Landfall: Visiting Subantarctic Islands in the Atlantic Ocean

Life Aboard Ship

#19 July 14, 2004

#18 July 11, 2004

#17 July 6, 2004

#16 July 5, 2004

#15 June 30, 2004

#14 June 27, 2004

#13 June 23, 2004
Bouvet Island

#12 June 20, 2004

#10 June 16-17, 2004
South Sandwich Islands

#9 June 13, 2004

#8 June 9-10, 2004

#7 June 4-6, 2004

#4 May 26, 2004

#3 May 23, 2004

#2 May 19, 2004

#1 May 16, 2004
Punta Arenas, Chile

May 14, 2004
Landfall: Visiting Islands in the Atlantic Ocean

June 16, 2004
South Sandwich Islands

May 30, 2004
Falkland Islands

May 26, 2004
Science on the NATHANIEL B. PALMER

June 24-26, 2004

June 15, 2004

May 30, 2004

Questions & Answers
Sunday, May 30, 2004, at the Falkland Islands

The light here is spectacular: the air is crystalline and must be as clean as anywhere left.


View of the harbor at Stanley, West Falkland Island, once a busy whaling center. The small arch on the ground near the green-roofed building is made of a pair of whale jaws.
One of the things I really appreciated about Stanley was its nautical history. All around were reminders of the Cape Horn era of square-rig sailing. You can’t imagine the old sailing ships laid up here to die. There can’t be too many places in the world where you can see them (Punta Arenas, Chile, was like that, too, but not so evocative). I saw at least six square-riggers in various stages of decomposition. The best-preserved one, the "Lady Elizabeth" is an iron-hulled three-master built in 1879 that went on the rocks 13 miles off Stanley in 1913, was towed off and into the harbor but was never successfully repaired and was ultimately abandoned in 1936; she even has some standing rigging and one yard arm remaining. On the waterfront, there is also a monument (constructed of one of the spars) to the "Great Britain", Isambard Kingdom Brunel's huge steam and sail powered iron ship, built in 1843, in the Falklands since 1886, then refloated in 1970, towed to Bristol, and now being restored in the UK. At the time of construction she was by far the largest ship in the world (almost 3500 tons) and the first to use screw power.

There is a lot of naval history also; in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Falklands were of great strategic importance as a coaling station for the Royal Navy, and of course they protected the sea routes around Cape Horn. In World War I there was a significant naval battle fought nearby, the 1914 Battle of the Falklands, between German and British fleets. On the hillside opposite the town, on the other side of the harbor, there are the names of three ships picked out in stone and clearly visible. These were Royal Navy warships stationed in the Falklands. Of course, the recent (1982) war with Argentina has left its remnants, also. There are minefields on the island, but all well marked by signs and yellow tape. In fact, there are substantial fines and possible jail time for going into one, not to mention the possibility of losing a leg or worse. These areas can't easily be cleared because the mines are plastic and are not easily detectable. An interesting side effect of this prohibition on use of the minefields is that these areas have become de facto nature reserves.


The Lady Elizabeth, an iron-hulled ship that went on the rocks at the Falkland Islands in 1913, is the best preserved of a number of sailing ship hulks to be seen near Stanley on West Falkland.
Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, one of the invertebrate biologists aboard, Stacy Kim, and I gave a tour of the ship and two talks to the youth group of the Falklands Conservancy (a non-governmental conservation organization in the islands). The kids were eight to 13 years old, and as we were told in advance, "mad keen" to come aboard and learn what we do. Last night in one of the local pubs, I learned that when it was announced that we were going to visit and that the opportunity for the tour existed, there was a steady stream of children asking to be included. They were extremely well mannered and attentive, asked intelligent questions, and we really enjoyed talking to them. They all got cruise t-shirts, which they put on over their coats (it was spitting snow) and then we took some group photos in front of the ship.

We leave at midnight tonight for South Georgia (by an indirect, working route, of course). June 9 we’ll be in Grytviken, South Georgia, and then it’s the long slog to Tristan du Cunha, a month at sea.