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Published: March 16th 2020
Black Browed Albatross
furry baby not ready for flight
In the end of course, it’s always worth it….all the planning, the packing, the airports and then finally you’re there….ahh…. that exquisite moment when you’re sailing out of port and the journey is on…. the moment you dreamed of had arrived… finally. We find ourselves standing on the aft deck of a reasonably sized ship, watching the sun set as the land gets smaller and smaller in size….and a huge smile comes across our faces as a great adventure begins. We’ve left the southernmost city in the world and are headed towards our first stop some 450 nautical miles to the east-northeast, the Falkland Islands, the site of Great Britain’s last great military victory almost forty years ago, but more importantly, home to penguins, albatross and many other winged creatures.
Little did we know at the time but we were about to embark on a grand venture of another kind…..a graduate course in ornithology, marine biology, geology, glaciology, Antarctic history and photography.
Blogging for this trip will be different for us as in past we always blogged while we are traveling so the details are fresh and we present our impressions and experiences as they unfold. With extremely limited
internet speed and the fact that our laptop died on us during day two of the trip we will be blogging the entire trip after the fact. Armed with notes and photos we hope to convey our love and excitement of the adventure. As always, we love hearing from you, so please leave us a comment below.
For us and all of our shipmates, getting to the point of embarkation is quite the journey. We flew north from our home in Florida to Atlanta, then a 10 hour red-eye to Buenos Aires, where our adventure began. After a night’s rest, we hopped on a charter flight to Ushauia, Argentina culminating in visits to the Falkland Islands, the South Georgia Islands and finally the Antarctic Peninsula, part of the “white continent.” The boat sailed from February 16th
to March 8th
We spent two days in the Falklands Islands and had three zodiac landings to explore this unique group of majestic islands. West Falkland Islands, Carcass Island. 51 degrees 18’ S/060 degrees 32’ W
The Falklands are made up of numerous islands, most sparsely inhabited. When the ship dropped anchor, there are no ports with gangways to stroll
down because you’re not in a port, you are really in protected bays of water. But after a two-day sail, it was show time! Giddy with excitement, we donned our thermal underwear, waterproof pants, thick socks, muck boots and the vibrantly yellow double-layered Quark coats. Waddling down the steps from the ship (and we do mean waddling), we plopped into our first zodiac and were transported to Carcass Island over small ocean swells with a light sea spray. We have a great deal to tell you about zodiacs but that will come in a future blog. Zodiacs are the taxis that get you to land from the ship, so they play a very important role.
As we hit the shore our expedition leader reviewed what we would see and a reminder to stay between the flagged path they had marked. It is critical for us to keep a safe distance from the penguin colonies. Personal safety and wildlife safety were of the utmost importance to the crew. We were very impressed with the care they took of the environment.
We stomped around on shore getting used to our muck boots as we gazed into the sky to view
amazing petrels soaring. A brief hike through tufted grasses blowing in the wind took us to a large penguin rookery down by the beach on the other side of the tiny island. We stared ….in amazement at the Gentoo and Magellan penguins, ducks and geese. The sun shone brightly, and we quickly realized that we had layered on too much clothing and were quite warm. We had been told this would happen but were not about to take a chance on being under-dressed even though we knew it was summer and had been provided the temperature and wind speeds. Better too warm than cold in this part of the world. Great advice.
In our briefing, we were told what time to be back at the Zodiac launch point if we wanted to be transported to the other side of the island to visit the only settlement on the island for tea. We opted to skip the tea to linger and watched the penguins for quite a while. The experience fascinated us. We were among the last twelve to fifteen to leave…..we’d come a long way and were not disappointed.
As the crowds left the penguins got more active.
Black Browed Albatross
We sat on the beach and watched two penguins climb a sand dune and snuggle in the side of the hill for a rest. Quietly we sat on the rocks on the beach and watched the penguins swim in the sea. Mother Nature at its finest. We would have stayed much longer, but had to get back to one of the last zodiacs. West Falkland Islands, West Point Island. 51 degrees 20’S/ 060 degrees 40’ W
The ship moved to the south while we hit the dining room on the ship for lunch. Our second stop at West Point Island allowed us to make adjustments by not over layering. This proved fairly useful as it was a solid uphill hike to the other side of the small island, where we watched the black-browed albatross gliding in the winds off the cliffs. As we got closer, we saw the nests, where the rather large six-month-old chicks were sitting in their nests, awaiting their next meal. They were shedding their baby feathers and were not yet ready to take flight. They were fluffy and so dang cute. Albatross spend the majority of their lives at sea, only coming to the
Never tire of looking at these adorable creatures
land to lay their egg and hatch the chicks. Quietly we stood in six-foot-tall tufted grasses peering at these amazing creatures. We were mesmerized by the soaring parents flying on the wind currents, the feeding chicks and the rugged coastline. The whistling winds, swaying grasses, camera shutters and soft whispers were the only sounds other than the birds calling to their family members. West Point is also home to the Southern Rockhopper penguins, but on this island the albatross stole the show.
Alan and Jackie are the only two people living on West Point island. They are from Stanley, the capitol city and have been caretakers here for three and a half years and have happily agreed to stay for five years. At that point, they plan to go back to friends and family in Stanley. They host ships to the island and our group was invited to afternoon tea, where we saw an amazing spread of confection. This is an attempt to provide income for the islands and educate people on the delicate balance of nature in this region. We learned that the Falklanders go to the U.K. for college but almost all of them have been coming
This is for you Bill Ball
Reminds of our of time on the Australian beaches!
back home to help these islands prosper. That certainly speaks well of the island. They must be doing something right that everyone wants to come back.
We will tell you these are captivating islands and we understand the appeal to be a caretaker at West Point Islands. We found ourselves wishing we were citizens of the U.K. so we could apply. East Falkland Islands, Stanley. 51 degrees 41’S/ 057 degrees 50” W
Many of us didn’t know much about The Falkland Islands until the early 1980’s when there was a kerfuffle about it in the news. Well, a two-month war really, but a struggle that was a couple of hundred years in the making.
Before our trip we tried to share a book we’d bought on the Falkland Islands War to educate and prepare us. It’s a good book, but after chapter three MJs eyes glazed over as it was detailed and from a military perspective. Dave finished the book on the trip so you can guess who will be providing that summary.
On Stanley, we had three or four options of a penguin tour, a town tour, walking independently or a Battle Tour. Since
Home sweet home
we are celebrating Dave’s big birthday on this trip and he’s a history buff…. Guess which adventure we took?
Ready for some background that will fill in some of the blanks? After all, if you’re not from the U.K., you’re recollections of the event are at best snippets of film footage and a something about a disagreement over self-rule. The Falklands have been claimed by the British more or less since, well….forever. Argentina would disagree with that and in the 20th
century, literally decades of discussion took place about who really should govern these islands. In the middle of this were the people that lived on the islands. They were resolute in that they wanted to be British subjects, not Argentinian. In 1982, Argentina was ruled by a military junta while in the midst of a rather nasty economic crisis coupled with civil unrest. The junta decided that they needed a strategy to mitigate this and decided that an invasion of the South Georgia Islands and the Falklands would do the trick. So that’s what they did….
Now the UK had their own issues at home, but weren’t about to take this one sitting down, so they went
and took the islands back. This was a massive logistical challenge seeing as how the Falklands were about 8000 miles from England. Nevertheless, after 74 days, the UK prevailed, much to the delight of those back home as a victory was just the shot in the arm the nation needed as they were also dealing with their share of issues back home. Mission accomplished.
Our bus tour took us to many of the sites of the war and our guide was a very entertaining chap who was there when all this took place. After our battle tour we wandered the city streets before heading back to the ship. We would consider flying back to the Falklands and spending a week or two there. It’s a lovely place. Dave Allcorn from Travel Blog – a reunion!
We’ve been reading Dave’s blog for years and emailing from time to time about his Polar adventures. A few years ago, we were thinking of going to Churchill Canada to view the polar bears and that trip fell through. When we began to plan this adventure, Dave was extremely helpful. When we let him know when we were going and what company
Crew member and fellow TravelBlogger.
we were using, he told us he would be working on the ship! Are you kidding??? This was great news!!
FYI: Dave hasn’t blogged in a while but promises to begin again soon. (hopefully in the next few weeks) He is planning to start a new blog so keep an eye out for that change in name. If you have trouble finding his new blog contact us and we will share it with you.
It is hard to explain to friends and family who don’t share our passion for travel or our enjoyment of blogging why we like meeting bloggers from the TravelBlog web site and the Century Travelers Club. The answer for us is that these are our people, kindred spirits who fully understand our curiosity about the world; our need to understand distant cultures, sleep in a tent in the White Desert of Egypt, travel by train to Zermatt Switzerland, drive the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, scuba dive in different oceans and seas, sit quietly fifteen feet from an amazing leopard, elephant or giraffe and bargain like a Berber in the markets of Morocco.
Time and time again we’ve had the pleasure of meeting fellow
travel bloggers and they fit like family. We can talk endlessly about travel, the people of distant cultures, ethnic foods we’ve tasted, and their eyes don’t glaze over. We share past trips and future hopes with one another. We share ideas not considered and find that next great adventure.
When our plane landed in Ushuaia, Argentina in Tierra del Fuego touted as the “southern most city in the world,” we had a little over two hours before we boarded the Ocean Endeavor. It’s a small town and several friends and travel bloggers had given us a couple of tips on what to do and see in our limited time. It was a brisk and very windy day. We were happily heading down the sidewalk after getting our passports stamped at the visitor center to walk to the waterfront and take a photo at the famous Ushuaia sign. We hadn’t gone 150 yards when we see Dave Allcorn’s smiling face heading toward us! Wow! We knew we would see him on the ship but never expected to find him so quickly in town. Kismet! Hugs all around and a quick conversation. As a crew member Dave was due back on
the ship so we went our separate ways for now. We have so much more to tell……
Oh… and yes, there will be food photos in each blog for all of our foodies. There was an amazing variety on offer and no one went hungry! Three plus weeks on a ship and the lettuce was still fresh. How do they do that?
Perfection…….next stop…..the South Georgia Islands
Our pre-trip blog: Antarctica with Quark Expeditions!
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