Monday, October 24, 2011

Oz Photos

I should be sleeping right now, but my body clock says otherwise. Figured I may as well make use of the time, so I culled some photos from the trip to Australia.

These photos were all taken with my Olympus FE-370 (a simple point-n-shoot), so please forgive the inferior ones.

There are endless possible subjects to photograph in Australia. I've loosely grouped these photos into a few simple categories.


Flowers and Plants
Seeing flowers in Australia reminds me of Hawaii. While I see many flowers I recognize, I inevitably see flowers unlike anything I've ever seen. They're not just different, they're crazy different.


Tiny Flowers (who can identify them?)

Swirly Flower (again, who can identify?)

Fern Tendril

Fronds Galore

While I haven't identify each of these birds, the birders on our Antarctica expedition would be proud of how many of the following birds I (presumably) identified correctly! Let's hear it for!

Little Pied Cormorant

Australian White Ibis

Laughing Kookaburra

Rainbow Lorikeet

Crested Pigeon

Australian Pelican


I'm pleased to report that each of the following were spotted in the wild. No zoos this time 'round.


A 5-6' Kangaroo We Saw On Our Last Day

A Spider (only about the size of my fingernail)

I've loved lighthouses for as long as I can remember. There's something comforting knowing that someone is looking out for you.

Fort Denison Lighthouse

Bradley's Head Lighthouse

Hornby Lighthouse

Wollongong Lighthouse

Wroght Iron
I hope the Aussies will forgive the comparison, but the wrought iron you see throughout Sydney reminds me of New Orleans. I could spend days on end capturing the wrought iron on camera, but I'd probably drive Alicia totally insane. ;-)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back from Oz

We arrived back from Sydney yesterday morning. I'm always amused by the return flight when you arrive hours before the time you departed - a fun quirk of the International Date Line. Getting to experience the same Saturday twice makes up for the disappointment of losing a Friday on the outbound leg.

Purposely didn't do much yesterday - reserved the day to deal with jet lag. Took a leisurely walk at Rio Del Mar beach to the cement boat, took a look at some of the photos from the trip, and didn't do much else.

One photo has captured my attention. It's a photo of an flower that was growing in a nondescript spot behind a retaining wall at the hotel we stayed at on our last night in the Southern Highlands.

It was a pretty enough flower, but it wasn't likely to get much attention growing in anonymity where it was. And I don't know enough about flowers to even identify it. Anyone know what type of flower it is? [Update: The consensus appears to be iris.]

Something about the flower drew me in, so I popped off a few shots using my Olympus FE-370 point-n-shoot. I left the Canon 30D at home this trip. I figured this was my sixth or so time to Sydney... What was I going to see (and photograph) that I hadn't seen (and photographed) multiple times before? Why bother lugging around the 30D when the point-n-shoot fits so easily in my pocket?

I decided to take a different approach this time. I wanted to see what sort of photos I could get working within the limitations of the point-n-shoot. It doesn't have the resolution and clarity of the 30D. Its lens is inferior to the 30D's. Its lens can't zoom in the way the 30D can. Its macro capability is inferior to the 30D's. Its low-light capabilities are lower than the 30D's.

But rather than use the 30D's superior capabilities as a crutch, I decided to work with what I had. I had the point-n-shoot's limited capabilities and my eye as an amateur photographer.

Many of the photos I took with the point-n-shoot this trip were sub-par. Many were blurry. Many were washed out. Many just didn't 'work' for a variety of reasons. But some did work - one in particular.

BTW... When I said above that one photo captured my attention, it wasn't the photo above. It was this one...

To fully experience this photo, please click on it to see it enlarged.

This is the very same flower as in the first photo above. But whereas the first photo is a snoozer that does a gross injustice to the flower, this photo is vibrant with color. The photo is primarily yellow, but it is an explosion of yellow. And all the intricate details that are absent from the first photo command my attention in this photo. When I took the photo, I didn't even notice the cheetah-like pattern on the lower petal. The more I look at this flower, the more I see.

While all of the above is interesting to me from the perspective of photography, there's a deeper message in this whole experience for me. Beauty is all around us. Beauty can be found in new places and in new experiences, but beauty can also be found in the same old places if you're looking for it. Using the same old eyes that I've been using for decades but with a different perspective, I was able to see and experience a new beauty.

One last comment in closing... Earlier this year, we completed our goal of setting foot on all seven continents. That had been a personal goal for fifteen years. It took a long time to achieve that goal, but the years of stubborn (and some might have said foolish) dedication to that goal paid off.

When we landed at SYD the morning of October 15th, we accomplished another travel goal - to step foot on all seven continents within one year. That goal didn't take fifteen years to accomplish. It only took nine months.

So why that latest goal? Did the vacuum created by accomplishing the first goal leave a void that had to be filled? Or was it simply the pragmatic realization that this was likely to be the only chance I'd have in my life to achieve that latest goal? A little of both, I suspect. Regardless what the exact reason was, underlying all my travels is the desire (as I've written about previously) to show others that life can be an abundant experience - an experience that too often passes us by.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steve and Dennis

Two great men in the industry have passed away - Steve Jobs last week (everybody knows about that) and now Dennis Ritchie.

Amongst the numerous Apple gadgets I've owned over the years, Steve (and Woz) created the very first computer I ever used. And Dennis created the first "real" operating system I ever used.

Both Steve and Dennis had a major influence on my life. I will miss them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What the FTK?

I suffered a self-inflicted blunder back in April. On the tail end of our trip to Japan and Hong Kong back in April, I transferred my photos from the camera to the netbook, deleted the photos from the camera, then turned around and found the photos weren't on the netbook.

Long story short... I was seriously bummed. I resigned myself to the very real possibility that the photos were gone. But knowing that not all hope was lost, I popped out the memory card, put it safely aside, and popped in another card.

A couple days ago, I emailed my friend David (he does computer forensics for a living) and he pointed me to FTK. Climbed the app's learning curve and voilà:

Photos restored. Thanks, David.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Giving the Boot the Boot

Went to the podiatrist and got the good news... I'm off crutches and out of the boot! Good riddance! Now I have a month or so of taking it slowly and I'll be back running again. But before I go running, I've got to rid of the shoes that got me in trouble the first place.

Speaking of shoes, on the last three or so flights, I've noticed a pair in Skymall (my entertainment during takeoff and landing when I'm deprived of my toys).

What has captured my attention is the amazing claims the advertisement makes - claims such as:

  • Exercise 20% longer with out fatigue  90%
  • Ankle & foot pain gone  85%
The thing that amuses me about the ad is that it screams out percentages such as 90% and 85% without ever attributing the numbers to anything or anyone. It's like they're just slapping numbers next to their claims and assuming that the big numbers will give the claims legitimacy.

Let me try it out...

93% of all statistics are made up on the spot.    96%

I also like the claim, "Over 500,000 Sold World-Wide". I can't help but wonder if that's a half million pairs or a quarter million pairs.

And then there's the aesthetic aspect of their product. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure that I'd want to wear a pair of shoes covered with a pattern of... uh... tadpoles?

If anyone would potentially be interested in a pair of shoes with shock absorbing springs in the heal, you'd think it would be someone like me who just got over a stress fracture... And yet, I don't think I'll be ordering a pair.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The King

Hello from several tens of thousands of feet above Santa Barbara.

On my way home from <sarcasm> lovely </sarcasm> Ontario, I saw an amusing billboard - amusing to me anyway - heading southbound on the 605 on my way to LAX.

[ Clarification: I was heading southbound, not the billboard. ]

I wouldn't ordinarily notice (or care about) a Budweiser sign, but I couldn't possibly miss the gargantuan slogan screaming out at the drivers passing by.

I wanted to snap a picture of the billboard, but reaching back into the trunk area while driving wasn't an option. So I went online in the Red Carpet club before my flight and did some hasty googling in the hopes someone had posted a picture of the billboard. Didn't find one, but I did find this:

"The King Never Looked So Good." If you watched the boob tube as much as I did growing up, you'd immediately get the "King" reference. If your memory needed at little jogging, the accompanying pictures of the (apparently) new Budweiser cans would do the trick.

My immediate reaction to the slogan was, "They're absolutely right!"

I imagine that the designers of this new can would be pleased by my reaction… so long as they didn't know me.

For those of you who do know me, you might have noticed that I'm a bit of a stickler (aka. pain in the ass) about language. Majoring in Linguistics only made it worse. One of the things about language that amuses and intellectually stimulates me is ambiguity.

Some folks are the "life of the party." Me, I'm the guy you want around at the end of the party. I'm the perpetual designated driver. I don't drink (never have), so my immediate interpretation of "The King Never Looked So Good" was they're right, drinking Budweiser has never looked like a good idea to me. Beer smells disgusting. Why would I want to drink it?

Let's hear it for truth in advertising!

I can see SFO off in the distance, so I need to go for now.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Just received notice that I passed the VCP5. I took part in the exam beta back in (when was it?) July. Nice to have the results. I celebrated by updating the list of my certifications in LinkedIn and my previous blog post.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

I don't know what it was like for prior generations, but if you're from mine you likely remember being admonished by teachers not to plagiarize. According to Merriam-Webster, to plagiarize is to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source.

Admittedly, the first time the issue was brought up is lost in the fuzzy recollections of my childhood, so I don't recall exactly how the concept was presented to us. We were pretty young, so I doubt whether the word "plagiarize" actually worked its way into the discussion. More likely, our introduction to the concept was formulated as a reprimand to "stop copying directly from the encyclopedia".

Scholars are not made overnight, so I suspect our teachers' hope was to first get us to understand that copying verbatim was A) intellectually lazy, B) unethical, and C) not going to fly. I can't speak for all of my fellow classmates, but I suspect the way most of us adapted was to continue consulting the encyclopedia, but to leverage and hone new found skills. We learned to reword and reorder the information we found in the encyclopedia. I doubt those techniques reached our teachers' highest hopes for our intellectual pursuits, but it was a start. Some time later on our educational path we learned that we could quote verbatim provided that we properly credited our source.

I have been a technical trainer for more than fifteen years, and I still love it. Looking back, I was always teaching in some form or another long before I was ever granted the title. Two aspects of teaching have always given me great satisfaction. The first is that it continually challenges me to learn more about subjects that interest me. And the second is that class after class, I get to watch as the light bulbs go off above students' heads.

All of the above are simply the unsolicited ruminations (Uhhh... Isn't "unsolicited" the core essence blogging?) of one on a never-ending path of learning and a long way of excusing the following cut-n-paste from Wikipedia:

Labor Day ... celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.

Would you look at that! Here we are back on the subject I originally set out to write about.

Good news! While I could easily launch into a diatribe about how the US seems to be heading the wrong direction in so many ways - labor issues being one of the many - that's not what I set out to write about today. The polarization of our political landscape is sad. Many of us feel that our country has been hijacked and is being misdirected. The bizarre thing is that folks on the opposite sides of the various issues facing our country both feel the same way. Right or left, conservative or liberal, few of us seem to be pleased with where we are heading as a country.

So you'll hear no long, ranting diatribe from me. I won't even weigh in right or left. I won't weigh in on the plight or the privileges of the working masses. Instead, I want to talk about the one worker that I know best: me.

I recently came across some items I wrote many years ago - sixteen years to be precise. I wrote:
"I paid off all my bills tonight including my last credit card! And I sent my bill to [a company for whom I'd done some consulting]. And I reconciled my [banking] accounts. I’m free! I’ve only got $200 in the bank, but it’s done!"
Let me put this quote in context. In particular, I need to provide some context for the "it's done!" proclamation to make sense.

I wrote that quote some five or so years after I had graduated from college. In my last year in college, I landed a part-time job that turned into a full-time job that turned into the beginnings of my career. Even though it was a well-paying job, I somehow managed to never quite get ahead financially no matter how many raises I received. I was never especially deep in the hole, but it always drove me nuts that I never seemed able to climb out.

The "it's done!" proclamation was in recognition that I'd finally climbed out of the hole. In hindsight, I can see many of the reasons I had had difficulty getting ahead financially. I'd acquired too much "stuff." I'd spent every raise the moment I received them. I'd shied away from staying on top of collecting money that I was owed by customers. Issues like that. But I'd finally done it. I'd turned the cash flow situation around.

And I had a whopping $200 in the bank to show for it.

But here's where things get interesting... It was at that very point in my life where I was re-evaluating my place in the world - in particular my place in the work world. I was fed up with the direction of my <sarcasm>lengthy</sarcasm> career. I was in a position where I was responsible for the management of several strategic accounts, but the company I worked for never seemed to get around to granting me the authority to do what needed to be done. Consequently I kept  striving to serve my accounts as best I could to meet their various needs, but doing so involved me calling in all the favors and good will that I had built up in my career. I couldn't keep drawing from that well, and it was obvious that the company I was working for had no interest in prospecting for more wells. My well was running dry.

But even more fundamentally, I knew that I'd bought too deeply into the mentality that I - like all workers - was trapped in a job whether or not it was fulfilling for me. I'd bought into the belief that I was at the mercy of my job. I'd lost sight of the potential to live a more prosperous, rewarding, and fulfilling life. I was stuck in a rut.

So I'd been thinking about how to break out of that rut. I'd worked for several months in England a few years earlier. I'd traveled to Canada and Mexico (if Tijuana can be considered Mexico) in my childhood, but travel had never been a big deal to me. During my stint in England, I took advantage of the opportunity to travel. I took side trips to Scottland, Ireland, Greece, Italy, and France. And it was then that I was afflicted with a terminal case of wanderlust that has never subsided.

There I was re-evaluating my career. Since I'd returned from England I'd wanted to resume my travels. Somehow those two ideas gelled together into one clear goal: I decided to quit my job and to travel to Asia. Initially I had Nepal and India in mind, but I decided I was open to additional destinations if I could work them in.

Funny thing is I never made it to Nepal or India. And I still haven't been to either after all these years.

So what happened? Did I get beat down by "The Man" and resign myself to a life of drudgery in an unfulfilling career? No, something entirely different happened.

Before I retell the tale of what happened, bear in mind what I said in the quote above. I had $200 in the bank. I had forgotten that not-so-tiny aspect of the story until recently when I came across that quote. I've got $200 in the bank, a career that I no longer want, and a seemingly deluded desire to travel to Asia for a few months.

Long story short... Instead of heading to Nepal and India as I originally planned, I traveled around the world for more than six months. I traveled to twenty-three countries and five continents. By my estimates, my journey covered more than 75,000 miles (three times the circumference of the earth). My journey cost approximately $20,000 (that's 1995 dollars).

I started dreaming up this journey when I had a piddly $200 in the bank. When I returned from the trip, I was still out of debt. I had more than the $200 I'd had previously. I picked up a new job in a field more suited to me and making almost 50% more than I was making when I left the US. And when I outgrew that job, I founded my own training and consulting company that I ran for almost a decade.

I've been very fortunate in my life, but I try not to flaunt that good fortune. I strive to be modest, but I've long felt that one of my callings in life is to bear witness for others of the abundant goodness in life. Those who know me know that I've continued to travel. The travel bug never stopped biting. I don't know that it ever truly will.

Re-reading the "Long story short" paragraph above, it sounds like someone selling false promises on a late night infomercial. But I'm not selling anything. I just feel that every now and then I ought to share the story of my good fortune to spread a little light into others' lives. I know that in my own journey through life, I've had the good fortune to meet people who, through their own stories, have lifted up my thoughts and beliefs to a higher plane from which I could see that life didn't have to be drudgery, I didn't have to be stuck in a unfulfilling job, and that I could do what I wanted to do in life.

[ Jody, you needn't feel awkward for giving thanks for the good in your life. :-) ]

If you're a worker and you stumble upon this, my Labor's Day blog post, take heart. Life can be and is so much more than so many of us settle for.

In case you missed it, that last paragraph is the big climatic moment in this blog post. The rest of this is just denouement...

Re-reading my sixteen year old quote was a big part of the impetus behind this blog post. But another part of why I set down to write is because I've been re-evaluating my career once again. While many in our country have been struggling with unemployment, I've been getting contacted regularly by head-hunters this year. Maybe that's the result listing my certifications (VCI, VCP3, VCP4, VCP5VCAP-DCA) on my LinkedIn profile.

I've had the good fortune to receive two very attractive offers from two pre-IPO companies this year. Both offered extensive international travel - something I've been missing in my career the last few years. But after agonizing over the offers, I turned both down. Seems I've got a case of golden handcuffs. That's not the worst problem in the world to have, but I'm starting to feel that same constraining feeling that I felt so many years ago. I'm much happier with my current career than that old career, but I can feel something gnawing away in me that says there's more to life. That's a fun and exciting place to be in life.

Wishing you all well and a prosperous, rewarding life this Labor Day.

P.S. Ask me some time how Alicia and I finagled our Antarctica journey for far less than the typical cost of such a trip.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What happened to May, June, and July?

Four months have passed since I've posted anything new to my blog. Why the lapse?

Which sort of reason (aka excuse) do you want?

The Glamorous Reason
We took a couple weeks off to travel to Spain, Morocco, Gibraltar, and Portugal. We had a great time, and - surprise, surprise - I have photos to share. I just need to get through the photos from the trips to Antarctica, Japan, and Hong Kong. I'll get to these latest photos, they're just at the back of the FIFO.

The Work Reason
Work has taken me to Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago (twice), and Denver since last I posted. Each trip was a week long, so work related travel has been chewing up a big chunk of my time. I love all that travel, but it does take time.

I've been busily gearing up to meet the flurry of activity that is sure to come when VMware releases vSphere 5. Plus I've been working on projects related to designing the new vSphere 5 courses and our PowerCLI and VMware Orchestrator courses.

The Family Travel Reason
We spent a week at the cabin in Hawks, MI visiting my Dad, Lena, Pam, Ryan, and Brett.

Take look at who we had dinner with on the way to the cabin. We stopped in at Big Boy primarily for the kitsch factor. But I must confess that the Reuben I had was surprisingly good. Go figure.

The Fitness Reason
I've been busy - some would say too busy - running lately. I started ramping up my distances in July. It's been rewarding to get back in to shape and to shed some pounds that I'd picked up over the years.

The Owwwwwwwwww Reason
I'd say that the running was going quite well until August 6th. You can see the stats on that run and others at I've saved you the trouble of clicking on that previous link and have presented a plot of that run below.

My goal on this run was ambitious. I'd decided that I was going to run a half marathon. I hadn't run one since high school, and that was decades ago.

I've been increasing the distances I've been running, and I was pretty confident that I'd be able to to the 13.1 miles provided I simply paced myself. Alicia was over the hill at the Mountain Winery for the Pat Benatar + Dennis DeYoung concert. So I could take as many hours as I needed.

As you can see, the run starts out pleasantly enough. I started at the train tracks and followed Aptos Creek Road as it winded its way into Nisene Marks State Park. That's the squiggly part of the red line.

I'm feeling fine as I run past the entrance station, past George's Picnic Area, past Mary Easton Picnic Area, past Porter Family Picnic Area, through the gate, and as I turn left onto the Loma Prieta Grade Loop trail just before Margaret's bridge. That's when the hills start. So I adjust my pace for the long haul uphill.

Then two things happened as I neared Hoffman's historic site. The first thing is that the RunKeeper app or my iPhone, or the GPS receiver in my iPhone, or something went haywire on me right at 4.46 miles. I was only a third of the way into my run and it went kaput. But I wasn't about to let a technological failure deter me from achieving my goal. So I kept slowly plodding my way uphill.

The second thing that happened right about that time was I started feeling a pain in my right heel. In hindsight I recognize that this wasn't the first time I'd felt that pain, but the times when I'd felt the pain previously the pain went away shortly after the run.

This time the pain didn't go away. It gradually grew more and more intense. I continued on my route and headed out the Historic Loop trail. I'll spare you the details of my ordeal as I completed the loop trail - it's not like this was anything remotely approaching a 127 hours sort of ordeal.

The thing that was simultaneously very amusing and totally demoralizing is that as I completed the ordeal (err I mean the run), the RunKeeper app kept me posted on my pace. I'd been running approximately at nine minute mile. That's considerably slower than my pace back in the days when I ran cross country in high school, but it was respectable enough - especially in light of the fact that I was pacing myself for a longer run.

Every five minutes, RunKeeper interrupted my music (How did I ever run in high school without an iPod?!?) to inform me of my current pace. The pace went from nine minutes to ten to eleven to fourteen to... You get the picture. The truly sad part is that by the end of the run my supposed pace had inched up to a crawl.

Okay, "crawl" is a bit of an exaggeration. I was definitely running more slowly. I was probably running something more like a 13 - 14 minute mile by the end as I limped along. But all things considered, my pace was respectable in light of the pain and the fact that at some point in the run I told myself, "You know, I should probably slow down and run more carefully to avoid causing any (additional) injury unnecessarily."

But RK kept creeping higher and higher. I was seriously ticked off when RK reported I was running a twenty minute mile. That's not running... That's my walking pace! I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn't freakin' walking.

The problem - if you haven't already figured it out - is that RK thought I had still only run 4.46 miles. So the pace kept growing embarrassingly (even though I knew it was an inaccurate reading) higher. I think it topped out at something like a 26 minute mile. Ugh.

Eventually RK got a clue that I wasn't still sitting on my lazy butt back at the 4.46 mile mark. That's why the RK plot above suddenly shows that I was teleported to Rio Del Mar. I assure you, I didn't run to RDM. I ran to my car and called it quits.

RK ultimately calculated that I'd run 9.47 miles. I'd peg the run somewhere closer to 10 - 11 miles, but why argue the point. I know that I didn't achieve my original goal :-(, but I walked away (actually I limped away) from the experience confident that had I not blown away my heel, I could have handled the full distance. I wasn't tired. I wasn't even in so much pain that I had to stop. I could have kept running, but it was fairly obvious to me that something wasn't right and that continuing to run was going to be a very stupid thing to do. I called the run short, and vowed to re-engage this particular battle another day.

The next day I drove over to Joy Luck Place to meet Alicia and Jody for dim sum. My heel was tender, but I was able to get around on it provided it nursed it. That was Sunday. Sunday was okay.

Monday was a different matter. When I woke up and stood up, I couldn't bear any weight on my right foot. It was clear at that point that unlike previous times, this pain wasn't going to go away as it had on previous occasions. And it was abundantly clear that the sensible thing to do was to go to the doctor to have it checked out.

Again, I'll spare you the details of the multiple doctor's appointments and X-rays and cut right to the chase: Stress fracture. So I'm in a boot and on crutches for two to three weeks to be followed by another two weeks or so going easy on the foot.

The suspected culprit in this injury: the sub-optimal shoes I'd been running in. I'd been meaning to buy some better running shoes, but I never got around to it. The injury has inspired me to get those new shoes.

I haven't wanted to throw away all the progress I've made getting fit, so I've traded running for the surprisingly effective upper body workout that walking around on crutches provides. To the right you can see me decked out in my new fashion accessories - that and an old shirt that's now too big and makes me look like I was lying previously when I said I'd lost weight.

I must say my initial outings on crutches was a humbling experience. Suddenly I'd gone from running 7.5 - 9 minute miles to hobbling along at 40+ minutes per mile. But I've since gotten better and faster on the crutches. I was very excited the other day on another RDM walk where I got my crutches pace down to my previous walking pace. :-)

The Blogspot Reason
All the above reasons have contributed to my long absence from posting, but even combined their impact is tiny compared to the main reason.

The main reason I've been absent for so long is because Blogspot continues to be a horrible impediment (IMHO) because it is so lousy handling the multitude of photos that I want to post. It's not like I want to post all 8000+ photos that I took on the Antarctica trip, but the Blogspot experience simply doesn't scale well to the number of photos that I do want to post. You can relive my ranting and raving about this same issue back in this post if you so desire.

Now in defense of Blogspot, I'll freely admit that I've found a better method for posting a multitude of photos. I'd used Picasa on the PC years earlier, and I've rediscovered Picasa on line at Now that I upload photos to Picasa and then suck them into Blogspot, many of my gripes have gone away.

But Blogspot - undeterred by my eternal optimism - has found a new way to drive me berserk. On two separate occasions, I went in to my Blogspot account to make very minor edits to two previous posts. Specifically this one and this one. In both instances, Blogspot threw away all but about the first ten lines of the posts for reasons entirely unfathomable.

The first time I chalked this catastrophic failure up to stupidity on my part. Surely it had to be a blunder on my part. I didn't know what I could have done wrong, but I was willing to take the blame. I dreaded recreating that post because I knew that it had taken so many hours to create the first time around, and I didn't know where I was going to squeeze in the time to recreate it.

The second time it happened, I was no longer willing to blame myself. I'm 99.9% certain that I've simply encountered a lame bug in Blogspot's post editor. The common thread in both instances (besides me) is that I was editing a previous post on my MacBook Pro. I dare not continue to try to reproduce this bug. No more editing previous posts in Blogspot from my Mac!

Can anyone tell me why Blogspot provides no method to back up your posts? I see that they do have an "export" feature, but I'm not convinced that's a viable method of backing up. 

So why the long absence from posting? The main reason is Blogspot itself. That combined with a foolhardy desire on my part to post all the Antarctic photos in a contiguous series of posts. Sigh...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Part 3 - The Falkland Islands

Part 4 - South Georgia (Coming soon)
Part 5 (To be continued)


Call me an eager beaver, but I woke up a little after 4:00 a.m. today. I’m not ordinarily a morning person unless I have a good reason. Today definitely qualified as a good reason as it was our first day for a shore excursion!

I suspect the other reason that I awoke so early was the sound of the ship dropping anchor right around that time. We’re mid ship, but I could easily hear the chain as the anchor dropped.

Not that it’s particularly relevant to today’s activities, but by waking up at 4:00 this morning, I’ve reversed my body clock by twelve hours since I left California. I was effectively waking up when I would ordinarily be going to sleep back home.

We were anchored on the east side of Westpoint Island. This 3,100 acre island is one of the most north westerly islands in the Falklands. It was formerly known as Albatross Island and was used by sealers in the eighteenth century.

More trivia:

Population: 2 (Lilly and Roddy Napier) The island was bought in 1959 by Gladys Napier who passed ownership to Roddy, her son.

I got dressed quietly, grabbed my camera, and left the cabin to head out on deck. Even though I was up early, the sunrise had beat me to the punch. The sun was still behind the hills of the harbor that we were anchored in, but to give the sun its due, the sun was definitely up before I was. The morning sky was already lit up, and it was a mere formality for the sun to pop up over those hills.

While I waited for the sun to rise above the hills, numerous birds circled whisked past the ship. I’m told that one of the birds that buzzed the ship was a shag. This photo was a lame attempt at capturing it. Not to worry… I’ve been assured we’ll be seeing more shags.

As the sun rose above the hills of Boxwood Point it bathed Woolly Gut Point (the hills behind me) with a warm, golden light.

Here I use the word ‘warm’ in the visual sense. It was definitely not warm in the temperature sense. The morning was had a brisk chill to it. In terms of climate, we were already far from the days approaching 100F in Buenos Aires.

In the direction we would ultimately head further into the cover there was a strip of land that had an unusual appearance to it. I couldn’t map its visual texture to any terrain or plants that I had ever seen. It turns out that what I was seeing from a distance is tussac grass - a plant that I would be seeing a lot of later today.
I returned to the cabin, crawled back into bed, and caught a brief nap. I awoke again around 7:00 to the voice of our fearless expedition leader, David McGonigal, broadcast over the ship’s PA system. He announced breakfast would be served in thirty minutes and that our first zodiac landing would commence at 8:00.

Our trip ashore was a dry landing. They docked the zodiac, and we stepped ashore onto our first sub-Antarctic island. I don’t know exactly how old these particular structures were, but some of the buildings on the island are over a hundred years old.

One of the first things I noticed on the island was what appeared to me to be turkey vultures. I’m sure that I’ve misidentified them, but I’ll see if I can find out what they were. Alicia thinks they’re striated caracara.

Once ashore, we ditched some of our outer layers, including our PFDs. We were careful to set Alicia’s lucky PFD aside from the others’. It was while ditching our layers that Alicia caught her first sight of the Land Rover that was shuttling those who didn’t want to do the trek on foot. Having tangled recently with another Land Rover], Alicia gave this Land Rover wide berth. We opted to hoof the entire walk rather than taking the Land Rover.

On the walk we encountered the rare and elusive Antarctic bovine (okay, they were just cows, but Antarctic bovine sounds cooler). Luckily we were wearing our gum boots because the cows doubled as land mine layers. These weren’t the type laid by the invading Argentinean forces in 1982. Rather, these are the odoriferous sort.

We also met met Bill and Betty. They’re from Texas and I quickly latched onto Bill because he looked like he was even more seriously into photography than I. While he and I walked/shot, Alicia and Betty trailed behind getting to know each other. Alicia and I and the majority of our fellow travelers are outfitted in the red wet gear provided by One Ocean Expeditions. Bill and Betty, on the other hand, are making their own fashion statement in their yellow Quark gear. One of the questions that I’ve been asking the people on this journey is how they decided to going on an expedition trip to Antarctica. Bill explained that he and Betty were traveling to Antarctica to see the other pole. They previously took a Quark expedition to the Arctic. This trip was to be their south polar voyage.

One of the things Alicia observed on this trek was the gorse. These plants carpeted patches of the landscape and we would occasionally walk through air filled with their light scent - a scent unlike any flower we’ve ever encountered.

Upland Goose
 As we walked up the hill, we saw a few sheep (the Napiers raise sheep), and rock formations scatted across the landscape. The trail we were following meandered gradually up the hill. It wasn’t a particularly well worn path.

Most of the time, we were simply following the chain of people in front of us. You couldn’t let the people ahead get too far ahead or you would lose them in the fog that was blanketing the hills.

As we crested Black Bog Hill, we were rewarded with a view of the sea on the other side of the island. We followed a two rutted track down the backside of the hill towards the water.

As we approached the tussac grass that covers this side of the hill, I started hearing strange sounds. They sounded like calls, but I wasn’t sure what they were. Were these sounds coming from monkeys? That seemed highly unlikely. Babies? Also unlikely. An educated guess said that these were bird calls, but I’d never heard calls like these.

We carefully navigated through the tussac grass. We were instructed to take care lest we accidentally step on a creature living in the tussac. The grass was much taller than it looked from the ship. At times the tussac grass was taller than we are.

When Alicia first saw the
birds over the tussac grass
We soon found the source of the calls.

The calls were coming from pairs of black browed albatrosses performing their courtship ritual.

Intermixed amongst the albatrosses was a colony of rock hopper penguins.

This collection of birds (there were hundreds - perhaps thousands - of them on the hillside before us and scattered on the hills and cliffs below), were nesting. The nests were built on the hillside out of mud and grasses.

Whereas the albatross nests looked like giant coconuts with the tops chopped off...

...the rock hopper nests were more modest.

One of the things that struck me was how very close we were able to get to the birds. It is hard to describe how blessed I felt to have the opportunity to see the albatrosses and the rock hoppers up close. The albatrosses have an elegant, airbrushed, beauty. The rockhoppers, on the other hand, possess a beauty that somehow emerges in spite of their slouched posture (especially the chicks) and their flamboyant eyelashes.

The encounter gave me a since of déjà vu. I recall vividly a very different event, but an event that had a similar emotional impact upon me. It was fifteen years ago, and I was traveling around the world alone. I was in Paris attending a string concert at the Palais du Justice (near Notre Dame). I had somehow managed to procure a front row seat. It must have been general seating because I had only bought my ticket hours before.

As I sat listening to the performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade, I was immersed in the haunting melodies of the strings and the backlit glow of the stained glass walls. As I walked away from the soul uplifting performance, I explained to a fellow concert goer that I had quit my job back home to embark upon my round the world journey, that I was only a month or so into my travels, and that the moment that I had just experienced alone made the entire trip worthwhile. No matter what happened on the trip, no matter what happened to my career upon my return, that one moment alone was vastly more than adequate. It was sublime.

I had the same sense watching these beautiful birds up close.

As we departed the hillside, in the corner of my eye I glimpsed something flash past. When I looked to see what it was, I saw a striated caracara land in the tussac grass just above the albatrosses, rock hoppers, and their chick. As it sat perched above them, it was immediately apparent why it was there. It glanced back and forth at the birds. It was looking for a meal.

The caracara was looking for eggs (I never saw any) or a chick. The albatross checks are sweet and fluffy looking. And the rockhopper chicks, despite their comically bad posture, are adorable in their fluffy grey down. My heart was filled with dread when I realized that I could soon be witnessing another side of nature.

Up to this point, my experience during this shore excursion was akin to a Disney flick. You expect to see cute fluffy things, you expect to see good triumph over evil, you expect to see only the bad guys get punished. In retrospect, this was suddenly like the first five minutes of a Disney flick. You know, the first five minutes during which Disney has a morbid fascination with killing off the protagonist’s mom.

Could you stand by and watch me get eaten?

Apparently Nature decided to go easy on me and gently ease me into this trip. The caracara turned tail and flew away. Whew!

Upon returning to the dock, we stopped by a house that I hadn’t seen on the outbound hike. There we were kindly treated to some local hospitality. We were served tea and little cakes. And we enjoyed the hidden gardens.

Afterwards, when trotted back down the hill, back to the shore. We put our gear back on (including Alicia’s lucky PFD), we waddled down the dock, boarded the zodiac, and returned to the Marina Svetaeva.

This afternoon we arrived at Saunders Island. As our zodiacs pulled up on shore, we were greeted by numerous Gentoo penguins. Some were walking up the beach, others were retreating to the water. But all seemed oblivious to the trypot in their midst. The rusted, cracked, and precariously balanced trypot is a leftover from days past. They were used to extract oil from penguins. Not a pretty thought. Nice to see this trypot has long been out of use.

One of the things I noticed as I walked up the shore from the sandy beach to the higher ground was that the ground itself felt rather odd. Here I was walking on a rocky surface, but the ground seemed to give way every step I took. It didn't move underfoot like gravel. It didn't slip like slate. It was strangely spongy. The closest approximation I can give to the feeling is that new-fangled rubbery stuff they use to pave playgrounds nowadays. Back in my day, you fell off the jungle gym and landed hard on the asphalt (or dirt if you were lucky). Kids these days don't know how good they've got it. They fall and just bounce right back up.

Turns out that the higher ground above the beach was covered with peat. That's what I was told by one of the expedition leaders. According to Wikipedia (again, kids today don't know how easy they've got it) peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter. It looks like rock, but this peat sure didn't feel like rock.

I know that I've seen peat many years ago in Ireland, but that looked even more rock-like than what I was seeing here in the Falklands. Come to think of it, I never stepped on the peat in Ireland, so for all I know it was equally spongy.

I recall that one of the dangers of peat is fire. Peat fires reportedly can burn for months, years, and even decades. The expedition leader said nothing about peat fires taking place here, but peat slides have happened several times in and around Stanley causing damage to buildings and even death to residents of Stanley.

I didn't take any pictures of peat specifically, but peat is what these Gentoos are standing on.

As you can see in the photos, the Gentoos we saw were a combination of adults and their chicks. The chicks are easily spotted because they are smaller and have a fluffy, downy coat. Interspersed with the Gentoos were a few unhatched eggs. This late in the season it was unlikely these eggs would hatch, but they were still closely protected by the adults.

We continued up the peat-covered hillside passing hundreds of Gentoos. As we crested the hill, we immediately saw an expanse of blue water. I'm not sure whether the waters we were seeing are the Atlantic or whether this body of water has a more specific name. The Falklands are plopped out there in the Atlantic, so I'm going with Atlantic for the time being. I know we haven't crossed over to the South Ocean yet. That's later in our journey.

Turns out that our hike was crossing the narrowest part of Saunders Island, so we didn't have a large distance to cover.  We passed a small colony of King penguins. They are similar in appearance to emperor penguins, but they are not as tall. The ones we encountered were approximately 2.5 - 3 feet tall.

The Kings' coloring is exquisite.  They have the classic black/white penguin color palette. But nature didn't stop there. Atop their chest, underlining their bills, and behind their ears (do penguins have ears?), they have a burst of color - an airbrushed flare of yellow and orange. Beautiful.

I noticed that the Kings frequently paired up. I realize I may be mistakenly anthropomorphizing, but I assume the larger in the pair is the male and the smaller the female. They tend to stand side by side facing opposite directions, "I got your back" style. Perhaps they're on the lookout for guys with trypots.

Here we have a rare hillside sighting of the Piranhas de las Malvinas. As you can see, these relatives of the sheep family are able to strip a whale carcass to the bone in under seven minutes. Their only predator in nature is humans, hence their departure upon our arrival.

Okay, so I made that last part up. There were sheep grazing on various parts of the island. None wanted to be anywhere close to humans.

The bones are, in fact, the remains of a whale that washed up a few years ago. (Beached whale + decay + sunshine) x time = bleached whale bones.

What surprised me most what how high up the hillside the bones rested. You can't make it out from these photos, but the bones were at least fifty feet inland and quite a ways up the hill. Notice that these bones aren't resting upon the sand. They are on the grassy hillside above the beach.

One of the amusing sights on this hike was the occasional stray penguin on the hillside. Apparently hanging out in penguin colonies isn't every penguin's cut of tea. Some wander off from the colony, away from the water, away from the beach, and climbing upwards to who knows where and who knows why. Perhaps a little solitude does a penguin some good.

Right around the time we encountered the whale, Carolina (one of the expedition leaders), instructed us that we needed to take care where we were walking. We were entering an area sprinkled with Magellanic penguin burrows. One careless misstep can crush a penguin in its burrow.

At first I assumed that the Magellanics were Gentoos. Their overall shape, coloring, and posture are similar. What I learned to look for to spot the difference are a few telltale characteristics. The adult Gentoos have a white spot around and above their eye. The Magellanics have a white circular band that loops above their eye, towards the back of their head, and under their chin. Gentoos have a redish-orange coloring to their beaks. The Magellanics have a black beak and a pink splotch around and in front of their eye.

Pop quiz... Which are these? Gentoos or Magellanics?

Close up the circular band around their heads reveals these to be Magellanics. So why did I find it so difficult keeping them straight? When I returned to the ship, I was mistakenly under the impression that I'd only seen two Magellanics (the ones in the burrows). It wasn't until later when I viewed the photos that I'd taken that I realized how many of the 'Gentoos' I'd seen were Magellanics. I never professed to be an ornithologist.

On the eastern end of the beach there was an outcropping of rocks. Amongst the waves crashing upon the rocks were a ragtag group of Rockerhopper penguins. Getting tossed about by the waves, they clumsily made their way to the rocks. There they crashed into and awkwardly clambered their way up the rocks.

Meeting the upward climbing Rockhoppers were other Rockhoppers looking to return to the water.

The Rockhoppers on the rocks wanted to be in the water, and the Rockhoppers in the water wanted to be on the rocks. It looked like a bit of the-grass-is-always-greener was going on.

Some of the Rockhoppers opted for a more dignified, less dramatic arrival. They would get washed up  upon the sandy beach, stand upright, and waddle their way inland.

Here you can see some Rockhoppers washing upon the shore and others standing upright.

In the majority of these photos, I've composed the shot to remove the humans from the scene. But there were about twenty of us gathered around these rockhoppers. By and large the Rockhoppers went about their business paying us little attention at all. But every now or then a Rockhopper would check us out like this fella craning his neck to see what we were up to.

Atop the rocks were a group of Rockhoppers. Some standing, some sprawling, some stretching, and one depth perception challenged individual contemplating leaping off the rocks to the water below. This photo doesn't give the proper scale to convey just how high up this Rockhopper was. He's only a little over a foot tall, he's about six feet up, and the water (when a wave rolls in) isn't all that deep.

Another aspect that these photos don't convey is how long we hung out with the Rockhoppers. We sat watching them for at least an hour and a half. Their short stature, their antics, and their appearance (in particular their crested eyebrows) combined to make for hours of smile packed fun watching the Rockhoppers.

The comings and goings of the Rockhoppers to and fro left most of them wet. This left most of the Rockhoppers crests slicked back. But you can make out the crest on top of the Rockhopper on the right.

In this sequence of photos, one Rockhopper and his two buddies were overcome by curiosity about us humans.

He started waddling somewhat in our direction. Check out his funny webbed feet.

Then he turned straight for Bill and Betty (two fellow travelers that we first met during the Westpoint excursion.

When you've eyeballs on the side of your head, you've got to look askew to really get a good look at those humans.

I love in this photo how the bravest Rockhopper is a few mere feet from Betty while his buddies hold back. One of the buddies looks to me like he's questioning the brave guy's seemed-like-a-great-idea-at-the-time idea.

And if you've come this far, the least you can do is to show off a little for the humans. :-)

Sometimes rockhoppers return to the water by the sandy shore. Other times they scramble off the rocks. And then there's the occasional flying leap - GERONIMO!

Eventually we tore ourselves away from the Rockhoppers. As we walked westwardly across the beach, we had to stop every now and then to give right of way to penguins.

These tracks are from a penguin walking up on shore.

One of the things that I respect about how this Antarctica excursion has been led is the emphasis that the excursion leaders have placed on reducing our impact on the terrain and the wildlife. We've been instructed where feasible to maintain a 5 meter separation from the wildlife.

I've been impressed with how well the passengers have kept to the instructions. But the reality is that the penguins are a curious bunch. If you are patient, don't invade their space, and just wait for them, the penguins will come to you to check you out.


This morning we arrived in Port Stanley. This is the view we encountered as we slowly drifted into the port.

The first thing that struck me about the concentrated collection of houses in Stanley was their colorful roofs. I couldn't make out at this distance what the roofs were constructed of, but they seemed to be using roof color much in the same way that we might use exterior wall colors to distinguish one house from another.

Another prominent feature of this city of approximately 2000 inhabitants is the final resting ground of its former inhabitants.

As we approached, the jetties and the cathedral came into view.

We arrived at the public jetty at Philomel Street.

Many of the older homes and buildings seem inspired by the British who have occupied the Falklands Islands over the years.

I recall from my adolescent days that the Brits and the Argentinians had a bit of a tussle over ownership of the Falkland Islands (or the Islas Malvinas as the Argentinians prefer to call them).

One of the things I was interested to see in the Falklands was whether the islands were more British or Argentinian. My (admittedly unscientific) observations lead me to conclude that the Falklands are far more influenced by the British than the Argentinians.

There were multiple reasons for this conclusion. The issue of architectural style was just one of many.

From the jetty we headed west along Ross Road. This took us to Christ Church Cathedral. The cathedral is easily one of the largest and most noticeable structures in Stanley. You see it as you arrive in port. You see it from the jetties. You see if when you step ashore. If you're interested in cathedrals (which I am), you're going to be drawn toward it immediately.

We had an additional reason to visit the cathedral - and admittedly less high-brow reason. We were on a scavenger hunt arranged by the crew. The scavenger hunt was put together to get us to see things about Stanley that we might otherwise not venture out to see. It wasn't a scavenger hunt for items so much as a scavenger hunt for facts and information about Stanley.

As we stepped into the cathedral, we were greeted by a cathedral not unlike others we've seen around the world. This one just happens to be on a sparsely populated, remote clump of islands in the Atlantic.

The instructions in the scavenger hunt directed us to determine who commissioned the stained glass windows. Or was it for whom the stained glass was made. We couldn't really tell from the instructions which they wanted us to find. I was taking a fairly relaxed approach to the hunt. Alicia was the one who was being serious. I tried to help her here and there, but I was far more into my photography. Big surprise.

I admit it. I'm a sucker for beautiful stained glass. One of the things that I appreciated about Stanley is I never saw any signs of vandalism, and consequently the stained glass needn't be protected with ugly bars on the outside.

The cathedral had definite British influences. From the parachute regiment's military flag...

... To the collection of British related flags. There were even several plaques voicing appreciation to the Island's liberators in the '82 war.

Outside of the cathedral was a statue comprised of four whale bones - cheek bones if recollection serves me. I had seen photos of the statue in various travel guidebooks, but I never caught on to the materials used to create the statue. Maybe if I had seen the sculpture's title: the Whalebone Arch (duh). I simply assumed that the statue was made of wood or some type of metal. The whale bones seemed far more appropriate for the locale. I was also surprised by the height of the statue. These must have been very large whales.

We have had the good fortune thus far on the trip to experience such enjoyable weather. And the weather has made for some spectacular floral displays.

Just before continuing onward, I popped off one more shot of the cathedral.

Continuing our hunt, we headed to the FIC store. The store is owned and run by the Falkland Islands Company. The company was incorporated in 1852 and continues to play a large role in the local economy. We went to the FIC store to acquire a box of SweeTarts candy and to find out who is on the local currency. You can see who in this photo. What you can't see is the SweeTarts because I ate those. Growing up on candy in the US, SweeTarts to me are a sweet and slightly sour candy made of highly compressed sugary goodness. Down in the Falklands (and I suspect in the UK), SweeTarts are candy-coated chocolate (think obese M&Ms) with some strange fruity notes in the candy shell. I saved the box for the judging of the scavenger hunt, hoping and praying that we wouldn't be penalized by a crew member who secretly just sent us to score him/her a sugar fix.

This colorful building is now called the Upland Goose. If recollection serves me (remember I was distracted by my photography), this building was the subject of one of the scavenger hunt questions. The question was what the name of the bar in this building used to be called. If I recall the outcome of the judging, the bar was not called the Upland Goose. Rather the bar was called "The Knot."

But then, what do I know about bars?

On the other side of Ross Road, between the Upland Goose and the water was the mizzen mast of the SS Great Britain. For those of you who are as clueless about such things as I am, a mizzen-mast is the mast immediately aft of the main-mast. It is typically shorter than the fore-mast, hence it it sometimes called the third-mast. So what's a mast? This one I already knew. A mast is the vertical pole thingie on a ship that the sails hang upon.

So why am I talking about a mast, mizzen or otherwise? Why is there a mast mounted and prominently displayed in Stanley? Because Stanley has a long history of being a port where one could have repairs performed on ailing ships. For info on the SS Great Britain and its mizzen-mast, you can look here.

What I found interesting about Stanley's past as a port for repairs is the reportedly shady dealings. If you had a ship in urgent need of repairs and you were in the area (little else is in the area of the Falklands), popping in to get some work done would seem like a great arrangement. But strangely enough Stanley developed the reputation for such repairs taking an inordinate amount of time. So much time and so costly in some cases that the owners of the ships would simply abandon the ships. All the better for the ship repairing folk.

Continuing westward on Ross Road, we visited the 1982 Liberation Monument. I struggled to get a photo that captured the monument in its entirety along with its subtleties. I couldn't pull that off, so a little crude Photoshopping later and you've got the photo to the right. The inset text ("In memory of those...") is from the outward facing side of the tall statue in the front.

In the photo above, there are several greenish plaques, one of which is oriented landscape. The photos to the left show the details of that plaque's relief sculpture.

This is the Government House. Unfortunately it wasn't open to the public, but the buildings and the grounds were lovely.

I especially like the secret doorway through the massive hedge in the garden.

The grounds of the Government House

While viewing the Government House, I notice another house in the distance... The one with the colorful roof. Any guess which side of the Falklands vs. Malvinas issue this household weighs in on?

I know that this is blatantly obvious to many of you, but one of the tricks I've picked up along the way in my photography is to self-document the photos by taking shots of relevant signs and plaques. Even in cases where they aren't particularly attractive, it really helps to have a photo  which helps me to remember the context of and story around the other photos.

In this particular case, I think this is an attractive plaque. When taking a photo of an attractive plaque (for the reasons stated above), my next time saving trick is to compose the photo well. If I've done my Photoshopping well, you can't tell how badly misaligned the composition of this photo was originally. When I first saw this photo afterwards, I asked myself, "What the heck was I thinking when I took this photo? You call that composition?" But a little fiddling and skewing in Photoshop did the trick.

Or did it? Can you find the gross artifact of my Photoshop touchup? I'll give you a hint. Look in the lower righthand corner. And BTW... If you haven't figured out yet, you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

So the third trick that I've picked up (and all to often forget to apply) is to compose photos so that they include slightly more than I want the final image to include. You can always crop out undesirable portions on the periphery of the image. It's a lot harder to uncrop.

Anyway... Enough of my unsolicited photography insights. This here is the wreck of the Jhelum. It is the remains of one of numerous ships that scattered along the waterline. I just said "enough", but I'm suddenly reminded of the gyrations I had to go through to get this photo to turn out as nicely as it did. This photo was an exercise in composition. The problem was that there was a big, unsightly pipe jutting out of this green hillside, dumping whatever sludge it was dumping into the water. Not exactly the picturesque image I was going for. So I scrambled down this hill, scooting on my back, twisting and distorting my body, till I could manually crop out the offending pipe. I succeeded in getting the shot without the pipe, but I have to confess that Neera, my friend and fellow passenger, got a better shot (IMHO). Her shot sacrifices the gorse in the foreground, but does a much better job of capturing the details of the wreckage. I love looking at other people's photos, especially when the photos are of the same subject/scenery as my own. I love seeing what the other person saw through their viewfinder.

Out at the westernmost edge of Stanley, we arrived at the Falkland Islands Museum. There they house items related to the history and lifestyle of the Falklands.

In this shot you can see a maritime items such as an anchor, a boat, a harpoon gun, and a corner of a canon. Just outside of this shot are military vehicles and other items left over from the '82 war. So they strive to capture many aspects of life in the Falklands.

Notice the small black building in the top lefthand corner of the photo. We'll come back to it shortly.

The museum itself is housed in a (almost) black and white building. The windows on the eastern side are beautifully shuttered.

I'll show you a few shots from inside the museum shortly. But in the meantime, let's return to that small black building...

Here it is. The building doesn't look like much, but it was intended to be a lifesaver once upon a time. To understand its purpose, take a look at the plaque that is currently posted on it...

As the plaque states, the building is not to be entered except in an emergency. It was outfitted with supplies necessary if ever dire circumstanced required them. The building itself is no longer in service (just go the the FIC store if you need something) and has been relocated to the museum.

So what sorts of supplies would you find inside?

Looks like they've got you set up with all the food and beverages you'd need.

And the sleeping arrangements are provided too.

I understand the girlie pix pinned to the walls. I'm a guy. I get it. You're out in the middle of nowhere. A pretty face makes great wallpaper. What I don't get is the public health advisory. It's not like you're going to contract V.D. and just take a jolly little stroll to the local clinic. If you contracted something down there (no double entendre intended but I'll take it anyway), you're kind of stuck with what you got.

Inside the museum you'll find all sorts of interesting stuff. I'll leave it to the museum website to paint that picture. What I found most intriguing was the materials on the '82 war. Here's a newspaper cover...

... And a newspaper photo from the war. The museum itself did a much better job than I did in capturing it in photos. But alas we were running low on time and it was time to head back to the jetty.

On the way back, the scavenger hunt promised a gnome garden that we had to see. This photo isn't from the garden itself, but it's in the neighborhood.

This - unmistakably - is the gnome garden. The garden decorates the lawn of Kay McCallum's Bed and Breakfast. I don't know the story behind the garden, but I suspect what started as a simple hobby with a gnome or two grew into an uncontrollable obsession.

Once again, Neera got some great shots.

After our gnomerific encounter, we hustled back to the jetty, passing the cathedral once again.

The reason we were hustling back to the jetty was to catch a zodiac cruise of the port complete with up-close encounters with sunken ships.

The first that we encountered was the wreck of the Lady Elizabeth. She was the most picturesque of the three, so I'll present her alone in these photos. If you want to see the other (smaller) boats, let me know.

As if to choreograph the viewing, our glorious, sunny day on the streets of Stanley quickly turned into an overcast, drizzly, wet, gloomy ride across the water. The Lady Elizabeth started out hidden by the murky mist, then as the zodiac raced across the water, we slowly penetrated the mist.

Out of the mist, she appeared in all of her eerie glory.

Up close, her rusted hulk was fascinating

The following (silly, lame, woefully inadequate - pick your description) video clip is from the zodiac as we approached the Lady Elizabeth. It's not a great video, but it might give you a bit of a feeling what it was like to see her emerge from the misty fog.

After the zodiac cruise, Alicia returned to the Marina Svetaeva, and I returned to the streets of Stanley. I wanted to help Alicia pick up a few more items from the scavenger hunt, and I also wanted to visit the cemetery.

Along the way I saw a glimpse of the FIC's footprint on the city. Not sure how much blacksmithing goes on anymore.

Maybe this is creepy, but I like cemeteries. Yes there's a bunch of dead folk underfoot, but cemeteries are so quiet and peaceful.

And often if you look beyond that whole dead folk thing, cemeteries can be beautiful. Whether it's the statuary or the grounds or the views they provide, they can be beautiful.

Okay, so maybe it is just creepy. Just learn to hold your breath a lonnnnnnng time.

If you've got to pick a final resting place, this view wouldn't be so bad.

On my hike back to the jetty, I saw another subtle clue as to the local's view of the Falklands vs. Malvinas issue. Which side of the issue do you think this household falls on?

I also saw this house. Given the choice between living in a nice, new home or a cold, drafty, rusted out shell, I'll go for the former pretty much every time.

But for photography, this house was far more interesting.

There were lots of lovely flowers in Stanley

Flowers in bloom
The last shot I popped off before hopping back on the ship was of a typical scene in Stanley. What I attempted to capture in a photo, Betty captured in words. She described Stanley as a town with a population of 2000... and even more Range Rovers. :-)

Tonight as we depart Stanley we'll spend New Year's Eve sailing towards South Georgia.