By sunrise it’s clear that we have completed our run from South Georgia Island and are now on the west side of the Falkland Islands. It looks to be the dawn of a gorgeous day: sunny, warm, and with just a bit of wind to freshen the air. During breakfast we approach the morning’s destination, the settlement of West Point Island.
The settlement buildings sit within a dark green thicket of majestic Monterey cypress trees. The trees are not only beautiful, but also protect the settlement from the winds that are very common on the mostly low elevation Falklands. Trees, in general, are an indication of human activity here since there are no native trees to the area. Another conspicuous introduced plant is the European gorse, which is a large, spiny shrub in the pea family used as a “living fence.” There is nothing native to the Falkland Islands that could be used to build fences for controlling the wanderings of livestock.
On the sandy beach we are greeted by the Island’s caretakers, Kicki and Thies. Their real home, when not working as caretakers, is a tiny sailboat moored near shore. Our intention is to travel to the other side of the island, about two miles, to view nesting black-browed albatross and rock hopper penguins! For those who do not want to walk both there and back or even at all, Kicki and Thies have brought two Land Rover Defenders down to the beach to provide a shuttle service. The vehicles are not new, which just adds to the feeling of adventure.
The other side of the island is a couple hundred feet or more above the ocean. The scintillating water below is punctuated by the occasional whale blow. A path winds through very healthy, well-fertilized tussoc grass allowing them to grow taller than even the tallest person. Before long we begin to hear constant plaintive noises, which are soon revealed to be the impatience of very large albatross chicks waiting for a parent. A bit beyond the albatross are the rock hopper penguins. We have good views of it all!
Due to a large storm developing between us and the Beagle Channel, our next destination, we leave the Falkland Islands after lunch.
Photo caption: Impatient black-browed albatross chicks waiting for a meal. Photo by Dennis Cornejo