Reflections on Stanley
Position: 51:51.36S 058:54.6W
Date: 28 November 2011
Time: 1515 LT 1815 UTC
During our five days in Stanley (well, four days if you exclude our day at anchor), we’ve met a large number of people. All incredibly friendly, welcoming and helpful. The population of the Falklands has risen to about 3,000, of which only about 200 now live in the “camp” in the countryside as, principally, wool sheep farmers. The rest live in Stanley itself. The town straggles along the south side of the very well protected harbour. Most of the houses are wood framed, clad with wood or metal and all have corrugated iron roofs. There is only one terrace of brick built houses (all the bricks had to be imported). Jubilee Terrace was built in 1887 but they too also have corrugated iron roofs all painted in bright colours.
One thing that is conspicuous by its absence is any sort of High Street with shops. Most basic things are available, although almost all imported from the UK but the retail outlets, few that they are, tend to be located in a warehouse in a backstreet. What Stanley does have in quantity is pubs – we had six to choose from. There was a brewery here – The Penguin Brewery – which John’s company built, but it has now closed down, so the pubs now sell only bottled beer.
Meals can be found at some of the pubs but the only proper restaurant in town is the Malvina House Hotel, where the food is really excellent.
Right on the waterfront behind Mina2’s mooring lies the Anglican cathedral built at the end of the 19th century, but there is also a Catholic church, a Tabernacle United Free church and even the Johovah’s Witnesses have a place here.
The landscape is barren and windswept. And the weather – oh dear, oh dear. We are now in the northern equivalent of late May and the daytime temperature has rarely risen above about 12 C. At night it drops to no more than a chilly 5 or 6 C. But what makes it seem even colder is the relentless wind. The Falklands are round the corner from Cape Horn and succession after succession of deep, tight low pressure systems sweep past Cape Horn passing south of the Falklands. So generally there is a very stiff, cold wind that can come at you from almost any direction. These weather systems are travelling so quickly that in the space of a few hours the wind can completely box the compass. And talk about changeable. One minute there are scuddy clouds interspersed with rays of sunshine, the next moment a black cloud is rushing towards you with torrential rain and the already high wind speed doubles in the squalls that accompany them. If the sun-loving Argentines were ever successful in taking the islands over, they would be deserted within a couple of years.
And talking of the Argentines, the conflict of 1982 and their poor relationship with their neighbours is always at the forefront of the Falklanders’ minds. Since the bombastic Christine Kirchner became President of Argentina she has slowly imposed what amounts to an embargo on the Falklands. There have not been any direct flights from Argentina for a while. The Falklands used to get a monthly ship of supplies from Chile, but Argentina have now banned Chilean ships from sailing to the Falklands through the Beagle Channel (half owned by Chile and Argentina). Likewise they effectively ban ships from sailing from Uruguay to the Falklands through what Argentina claims to be their territorial waters, so now almost everything has to be shipped from the UK. But the Falklanders survive – that is what they are good at. They are a lively community of tough but enormously friendly people, and they are thriving.
We had been intending to leave Stanley on Sunday to head south about the islands, first to Goose Green up the Choiseul Sound and the sight of one of the big battles of the ’82 conflict. In the event the winds were so strong all day even by the ferocious standards here, that we left this morning at first light at 0430. Sadly the wind direction was bang on the noise, and to enable us to go the 65 miles to Goose Green before the next gale of wind arrives this afternoon, we have been motoring virtually the whole way. Th.e real wildlife adventure starts when we get to West Falklands but nevertheless we have been escorted round to Goose Green by comical Rock Shags that are so stupid that as they fly close past us, they turn round to have a look at us and then nearly crash into our rigging, Megallenic Penguins that bob around in the water around us, and the tiny little Commerson Dolphins – only about a metre long – that have been playing around our bow