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.