The Falkland Islands

Hello you lovely worms. you might remember that a while back I went on a special tour of Kew, then I got to grill Richard and Brian about their visits to the Falklands. Here are their words, it's both of them talking but I've smushed them together to make it easier. All the pictures are Brians.

"The total land area of the Falklands is about two thirds the size of wales. The two main islands are pretty big, about the same size each, then there must be a few hundred smaller islands around but only around eight or ten of them are populated. Maybe two or three couples at most live on each of the smaller islands, nearly all of them are sheep farmers but many are also doing more touristy things now. Some of them are now mainly places that tourists go to and pay to stay in a lodge and photograph penguins; they are not always accessible to locals because it's quite expensive. When we tell people in Stanley that we are visiting other islands, they don't realise we're taking our tents and doing it on the cheap. East Falkland has Stanley, which is the capital with about two and a half thousand people: thats around 90% of the population.You can cross stanley in 10 minutes."
Stanley from the Air

Photobucket Sea cabbage, Sea Lion Island

"West Falkland is about the same size but much less populated. There are settlements on West Falkland - the biggest is about 30 peopleUntil the conflict, much of the land was mostly owned by people in the UK and they would rent it out to farmers.
Because it's an island so you've got to be completely self sufficient, if something goes wrong you've got to fix it yourself. If your generator breaks down you just have to mend it, you don't call somebody in. A lot of people have wind-powered generators but others have an oil generator backup as well. 
The countryside around the settlements is so beautiful . . . then you come over the brow of a hill and see: the dump. Because it's an island anything that goes there stays there. At every settlement there's a place where things get dumped - like old washing machines, fridges, Land Rovers. At some beaches you find all their old crockery. You don't move something that isn't valuable off the island, they've got a lot of space so they just have a place where they dump it."
PhotobucketThe Dump, Port Howard

PhotobucketLand Rover recycling at Port Howard.

PhotobucketBeach at the settlement, Weddell Island.

"The way people view travelling is very different. Outside of Stanley there are no tarmac roads, it's rough gravel roads and they only go to the inhabited farms, a lot of places have no roads at all. There's no rights of way, no footpaths no bridleways, you have to ask permission to go to private land; which is almost all of it. 
Air flight is essential for maintaining communications: you can fit about 8 people in an Islander plane, plus the pilot and lots of cargo, including any mail. Although they are subsidised, it's still too expensive for many people."
PhotobucketPort Howard Airstrip.

A typical Falklands house has gloss painted hardboard walls, some would've been just the wooden boarding or wiggly tin (corrugated iron) boarding before. I remember people telling me that in the past, if you could afford hardboard paneling that was considered posh.
PhotobucketSunset reflection, Fox Bay East.

"The houses can seem old-fashioned, because it's so expensive to get things: if it's not broken  you won't get something new. If you've got a pot of paint in the shed you'll use it, whatever the colour, rather than bringing one in because it has to come 8000 miles to get there. They are sometimes quite garish bright colours, we went in one bedroom that was just dazzlingly bright. When you go into some of the houses that aren't still lived in, it's like stepping back in time, I like that. Places that have been done up recently you see that they've been to Ikea- lots of Ikea stuff, shipped from the UK."
PhotobucketWeathered door, Weddell Island.

PhotobucketAbandoned Shepherds House, Northwest Arm.

PhotobucketMantel piece, Purvis House

PhotobucketPhone, Purvis House

"Any hardware would come from the UK because the nearest land mass is Argentina and they won't let anything go to the Falklands, they claim the Falklands for their own. Chile is the country in South America where there's most communication, container ships come from there once a month and there's a weekly flight which brings people and also fresh fruit and veg. It' s quite a long journey so when it gets there it's quite expensive. In Stanley there are a few supermarkets. Outside of Stanley the biggest settlements have shops that open twice a week for a couple of hours, or when you ask. The shops work differently, one is run as a coop, it's owned by members of the community and they employ someone to run it and they open it three times a week. There's only one market gardener on all the islands, they grow fruit and veg, much of it in polytunnels, but not enough to meet all the demand. A lot of people grow their own. Fresh vegetable and fruit is very difficult to buy outside of Stanley but you get very good meat because there are so many farmers. Animal husbandry is what they do, mostly sheep but also cattle. Meat is very cheap there and vegetables expensive, the opposite of here."
Shanty kitchen, River Island

"We went to River Island and spent a week with the sheep-shearers. 
The shanty on River Island is amazing, there's an aga  in the kitchen/living room, then there are bunk rooms, real shepherds accommodation. The shepherds are based in the settlement but they'll go out to shanties for a few days rounding up sheep for shearing in the settlement: the gang of shepherds will stay in most shanties for a few days, two or three times a year. On River Island they usually only visit once a year, they shear the sheep on the Island.

That's the fleece they gave me, a black fleece which is worth nothing to them, it's fantastic quality wool compared to the fleeces I get in the UK - very fine. The white wool would be worth a lot of money. All the black sheep are usually killed in the Falklands but for some reason a shepherd had a soft spot for that one, the other shepherds teased him because he didn't kill it. Now Brian's spun it and made a hat which he'll send to him, I think it will be the first thing he's ever had made from his own wool."
PhotobucketBlack fleece from River Island

"The man who runs this farm makes his own horse leather bits - every farmer and shepherd used to make their own gear from their own rawhide - in the time when everyone had horses - but there's very few people who do it now. The range of different parts in saddles and gear is incredible, and it's very different from British horse gear, it's much closer to Spanish gear. I've heard that the first British shepherds down there were from Scotland where it was all done on foot not horseback: so they had no history of working with horses whereas the gauchos coming over from the mainland did, so that's where the horse-riding culture was taken up from. It's hard to overestimate the importance of horses in Falklands life historically: before Land Rovers became available."
Saddlery workshop, Shallow Bay.

"They've split up the big farms nowbut it can still be over an hour to your next neighbour. You can spend a lot of time just in your family unit, rarely seeing anyone else, that must feel very isolating sometimes, especially in winterTake Saunders Island: a couple run it and their two daughters live there with their partners."
View from “Swiss Cottage” at the Neck, Saunders Island.

"They run Saunders mainly for sheep farming but have been expanding into tourism because they've got penguin and albatross colonies, throughout the summer it's full of tourists coming and going, but in the winter, there is sometimes only the family."
Rockhopper Colony, Saunders Island.

"Some Islanders have a license to collect penguin eggs to eat. On Weddell Island, there are several colonies. Any island community has some level of eating seabirds, Easter Island, St Kilda etc. On the Falklands there doesn't seem to be any record of people eating the penguins themselves so I presume they must be really unpleasant to eat. They gave us a couple of penguin eggs to try, they have really very hard shells, almost too thick to get through and they're about the size of tennis balls. They taste horrible, really fishy, really oily, just disgusting."
PhotobucketPenguin eggs

PhotobucketPenguin eggs ready for omelette making

Thank you clever sausages. As someone who lives in London I love hearing about far off, sparsely populated places. I think the word toot would have a different meaning over there; much weightier, more expensive, it might even be a redundant term . . . no! I retract that last statement *shudder*. 
PhotobucketBotanist at work, pressing a (cultivated) Sitka Spruce specimen.


  1. This is great! The pitchfork and the story about the black fleece are amazing. I hope you don't mind but I've tweeted about it for EB. My mum is outside in the hall and she just sang "cat pee trousers, shitty shitty cat pee". Now she's doing an operatic version. Maybe I'll go the Falklands.

  2. It's you Guy! I thought it was some nut, you did sound like a bit of a nut. I'm really enjoying Eye-ball. In fact I'm going to pop it on my links list now.
    Hope you're well.