Saturday, December 20, 2008

When we got our wakeup call, it was sunny and we were already in Stanley Harbor, about to drop anchor. Sometime during breakfast and/or us getting ready, it turned very overcast, and the wind started going pretty good. On the zodiac ride over, our engine lost power, so we had to get towed by one of the other zodiacs. Fortunately nothing bad happened when trying to dock at the jetty. And fortunately this was a dry landing, and not a situations where the driver needed to gun it up onto a beach. It was a little odd seeing civilization again, and it was doubly odd since this was a British area, with everyone speaking English and everyone driving on the left side of the road. About half of the vehicles we saw were old Land Rovers.

We got on a bus and headed towards Gypsy Cove, which was only 10 minutes from the center of town. Along the way our tour guide told us about some of the interesting things in Stanley, most of which were shipwrecks. The waters around Stanley are not (as far as we know) particularly dangerous - there is another reason. Before the Panama Canal was completed, ships passing around Cape Horn would get beat up (makes us look forward to this part), and Stanley was the first stop. Some were beyond repair, and Stanley was their final resting place. The most famous of these ships is the Lady Elizabeth, which the Falklanders call "Liz." One of the shiprecks (can't remember if it was Liz or not) was actually quite beneficial to the Falklanders, because it was full of Canadian Timber, and the Falklands have no (native) trees. So the timber from the shipwrecked boat was used to build a lot of the buildings in Stanley many years ago.

Gypsy cove looked very nice, but it was a bit of a bummer as well. It was a picturesque bay, with three different species of penguins (a lot of Magellanic, plus a solo Kentoo and a solo King. But we couldn't get anywhere close to any of these animals because the whole area was roped off due to land mines. The Argentines set land mines all over the place near Stanley in 1982 as part of the war, and not all of them have been cleared. The Falklanders believe that they've located and roped off all of them, but they aren't 100% confident, so they have roped off large swaths of land. Moreover, they have no intention of trying to clear the landmines, because the money out of the budget for clearing the mines could be better used for clearing mines in parts of Africa that are more highly populated.


All of this, presumably, helps out the penguins, because it reduces our interference with them, and also prevents us from encroaching on their territory. The penguins are not heavy enough to set off any of the land mines, either. Maybe there should be more land mines around nature areas we want to protect. The sun from when we woke up was long gone, and there was a slight drizzle and a heavy wind, making picture taking difficult - we basically had to take photos when the wind was at our back or close to it. It was fun to watch the Magellanic penguins scramble away when a big wave would splash water into the small pool they were sitting in. They would scramble out of the pool and run until they were all packed together, back near where the main waves were breaking. We weren't sure why there was a lone Gentoo and a lone King, and why they weren't with the rest of their group. On the way out, we saw a Magellanic penguin in one of its burrows, right near our path. It was in there with one of its eggs.

After we left Gypsy cove, most people were dropped off at a museum, but we opted to shop for some supplies instead. After a couple of days, we had figured out 1) that it would be nice to have another fleece for a middle layer, and 2) that the "menu" was not as expansive as we thought, and that getting some groceries would be good. On the long trip report that we read - which was from the Multanovskiy's sister ship, the Molchanov - it sounded as if every night there would be a choice of meat, fish, or vegetarian. On our boat, however, there were only two choices (vegetarian and either meat or fish), so if the two choices were fish and vegetarian, Justin would basically starve. Luckily, our room had a fridge (which we didn't know before boarding), so this seemed like a golden opportunity (and indeed, our only opportunity) to grab some food. So we went into the grocery store and grabbed a bunch of yogurt bars, cereal bars, cold cuts, instant soups, chips, and a bottle of Captain Morgan (the bar prices are pretty steep).

For lunch we went into a tavern right near the jetty, and that was interesting. It was like one might imagine an English tavern like, with English Premier League football and rugby on the Telly, drunk patrons trying to pick fights with one another and stumbling about, rowdy tables talking about nothing much in particular, and cigarettes and empty beer cans everywhere. The food seemed authentic (this is a British Territory, after all), and nobody tried to pick a fight with us (no Kiefer Sutherland around), so we had a jolly good time.

When we left the tavern, it was sunny again. In fact, the only time all day where it was overcast was the time we were on our excursion. Hopefully karma will even out when we get to South Georgia, where we fully expect the weather to be horrible. At 5pm there was a briefing to talk about what we had seen in the Falklands, and the guides took questions from us on things that piqued our interest. Crystal wanted to know at what age Rockhopper penguins started to get the yellow feathers, and they told us it was around 2-3 years of age. Justin wanted to know why the Rockhoppers and Albatrosses interspersed their breeding colonies, and they told us that it was for protection - sort of a safety in numbers sort of thing. There was also a question about the "whale watching" scheduled for 11pm the night before. Basically, the doctor was sauced and wrote it on the board - it wasn't even light at 11pm, and the whitecaps would have prevented sighting anything farther than 100 meters from the ship. This would be the first of many times that "Dr. Fudge" as we would refer to him got everyone's attention. It was as if we has a movie character. He "marked his territory" every place we went (even after being told not to), he drank heavily, he fiddled with nearly everything (including the video equipment in the lecture room, which drew the guide's ire as they tried to make things work), and seemed to have ADD.

Crystal was sleepy from the bonine, so she slept a good portion of the afternoon, while Justin caught up on the diary.