officially south-Atlantic, the Falkland Islands surely have a
sub-Antarctic appeal. The archipelago is a treasure-chest for
Antarctica-minded nature lovers and photographers. The islands are full
of wildlife, with vast colonies of Black-browed Albatross, five species
of penguins, Elephant Seals and much more. They are one of the last "off
the beaten track" destinations. Unfortunately the Falkland Islands have
an undeserved bad reputation, mainly because of the Falkland War in 1982
so that many people do not know that the islands have much more to offer
then just minefields. The Falklands offer a broad variety of spectacular
wildlife, rough scenery, fascinating geology, maritime history, good
hiking and, of course, the warm hospitality of the people.
Loading the Zodiac
The Falkland Islands are located
about 500 kilometres (300 miles) east of Argentina, at Latitude 52║
South. They consist of about 800 islands. The two main islands, East
Falkland and West Falkland, make up the majority of the area, being
comparable in size with Jamaica or Northern Ireland. The landscape
is generally hilly and reminds visitors of the lower Scottish
Highlands . That might have been the reason that settlers from
Scotland and Wales felt at home on these remote islands. Even the
weather has a resemblance to that of northern Scotland.
The Falkland Islands might have been visited by natives from Tierra
del Fuego, though this is not certain. One of the first sightings by
a westerner was that of the famous British navigator and Arctic
explorer John Davis in 1592. The first settlement on the islands was
founded by the French navigator and explorer Louis-Antoine de
Bougainville in 1764. De Bougainville landed with French settlers
from the French town of St. Malo and founded the village of Port
Saint Louis on Berkeley Sound in East Falkland. They named the
islands "╬les Malouines", after the home town of many of the
settlers, and this is why the Falklands are sometimes referred to as
the "(Islas) Malvinas", as Spain later took over the French
settlement and claimed the archipelago. Since 1833 the archipelago
has been British, but sovereignty is still disputed by Argentina.
Stanley, also still known under its former name Port Stanley,
is the administrative centre of the archipelago. About three-quarters of
the total population of the islands, which is about 2500, lives in the
town. Originally Stanley was a tiny, insignificant outpost, but then, in
the 19th and early 20th century, it grew in
importance as a repair port for sailing-ships rounding Cape Horn. The
severe storms around Cape Horn often damaged ships which then used Port
Stanley for repairs. Ships that were in a too bad state were often
scuttled in the harbour; several old shipwrecks near Stanley being a
reminder of those days. After the Panama Canal was built in 1914 the
Cape Horn route became obsolete and Stanley returned to its former
insignificant existence, living mainly from the export of wool. But
since 1982 Stanley has boomed again. It started with the British
military forces that were stationed near the town, but later the
Falkland Islands made money by selling fishing licenses to foreign
fishing vessels that want to fish in the island waters. The Falkland
islanders are nowadays fairly prosperous.
The Falkland Islands experience a cool Oceanic Climate. It is
often windy because the islands are situated in the stormy latitudes of
the southern westerly winds or "Roaring Forties". Temperatures usually
range between 5║ and 10║C (40║ and 50║F). There is little rainfall but
rain and sleet can occur any time of the year.
The island of South
Georgia is one of the remotest and wildest places of the United
Kingdom's Overseas Territories. It is located 1400 kilometres (850
miles) to the east of the Falkland Islands. South Georgia does not have
an airport, the only access is by ship and it takes two whole days to
reach from the Falkland Islands. The island measures approximately 170
kilometres (106 miles) by 30 kilometres (18 miles) and is completely
mountainous, its snow-capped mountains rising to 2934 metres (9626
feet). The island has more than 160 glaciers dropping down into the sea.
The landscape reminds visitors of the fjord coasts of Norway, one
reason, perhaps, why Norwegian whalers felt at home during the whaling
Huge numbers of seabirds
and marine mammals breed along South Georgia's Tussock Grass fringed
shores. Save for the rusting remnants of the old whaling stations, the
island is virtually unspoilt by man and so offers unique opportunities
to observe the unparalleled wildlife and spectacular scenery of this
most beautiful part of the Southern Ocean, a true Antarctic oasis.
The first recorded
landing on South Georgia was made by the British explorer James Cook,
who discovered the island on his second voyage around the world. Hoping
to find the long sought Southern Continent he was very disappointed to
find that South Georgia was just an island. Cook landed in Possession
Bay and claimed the island for the United Kingdom. Cook wrote: "...A
country doomed by nature never once to feel the warmth of the sun's
rays, but to lie for ever buried under everlasting snow and ice."
Soon after James Cook,
Fur Seal and Elephant Seal hunters found their way to South Georgia,
exploiting the animals for their furs and oil. In the beginning of the
20th century South Georgia became the centre of the Southern
Ocean whaling industry. Mainly Norwegian, but also British companies,
built settlements and whaling stations in the sheltered fjords. The
business lasted until 1964, by which time most of the whales were caught
and populations were low. Nowadays the whales and seals are fully
protected. The Fur and Elephant Seal populations have recovered and are
again numerous on the beaches. The big whale species are also
recovering, but slowly, and are now frequently spotted on our trips.
South Georgia is located within the Antarctic Convergence, an
oceanographic border that separates the cold Southern Ocean from the
warmer northern Oceans. Therefore South Georgia experiences a cold
Oceanic Climate. The weather can be very variable. Blue skies with
sunshine can be succeeded by violent storms within half an hour. The
average summer temperature at sea level is around 7.5░C (45░F). Rain and
snow are possible in any season.
Sample Itinerary (19
days / 18 nights)
In the afternoon, we embark in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego,
Argentina, the southernmost city in the world located in the shadow of
the Andes and right at the Beagle Channel shore. We'll sail through this
scenic waterway during the afternoon.
At sea, in the wester lies the ship is followed by several
species of albatrosses, storm petrels, shearwaters and diving petrels.
A typical itinerary in the Falklands - South Georgia, and
Antarctic Peninsula could be as follows. This is a sample only, the
final itinerary will be determined by the Expedition Leader on board.
In the Falkland Islands
(Malvinas) we plan to spend the whole day on the fascinating western
side of the archipelago. A hike along the shore of Carcass Island will
give us instead views of Magellanic and Gentoo-Penguins, as well as
close encounters with water fowl and Night herons. In addition, on
Saunders we will be able to observe Rockhopper Penguins, Black-browed
Albatrosses and King Cormorants.
In Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, we can experience
Falkland culture, which has some South- American characteristics as well
as Victorian charm. In Stanley and surrounding area we can see a quite
important number of stranded clippers from a century ago. Especially for
the birders, we will also offer a three hours excursion outside Port
Day 5 & 6
At sea, on our way to South Georgia we will cross the Antarctic
Convergence. Entering Antarctic waters, the temperature will drop as
much as 10 degrees C in the time span of only a few hours. Near the
Convergence we will see a multitude of southern seabirds near the ship;
several species of Albatrosses, Shearwaters, Petrels, Prions and Skuas.
Day 7- 10
In South Georgia we shall visit the bay of Elsehul, with it┤s
very active fur seal breeding beach, and then take course to Right Whale
Bay, Salisbury Plain, Gold Harbour and Cooper Bay to give you a good
opportunity to see a wide spectrum of landscapes and wildlife, like the
introduced Reindeer, Elephant seals, King and Macaroni Penguins. At
Fortuna Bay we might try to follow in the footsteps of the great British
Explorer Ernest Shackleton and hike over to St°mness Bay. There and at
Grytviken we'll see and abandoned whaling village, where King Penguins
now walk in the streets and seals have taken over the buildings. At
Grytviken we┤ll also offer a visit to the Whaling History Museum as well
as to Shackleton┤s grave near by. One of the highlights might be our
visit to Prion Island, where we will witness the breeding efforts of the
huge Wandering Albatross and enjoy watching their displays.
At sea, where the ship is again followed by a multitude of
seabirds. At some point we might encounter sea-ice, and it is at the
ice-edge where we might have a chance to see some high-Antarctic species
like the Maccormick Skua, Snow Petrel and the elusive Emperor Penguin.
We are aiming for a visit at Orcadas station, an Argentinean
base located in the South Orkney Islands. The friendly base personnel
will show us their facilities and we can enjoy the wonderful views of
the surrounding glaciers.
Day 14 - 16
We will sail into the Weddell Sea through the ice-clogged Antarctic
Sound. Huge tabular icebergs will announce our arrival to the eastern
side of the Antarctic Peninsula. We plan to visit Paulet Island with a
million pairs of Adelie Penguins and the remains of the Nordenski÷ld
expedition. At Brown Bluff we can put our feet on the continent.
At Deception Island, we
will try to land at Baily Head home to a colony of ten thousands of
Chinstrap Penguins. Deception itself is a sub ducted crater, which opens
into the sea, creating a natural harbour for the ship. Here we find hot
springs, an abandoned whaling station, thousands of Cape Pigeons and
many Dominican Gulls, Brown and South Polar Skuas and Antarctic Terns.
Wilson's Storm Petrels and Black-bellied Storm Petrels nest in the ruins
of the whaling station in Whalers Bay. Good walkers may hike from Baily
Head over the ridge of the crater into Whalers Bay, while our ship
braves its entrance into the crater through the spectacular Neptune's
Bellow into the ring of Deception Island. In the afternoon we may land
at Half Moon Island, where we can obsereve Elephant, Weddell and Fur
Seals as well as Chinstrap Penguins, Blue-eyed Shags, Wilson's Storm
Petrels, Kelp Gulls, Snowy Sheatbills, Antarctic Terns and Antarctic
On our way West, we sail
to Cuverville Island, a small precipitous island, nestled between the
mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula. It contains a large colony of
Gentoo Penguins and breeding pairs of Brown Skuas. From there we sail to
Neko Harbour in Andvord Bay and through Paradise Bay with its myriad
icebergs and deep cut fjords, while having chances of seeing large
Whales. We will have opportunities for zodiac cruising between the
icebergs in the inner parts of the fjords.
Day 17- 18
On our way north we are again followed by a great selection of
seabirds while crossing the Drake Passage.
We arrive in the morning in Ushuaia and disembark.
Please note that this itinerary is for guidance only. The exact
program may vary depending on local ice and weather conditions and to
take advantage of opportunities to see wildlife. Flexibility is
paramount for Antarctic expedition cruises.