Day 17 – Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

Today is one of the days that I have been looking forward to as I have always been interested in the Falklands, the War between Argentina and the UK as well as why the British colonised a set of islands in the middle of the Atlantic. The Falklands main industry is sheep farming, there over 700,000 sheep on the islands and only around 3,000 people on the islands, a greater ratio of sheep to people than New Zealand!

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Port Stanley does not have a wharf suitable for a ship the size of the Mariner, so we anchored in a bay not far from the Port and used tenders to get ashore.

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My tour today was of the Battlefields on the main island, it was a bus tour with a guide who has been living in Stanley for around 30 years, he is ex-British Military, but did not serve in the Falklands, which did not mean his knowledge of the events associated was lacking, it was first-rate. Due to time constraints we, unfortunately, did not get to visit West Falkland, also were not able go to Goose Green, the site of one of the most significant engagements during the war, but what we did get to see was still very interesting.

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The Falklands is not the sort of place that I would recommend to anyone looking for an Island Holiday with beaches and Cocktails, it is summer and I was  frozen, thankfully I had enough clothing on to stop the cold.

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The first part of the tour was a bus trip out to the a point on the western side of East Falkland were we could see San Carlos, the point where the first British Special Forces landed and established a beach head on the island. The residents of the farm there housed and fed the lads before they started their covert mission to establish lookouts at various positions around the area in preparation for the landing of the forces that would re-take the Falklands.

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When I was starting out in the workforce I was lucky enough to work with members of the Australian SAS, and was always impressed by their ability to do what normal people could never consider possible, what the British SAS did during the Falklands made me realise that even after what I seen these guys do, I still had not come even close to understanding how good these guys really are.

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From San Carlos the various reconnaissance teams spread out and occupied vantage points around the area to observe the Argentinian forces who were occupying the islands. These teams were on the islands for weeks before the main force arrived and we were shown one of the observation outposts, just under the peak of the hill in the photos above, where 4 SAS Troopers observed, undetected, for weeks an Argentinian outpost where they had landed two helicopters, a Chinook and a UH-1H Iroquois, and then quickly camouflaged them. The problem was that the SAS Troopers were watching and passed the exact location of the two choppers back to the fleet that was steaming from England. The 4 troopers were holed up in their observation post for weeks, less than a 500 metres from the position of the choppers and the troops supporting them.

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As well as the Argentine Troops below them supporting the choppers, the Argies had established their own outpost on the ridge directly above them, but never knew about the SAS. When the fleet arrived, the SAS informed them of the location of the two camouflaged choppers, the results of the air strike are in the photos below. Since 1982 the scavengers of the human kind have acquired the more valuable components within the wreckage, this is what is left of the chinook

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As there is a minefield around the wreckage of the  UH-1H Iroquois the scavengers have not acquired all of the valuable components, the minefield also prevented us from being able to get any closer than the Chinook.

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The ridges / hills which formed the various Argentine defensive lines that the British Troops had to overcome in order to reclaim the island.

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There are still 117 minefields containing approximately 25K anti-personnel and vehicle mines on the Falklands. A team of experts from Zimbabwe have been hired to clean up the island, it is a very slow and laborious process. To date about 4.5K mines have been cleared, there is a long way to go.

Slow Minefield

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The story associated with the painting of the Union Jack on the rock above is an interesting one, it is about one of the British Troops who, one night during the final advance on Stanley, leading his squad was wounded in both legs and was expected to die, his men propped him against the rock to await medical treatment, leaving him with his rifle and then went off to complete their objective. Apparently, whilst waiting, an Argentine patrol went past his position and he took them out. In the morning a medic arrived and he was still alive. The medic was able to save him and he was able to return to active duty within about twelve months. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a full account of the story, will keep looking. This was the last landmark on the battlefields tour, which I would recommend to anyone, they also have a full day tour which takes in more sites.

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After the tour, I made a quick trip back to the ship, forgot my wallet, and caught the next tender back to Stanley, so that I could do some exploring on my own. Very near to the pier where our tender docks are a set of Jubilee Villas that were built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

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I liked Stanley, the weather was very mild and calm by midday, so the views across Port Stanley were great and made my exploration pleasant.

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This Church, Christ Church Cathedral, is the southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world and was  constructed between 1890 and 1892 using locally made / provided building materials

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This whalebone arch was built in 1933 to commemorate 100 hundred years of British rule in the Falklands

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There are a number of decaying wharves in Port Stanley, at the end of this wharf there the wreck of the Jhelum, who has been slowly rotting away like the wharf

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Some local wildlife

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Wandering along the waterfront

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Below is the monument to the SS Great Britain

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The local rag

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The Malvina House Hotel. This Hotel is not named for the Argentine name for the Falklands, the Malvinas Islands, but after the lady who built the place

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Below is the monument to those that were lost during the conflict in 1982

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Unfortunately it was time to go, so I had to return to the wharf to catch the tender back the Mariner

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I really enjoyed my time on the Falklands and would have like to have spent more time there, but not sure I would need to return, who knows, maybe one day. The only negative I have with the Falklands is that I could not find a decent meat pie, looked everywhere, but no joy.

One item I did find very interesting about the Falklands is that Argentina has never had an outpost on the islands, and that the British were the first people to settle the Islands. They have decided that they want to remain British and not to join Argentina, so I am not really sure what the Argentine Government is using as a basis for their claims to the islands.

According to the locals, the British Royal Air Force base on the islands has enough aircraft to be able to handle the entire Argentine Air Force, and there is an early warning system in place now that would ensure that a sneak attach is unlikely. The probable reason why Argentina is interested in the Falklands is the discovery of oil within the territorial waters. When the oil production begins, and I am not sure that a decision to start drilling has been made, the quiet Falkland Islands will become a very wealthy spot in the middle of the Atlantic.

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