Went for my first sail today since August 2010! Was worried I might forget what to do Rob and I are staying at Sally Poncet’s house in Stanley. Sally is a legend she has an amazing history of work in South Georgia and the Peninsula she is still in South Georgia working on the rat project. Ken Passfield picked us up off the ship he also has a long history of work in South Georgia. He was one of the government officers in 2002 and has a 30 footer here in Stanley. He took us off sailing last night on Pouvenier to Kidney which is a rat free tussock covered island 8 miles out from Stanley. It is a government run nature reserve that few (even Falkland Islanders) know about and the only way to get there is to have your own boat.
The most special time on the island is at dusk when the sooty shearwaters return to their burrows. I have never seen anything like it except maybe when I was in Dubai and saw the cormorants return to roost in the Musandam.
We left the dock at 5pm and with the wind behind us took off through the narrows with jackass penguins porpoising in our wake. BTW they are called that because their call is like a donkey! Out past the patrol ship and oil supply ship and round a small point into an anchorage amoungst the kelp about 100m from shore. We let out 30 meters of anchor all chain but with a windlass to hoist it back up thank goodness.
Ken got the wood burning stove going and it was cosy in the cabin he also cooked up a delicious dinner of local steak, potatoes and salad. The sun was starting to set as we finished dinner and the shearwaters were starting their nightly circling of the island. The behaviour goes back to skua predation however, now there are no longer skuas around so really it isn’t necessary.
We jumped in the dinghy and were soon surrounded by 15 or so curious sea lions (similar to furries but with a slightly different shaped head) that escorted us to shore. The sea lion males on the shore were massive bigger than our fur seals on SG. Two trips later got Graham (rat eradication helicopter engineer), Rob, Ken and myself ashore.
The tussock is amazing it is higher than SG it towered above even Rob and Ken said it could get to 3m tall.
There is a little hut with four bunks which researchers use. The island was packed with wildlife – tussock birds, steamer ducks, thrushes, white chin petrels etc. We headed across the way to Dixie Cove to see if their were any penguins in but the beach was empty which Ken found a little unusual. Back past some tussock mounds which had caught fire in WWII and never regenerated but with many new small plants collinating the earth.
There are shearwater and white chin burrows all over the place one has to be careful not to put your foot down a burrow!
We sat down looking over the water at the sunset and boat at anchor next to a few burrows and watched the 10,000′s of shearwaters circling above our heads. The air traffic control must be amazing After quite a while one by one they came into land quite ackwardly. You just hear thump thump thump as they fall out of the sky and skurry into their burrows. One mistook me for a tussock mound and hit me on the head on its way home!
Before it became totally dark we headed back to the boat and motored back to Stanley in a rain squall. What an amazing day which did alter my view of the Falklands!