Stanley, Falklands (finally arrived yippee!!)

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February 20th 2013
Published: June 26th 2017
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Ushuaia to Port Stanley

It was Country and Western night last night. The activities kicked off with a Country and Western trivia. The other members of our trivia team weren't interested in this so Roisin and I slipped unnoticed alone in to Explorers Lounge and decided to play the trivia for fun hoping that no-one would recognise us as part of the know-it-alls and ask us to join their team only to find out that we are crap at music!!

I did calculate that if we had put either Hank Williams or Garth Brooks as the answer to every question, we would have scored 8 points (out of 40) As it turns out, we didn't use this tactic but coincidentally scored 8 anyway (had we have been playing!!)

Once the trivia was over we decided not to stay for the 'ho down' so went up on deck to settle in and watch the Movie under the Stars (Sherlock Holmes – Game of Shadows)

We were both surprised that the Captain had not made an announcement all day so were still none the wiser if we were going to make Stanley tomorrow. The area is so windswept and the seas around it so fierce that only about half of the cruise ships scheduled to call at Port Stanley actually make it. Since there is no dock, even if the ships themselves can get into the harbour, the tenders are often unable to handle the wind and high seas. If the weather will be half as bad as Puerto Arenas, I can't see it happening. However, as the Captain has not announced anything, this must be a good sign, right? He must have an idea what the weather is going to be like.

The other strange thing we noticed is that Stanley is 4 hours behind GMT. We are currently 3 hours behind. There was no notification, when we arrived back in our stateroom, that the clocks go back '1 hour'. Perhaps we are going to sail straight past the Falklands thus remaining on ships time. That would save adjusting them back to 3 hours once we arrived back in Argentina!!

I woke up at 05:45am and jumped out of bed, excited like a 5 year old on Christmas day. As I drew back the curtains, I saw land ahoy. According to the Captains Log on TV, the sea state was moderate. This has to be as good as it gets? Although the TV did state that the sea temperature is 158°F (78°C). Blimey!! That's hotter than running a bath!! I'll chalk that one up to a typo!!

I climbed back in to bed but just lay there waiting for the ship to toss and pitch indicating that the sea state has taken a turn for the worse. This never came and at about 08:00 I heard the winching of the tender lifeboats being lowered. We had arrived at Port Stanley, the Falkland Islands!!!

Most of the people with any awareness of the Falkland Islands are either:

• British
• Argentine
• Old enough to remember the Falklands War of 1982
• Planning a South America cruise.

There are 200 islands that make up the Falklands and are so remote that they are easily overlooked except for the above reasons. I remember when we first heard about the Argentine Invasion of the islands in 1982 and a TV news crew went out and about to canvass opinion. 62% of people interviewed thought the Falklands were somewhere in Scotland!!! The Islands are sparsely populated with 1,700 of the 2,500 inhabitants living in the capital Stanley, the most southerly capital in the world. The Falklands are geographically part of Patagonia but are located about 300 miles off the coast of Argentina. They are an overseas territory of the UK and we have the letter of authenticity to prove it.

I have tried to research the history of the Falklands to try to understand the claim of Argentina that the Falklands remain theirs. Other than for a few weeks in 1982, the Argentines have never occupied the Falklands.

If we go back to the 16th century Spain, France, GB and Portugal sailed around this area of the South Atlantic pussyfooting and phyching each other out and doing their best to chart and survey the land. The Spanish were good at drawing maps and were the first to name and plot the Island. This still doesn't give them right to ownership. The British took the initiative and were the first to set foot on the islands claiming them for King George IV. The Spanish then said. "They're ours. We saw them first…!!!"

In 1529 Diego de Ribero drew a map indicating islands in the position of the Falklands. So what. When I was younger, my mum had to draw me a map to the bathrom. That doesn't make the bathroom legally hers! (as it turns out in this case, it does as she owned the house, but that's beside the point!!!)

In 1535 Simon de Alcazaba (Spain) sights islands that may have been the Falklands. (Yes, that MAY have been the Falklands) I saw a man working at McDonald's last week that MAY have been Elvis!!!

Moving on a few hundred years in 1765 Captain John Byron was dispatched by the British Government to take formal posession of the islands at Port Egremont. The French already had a settlement in Port St Louis that was eventually bought out by the Governor of Buenos Aries (when still under Spanish rule) and so ousted the British. To avoid an unwanted war, the Spanish said this Govenor had acted on his own so the Spanish then handed control of the islands back to Britain. In 1811 the British and Spanish both withdrew from he Falklands due to economic reasons and a German, Louis Vernat, stepped in. He was made Governor with the blessing of the Buenos Aries government. Britain protested. Next the Americans got involved claiming Vernat to be a pirate so they ‘kicked ass' and destroyed Port Louis. Britain reasserted her rights in 1833 and have had administrative right every since (except for the few weeks in 1982 that I mentioned earlier).

From that potted history I fail to see how Argentina can lay claim to (and why they want) this windswept, treeless and boggy land. It must have been during that little known brief period in time when the Irish occuplied the Falklands and the Governor said the he is just nipping out for a paper and a packet of fags. He then said those immortal words, ‘OIL be back!!!' Something must have been lost in translation and from then on the Argentines have shown more than a passing interest!!

So, we had secured our tender tickets and were waiting for our turn to be taken ashore. Roisin was not happy. We had just come from the Promenade deck 7 where we checked the state of the water with our own eyes. A tender was just leaving as another one was approaching.

Look,' I said. I've seen it rougher on the River Mersey!!

Yes,' Rosin said. ‘but you have never taken a tender in to the middle of the River!!'

Touché!! She had me there!!

It was our turn. As she stepped up to cross in to the tender, a few awkward moments passed before she boarded the lifeboat. We managed to ensure no-one sat next to or adjacent us. I could see Roisin was starting to become agitated.

‘I don't think I can do this!', she whispered.

‘Just imagine we're in a simulator', I said. ‘Think of Bora Bora or any other of those South Pacific Islands when the water was spl…..' I cut off mid sentence. My rambling had worked. The door was closed over and the throttle of the tender was opened. We were away. Roisin held on to my hand tightly. A little too tightly. Now I felt faint!!!!

The crossing, which was almost ½ hour was very smooth. There was a slight pitching when the boat entered the inlet from the main bay where the 2 tides met, otherwise it was all plain sailing (literally!!)

On approaching the jetty, one is struck by the colourful corrugated metal roofs of the town's buildings and the main road that runs along the coast with the town rising behind it. Across the inlet we noticed name that have been spelt out of rocks placed on the sloping hill. These, as far as we could read, spelt out the following names Beagle, Protector, Endurance and Dumbarton Castle. I assume that these are the names of some of the naval vessels that took part in the 1982 conflict

We met John and Marina from our quiz team who had just returned from a private tour to Sparrow Cove penguin colony. The cost was only US$20 per person or, if you wanted a private tour, US$100. This was still cheaper than an organised tour of US$179 per person with Princess. At this stage, we were all penguin'd out so it wouldn't bother us if we never saw another penguin as long as we lived! Not so much about the little fellows, themselves but all the usual souvenir crap and tat in every place we've been have images of penguins. Most of the stuff can be bought (probably cheaper) in any zoo around the world!!

Speaking of tours, Princess were offering a City Drive and Britannia House museum for US$79. CITY DRIVE?? The city consists of Ross Road that is probably about 400m long and not much else. The tour lasts 2 hours so I imagine you spend 1hour 45m in the museum, 10 minutes in the cathedral and 5 minutes drive time??!!

There are no traffic lights, no department stores, and no cinemas in Stanley. In fact come to think of it once you leave Stanley there are not many roads or other towns for that matter. Most places don't even have hamlet status. More like a settlement.

Our first stop brought us to Christ Church cathedral famous for the whalebone arch that decorated the churchyard. The church was built in the 1890s and the whalebone arch was a gift from South Georgia to the Falklands in 1933 as part of the centennial celebration of British rule. Apparently the cathedral still comes under the governance of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I noticed a hotel called Malvina, a similar name as the Argentines have for the islands. Malvina actually comes from French name, Îles Malouines, named by Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1764 after the first known settlers, mariners and fishermen from the Breton port of Saint-Malo in France.

There are still landmines dotted around the island left over from the 1982 conflict. Some of the mines have been destroyed but it got to the stage that, because of the nature of the land and landscape here, it was too expensive and impractical to do a complete sweep of the islands. So to be on the safe side, when a sign reads ‘keep off the grass' you bloody well ‘keep off the grass!!!'

We passed the mizen mast of the SS Great Britain on Victory Green and a few minutes later arrived at the war memorial where we paid our respects to those who helped liberate the islands. Just up from the memorial is ‘Thatcher Drive'. I kid you not. I couldn't think of anything funny to add except it would be amusing if someone added below this sign ‘The drive is not for turning!!' Unfortunately I forgot to bring my marker pens with me!!!

We could have walked a little further but by now the clouds had moved in and it had started to hail. Yes, hail. They said you can get four seasons in one day here and this was the proof. We had already had sun and wind and now this. It didn't last very long but we took shelter in St. Mary's church, This is a small church built entirely out of timber in 1899.

We decided to have a walk behind Ross Road but it was just a residential area (and quite hilly) so we kept to the one main road of the town and headed back toward the jetty.

Back on board the sanitisation programme is still in operation. The Captain has mentioned that Norovirus is sweeping North America at the moment so this could have ben brought on board by anyone. Roisin and I are both surprised that although many precautions have been imposed to reduce the risk, the bannisters and hand rails, the parts of the ship that are touched by most people, do not appear to be getting scrubbed regularly. On MSC cruises this is part of a normal cleaning routine!

So, we made it. Thinking back to the ‘Meet and Greet' the Captain said it would be a 50/50 chance. The Star Princess has made 6 trips to the Falklands (including this one) during this season and has managed to dock 3 times. The ‘Old man' was right. Spot on.

Leaving the Falkland Islands behind, it was announced that a pod of whales has been spotted on the starboard side. I tried to capture this unique event but as you can see, from that distance, could be anything!!

There is another enthralling day at sea tomorrow. The Scholarship at sea special lecture is on ‘Early airmail'. (we can't wait!!) It is badged as to how the early airmail system developed and subsequently became the air system of the US. There is no need to sell it to me. I'm hooked already!!!

If we miss that, we can always look forward to the show entitled ‘Rhythm of Magic'. This will be a Fusion of magic and balloon dancing!

One of my colleagues has left a comment stating that the entertainment on board sounds like Phoenix Nights on water. If only it was that entertaining. Still, if we were here solely for the entertainment, I wouldn't have as much time on my hands to tell you about the marvellous time we're having!!!

Additional photos below
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22nd February 2013

Ace. We actually live in Thatcher Grove, but the roads on our estate are named after professions, Mason, Potter etc. My mrs's best mate was born in Stanley in 1955(her dad's job) so i showed her your Blog. She's fascinated and now, of cour
se, barred, as she wants to go cruising...
27th February 2013

" penguins have something that can melt away the coldest heart and warm up the coldest body emitting an all over glow of warmth and well-being" 2 blogs later you could not care if you saw another one for the rest of your life's!! Something
must have occurred in between! Keep up the good work Christopher!
28th February 2013

Phil, Well spotted and a good point well made. However, I was dissing the souvenirs and what they stand for rather than the penguins. If you continued to quote the paragraph in this blog it reads: '...not so much about the little fellows, t
hemselves but all the usual souvenir crap and tat in every place we?ve been have images of penguins...'

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