Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

King Penguins - East Falkland Islands

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM
The road passed by cascades of rock dating to glacial times and went from paved to gravel when we entered the privately owned farms, and the opening and closing of pasture gates began. We set out in 7 4X4 LandRovers. The road disappeared when we entered the Johnson Habour Farm, a 36,000-acre sheep farm owned by Smith Brothers. Now the terrain was boggy heath, bumpy, wet and muddy. Soon our 4x4 was splashing mud and covered completely with the brown stuff. I hope the King Penguins are worth the trouble. An hour of bumping in the totally prestine farm, where occasionally we needed to cross gullies using wooden planks as bridges, we reached Volunteer Point in pouring rain and gusty winds. After 2 days at sea with not much to do and getting an Antarctic cold, I was glad to stand on solid ground again. I've never paid much attention to the Falkland Islands. They were just the Malvinas to me when I saw the war memorial in BsAs 10 years ago. It was the bloody war that brought the islands to the world's attention. The first site of it was flat and the landscape resembled much like Iceland with grass and small rolling hills. 2 beautiful bright sunny days at sea and now that we reached our destination, suddenly the clouds rolled in and rain started. So I stepped out of the 4x4 totally covered from head to toe and headed towards the penguin colony. They were the Kings and stood about 3ft tall. Totally unafraid of humans, they walked everywhere sporting their yellow beaks and matching orange spot on the side of their heads, and a patch of orange and yellow on their muscular chests. They were gorgeous. And there were so many of them. Some walked alone and some were in pairs, even with their eh, flippers linked. Trying to stand near a pair for a photograph and they side stepped away from me but with no fuzz. Wonderful, non-aggressive, gentle birds. Scattered among the Kings, the Magellanic little cousins lived in their own humble burrows. Although same kind and neighbours, they didnt mix. Further along, in their own colony, the Gentoo cousins wiggled in their signature tuxedos, woggling along in their matching orange beaks and feet. Wow, I walked among them and they had the right of way! I've never liked penguins until I saw the Kings and Gentoos. On our way back, after another hour of bumping and mud where 3 of the 4X4 got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled free by others, we had a chance to see some sheep shearing in the Johnson Farm. Aside from eating them, I didnt much care for them as animals but there were so many and all so plump and so ready to shed their precious wool. Loud Rock was playing and the shearer pulled a sheep out, sheared their wool off and pushed them back in the stall. For the short 15 minutes we were there, more than 5 sheep got their wool off. These guys are fast! A woman kept pushing the sheep out and poor things, they just got jammed into each other waiting to get rid of their winter coat. Muddy and wet, our driver gave us a short drive through Stanley, which had pretty brightly painted houses with small gardens and the streets reminded me of England. Very British here. The sun finally peaked out when we boarded the tender back to the ship. I quite liked Stanley and the Falkland Islands. We have 400 nautical miles to go to reach CapeHorn tomorrow afternoon. Weather forecast was chilly and windy and the sea quite rough with a swelling way over 4ft. But I was looking forward to the southernmost tip of the American Continent, where the Atlantic meets the Pacific.

Video of King penguins at Volunteer Point, East Falkland Islands [12.2M]


King penguins


Christ Church, Stanley, East Falkland Islands


Colorful houses, Stanley


Video of Shearing at Johnson Habour Farm [6.2M]



Video of Sheep at Johnson Habour Farm [10.7M]

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