologists, ornithologists and adventurers as well as our resident photography professional. Cruising in inflatable Zodiac boats will be another memorable activity. For the adventurers, One Ocean will provide plenty of opportunities to explore on long hikes ashore, or by sea kayak. The clever use of timesaving flights on this departure means you maximize your time and experience in the key locations. A great option for those with limited time but who yearn to 'see it all!'

The highlights will be

› Fantastic glaciated scenery of the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia

› Outstanding wildlife observation on shore, Zodiac cruising and from the ship

› Visits to historic sites and science stations

› Learn about the environment, wildlife, history and ecology from polar experts

Do you think we were excited when approaching this tour? You becha!!!

We were picked up from our Hotel at 8.00am and driven to the Punta Arenas airport where we met our other 92 fellow travellers from USA, Canada, a couple from China, Singapore, England and of course, a heavy contingent from Australia. We were totally pumped. The 90 minute flight to Stanley in the Falkland Islands with Latam Airways went smoothly. We were met by custom officers with British accents who stamped us into the country. This was where we board the expedition ship and commence our journey.

We were met on arrival and transferred to the pier. Stanley is currently home to just over 2,000 residents and is reminiscent of a rural town in coastal Britain. It is charming with brightly coloured houses, pretty flower-filled gardens, a quaint cathedral and several local pubs. There was time to explore the town before ship embarkation.

On the way into the town by bus, we noticed the stark, almost tree-free landscape with a heavy military presence (the airport was mainly military so there was no photography allowed on our arrival). We saw a game of cricket being played, heralding the heavy UK influence that we were to learn about.

We had an excellent look around this small town for over 2 ½ hours. We visited the Museum which told the history of the town and Falklands, saw the whalebone arch made from a blue whale jaw bones, visited the Christ Church Cathedral, saw Government House, red telephone boxes and red post box (all very British!), Baroness Thatcher Memorial Bust, and much more.

We visited one of the pubs but that was full of army guys, so we ventured further into the town and found the other popular pub and had a local beer with 2 Canadians (Mary & Barry) who were fellow passengers.

The weather was crisp and a little windy but with our warm jackets there was no problems about being cold, particularly in the heated, highly decorated pubs. Both pubs had British flags lining the ceilings of the bar area with larger British flags suspended on walls. We also saw hand written slogans on placards saying “Argentina keep your hands off the Falklands” (basically). There is no love lost between the countries, so we were looking forward to learning more about this relationship.

We were busses down to the Warf where the Russian-owned Akademik Ioffe was waiting for us. One Ocean staff took our passports so that we didn’t have to worry about going with our passports to each country we were to visit. This was a much simpler system ie the staff organised the passport entrance in one full swoop, each time we entered a new country.

After settling into our cabins and exploring the ship, we meet our expedition team and fellow passengers. Excitement was in the air as we enjoy a welcome cocktail, dinner and cast off for the adventure of our lifetime. The Arctic research ship was basic but very comfortable, with incredible staff and rooms were spacious with plenty of storage. Russians were the sailors and occupied all the 2nd level of the ship. The One Ocean staff were the ‘front-men’ organising our total program. Most of these staff were from Canada with a couple from Britain and USA.

Our cruise leader was a young Canadian named Kaylan. We learned very quickly that she was an incredible leader of a wonderful team of dedicated people with a passion for their work. Each meal time she gave us information on our packed upcoming program. We had to have an emergency drill to ensure we knew where lifejackets then life boats were. We also had a presentation on the first night on biosecurity as the Falklands, South Georgia (in particular) and the Antarctic do not want their wild life and other ecosystems to be affected negatively by tourism.

The weather was fresh but we were provided with waterproof and insulated jacket, coveralls and rubber boots so we were never cold.

That night the cabins were a little warm but by night No 2 we had worked out the air-conditioning and the bedding.


Overnight we navigated down the eastern coast of the Falkland Islands. Approaching Sea Lion Island, we first noted the very barren and windswept landscape, exposed to the prevailing weather that originates in the Drake Passage.

Passing Sea Lion Island we eventually arrived at Bleaker Island. We launch the Zodiacs to go ashore to view the incredible diversity of wildlife found at this location. On the way to the beach, we saw 5 dolphins who were playing with our zodiac. Wow, what an early highlight.

Three species of penguin including gentoo, magellanic and rockhopper, as well as southern elephant seals and South American sea lions are known to inhabit the area. King cormorants and striated caracaras are just some of the bird species we saw. We didn’t see any sea lions though except in Stanley.

Once on the beach, after our first zodiac trip, we did a 40-minute hike across the Bleaker Island to see the rockhopper penguin rookery. A single Macaroni male penguin was amongst them, several furrowing Magellanic were seen during the walk, and 100s of Rockhopper penguins were seen. For about 45 minutes we sat on the rocks watching the penguins as they interacted with each other as well as hopping towards the sea below the sheer rocky cliffs to the water below. It was fascinating as I pinched myself realising where I was. Amazing!

A couple from our group were fortunate enough to be invited into the 4x4 owned by the jovial and friendly husband and wife and adult son owners of the island. He told some interesting stories about the island and his family’s life in the Falklands. It is a very isolated life and his married son who bought his wife back to the island and had a child but the wife couldn’t cope with the isolation and they eventually divorced and she now lives in Stanley. The owner bought the island 15 years previously from a large company. He didn’t find out until settlement that he had also purchased 5 other small islands.

The little settlement of the Island has about 10 structures on it, with his son’s house on top of the hill with 10 people living there full-time. There is also the farmer’s house, a small store, 2 tourist accommodation buildings, a slaughter house, and shearing shed etc. All these buildings came as flat-packs into the island. There is a ‘red plane’ service which flies between the islands or alternatively, a 6-hour boat ride from the jetty and provisions come every 6 weeks in containers. Expertise such as mechanics and shearers are bought onto the island when needed.

Their main income is sheep, using quad bikes not dogs for managing the sheep. They have wi-fi, internet and TV from Stanley with BBC channels. They even watched England beat Ireland during the 6-Nation rugby tournament. Very interesting, and it’s wonderful that they allow so many tourists to trounce over their island.

We also saw magellanic, imperial, black and rock cormorants, brown skua, Upland and grey-bill geese, ruddy-headed goose, kelp goose, giant petrel, Falkland’s steamer duck, striated caracara, and a snowy sheath-bill.

We then walked a little further to see the cormorant rookery which was staggering, with the number of birds nesting and the smell!!!!!

After 2 hours on-shore we returned to the beach and were picked up by the zodiacs. I said to Tom, gosh if this was an indication of what is before us on this journey, we are going to be in for a treat. We all returned to the ship totally elated and full of stories. We noted that our 1.00 pm lunch was full of conversational noise about the adventure we had all just experienced.

Our experiences didn’t stop there on the first day as we had presentations from the on-board historian (an amazingly knowledgeable man who first moved to the Falklands in the mid 1960s), and an ornithologist about the Falklands. Happy hour in the bar at 6.00pm quickly became the popular trend before a 7.00pm dinner. That night we also were entertained by the staff cracking jokes on ‘the myths of the sea life’.

Additional photos below
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