We left Ushuaia on the 26th of February and arrived at the Falklands on the 28th. The South Atlantic is notoriously rough. Even though we didn't encounter any truly horrible conditions, I quickly discovered that I would be much happier if I put the Scopolamine patch to work. Luckily I did not suffer any of the potential negative side-effects. Jim has no trouble with sea sickness.

We spent two days in the Falklands and visited three sites: West Point Island, Saunders Island and Stanley, the capital city. Jim and I had visited West Point island and Stanley before on our Antarctica trip, but the conditions were very different this time. For one thing we were travelling in a small group rather than with 500 others so we didn't overcrowd any site. We were also later in the year, so the weather was somewhat different.

The Falklands had a place on the world stage in 1982 when Argentina invaded the islands. For a summary of the conflict check The Falklands War: An Overview. Argentina is still rattling sabers about the Falklands, especially now that there is a likelihood that oil will be discovered in the area. At the time of our trip the Argentine government was putting restrictions on shipping calling at the Falklands without first getting permission from Argentina!



West Point Island Our first stop was West Point Island where we visited the same rookery we saw in 2008. On that trip we were on a much larger ship and had a long tender trip into the harbor. The Corinthian II was able to cruise right in and we used the Zodiacs for the short hop to the dock.
Sign-out board The ship had a clever way of keeping track of the guests who were disembarking. We each had an assigned tag that we flipped over as we left the boat. When we came back, the tag was "reset." It made it easy for the staff to check that no-one was left behind. On one occasion a returning guest managed to get past the board without flipping his tag over. The staff ran him down in his stateroom to verify that he had in fact returned.
Dry landing We quickly learned to distinguish between "dry" and "wet" landings on this trip. This was a dry landing because we had a pier and didn't have to wade to and from the Zodiacs. This became a luxury.

We were glad that the life vests that we used on the trip were very compact as shown here. I assume that had they ever been needed, they would have inflated to a requisite size. Thankfully we never found out for sure.

Every time we prepared to leave the ship there were staff members to buckle us into the vests. They really wanted to ensure that it was done properly!

West Point Island The rookery we were to visit was on the opposite side of the island from the harbor. It was about a mile or two and most people elected to walk. The residents also had a Land Rover that they used to give a lift to those who desired it.
Rockhoppers On our earlier visit in December 2008 there were many Rockhopper penguins brooding their eggs or their little ones. Now, in February, most of the Rockhoppers were gone and the black-browed albatross were tending their chicks.

The penguins and the Albatross are very companionable in this location with adjacent nesting areas.

Albatross feeding

This not-so-little one is begging its parent to regurgitate dinner. Yum!

At this point the albatross chicks were starting to grow into their adult feathers.

Landing at Saunders Island We next visited Saunders Island where there were groups of gentoo, king and rockhopper penguins as well as other birds.

This was a wet landing. I was dismayed to learn that the boots that I had brought for such landings were not tall enough. The program materials implied that 10" would be sufficient, but it was not. I squished all through this visit. Thankfully the ship had a stash of knee-high boots and I found a pair that almost fit.

Hungry Gentoos Gentoos, which raise two chicks each breeding season, were the most numerous of the local birds. This poor parent, who is being pursued by hungry brats, may be wishing he (or she) never heard of babies.

The adult bird is beginning the molt and can't even fish for itself let alone two demanding youngsters. They, on the other hand, are fully fledged and could find their own dinners.

The large dark bird to the left of the picture is a Striated Caracara. We saw several of them. They are attracted to a variety of objects and one actually stole a walkie-talkie from one of our guides while we were eating. It was recovered with some difficulty!

Skua Chick Another bird of prey that was much in evidence was the Skua. They get a bad rap as efficient predators, but this chick shows that they can be fuzzy and cute as well. I'm not certain what the plant is. I was told that it is called "sea cabbage," but that term appears to be broadly used.
Gentoos Fledging These birds are molting. Penguins shed all their feathers at once and are unable to swim during the 2-3 weeks it takes to replace them. This means they can't find food. So they chow down prior to the 2-3 week molting period to build up enough fat reserves to make it through the fast.

All the molting birds that we saw -- and there were many of them -- looked just as scruffy as these. The ground is littered with the shed feathers, which looked almost like snow. Even the feathers that are black on the bird looked white on the ground.

Megellanic Penguins with Sheep Magellanic Penguins live in burrows, which may be seen dotting the slope here. As mentioned above, the "snow" dusting the ground is in fact penguin feathers that have been shed by molting birds.

Many, if not most, of the Falkland Islands are inhabited by sheep and Saunders Island is no exception. The sheep will eat the native tussock grass wherever they can reach it. It only remains in places where the sheep cannot go. Since this is a critical habitat for many species, there has been much more attention paid to preservation in recent years.

Ruddy-headed Geese These are Ruddy-headed Geese. They are similar to the females of the much-more-common Upland Geese. The wind is strong enough to ruffle their feathers.
King Penguins We met our first King Penguins here. They are very dignified-looking birds in general, but every now and again one will erupt into a VERY loud "look at me" display. Shortly after I took this picture, this group began to move toward the beach. The noisy bird marched in the lead nodding his (or her) head like a drum major. I wondered if the call was a signal of some sort.
Saunders Island, Falklands As on West Point Island, there was quite a walk to get to the various areas where birds were to be found. Here, however, most of the walking was done on a VERY windy beach. It was OK walking with the wind, but as soon as you turned around your face began to be flayed by the blowing sand. I ended up walking backwards to return to the landing area.

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