The Falkland Islands: God Save the Queen!
After cruising the rough waters past Cape Horn, my parents arrived in the Falkland Islands, also known as Islas Malvinas to Spanish speaking nations.
During the Falklands War, Argentina and the United Kingdom fought over these islands, along with the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. Britain regained control over the Falklands when the 74-day conflict ended in June 1982. Argentina still believes itself to have sovereign claim over the islands and considers the British to be illegal occupants.
This barren landscape is how I picture the northern portions of the British Isles. Just like Scotland, these islands are filled with sheep, wind, rain, and hardy folk. Of course, Scotland isn't lucky enough to have penguins!
In recent years there have been estimates that approximately 60 billion barrels of oil lie under the seabed around the Falkland Islands! Oil and gas companies are currently investigating the potential for offshore natural resources, but continuing tension between Argentina and the UK has slowed and complicated the progress.
Welcome to the Falkland Islands! Total population: 3000 people, 500,000 sheep, and 500,000 penguins!
The impact of the Falklands War can still be felt. Several designated areas on the islands are marked as active mine fields and have been fenced off to keep people out. England regularly sends it's special forces and units to work on de-mining the areas but there are still vast numbers of mines left. My mum's tour guide, a kind middle aged man named Alan, explained there were so many mines still in the ground that England will not be finished de-mining the Falklands in his lifetime.
The majority of Falkland Islanders live in the capital city Stanley, which was named after Lord Stanley, a British Earl who never actually visited the islands.
Some shipwrecks line the shore of the road that heads towards the capital city of Stanley.
Stanley consists of four pubs, eleven hotels, three churches, three restaurants, a community center and school, a fish and chips shop, and the main tourist office. Talk about isolated and small! The town has seen tremendous growth since the Falklands War and is now more than a third larger than in 1982.
Bright red British telephone booths and mail boxes can be found outside the Stanley post office. It's almost like being in England! Well, almost, except that England is 11,000km away. This building isn't only used as the post office. It also serves as the town hall, the law court, and a dance hall.
Falkland Islander's favorite sport: gossip! The island's are so small and everyone in the community knows each other and supports one another. When winter blankets the islands there isn't much to do except to sit indoors, find a hobby, and drink a strong cup of tea. The locals keep preoccupied exchanging stories and gossip.
My mum's tour guide Alan also explained that cancer rates are incredibly high in the Falkland Islands. Various types of cancer are affecting young and old alike. Several locals suspect that the presence of plutonium in the surrounding seabed is linked to the rising cancer rates. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that over a quarter of the total population are smokers...
Christ Church Cathedral in Stanley is the southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world.
The whale bone arch monument that stands in front of Christ Church Cathedral is made from the jaws of two blue whales. The monument was erected in 1933 to commemorate one hundred years of the Falkland Islands being under British rule.
Penguin News is Stanley's local newspaper. Penguin News became infamous when the publication appeared to have called the Argentine President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a "bitch"!
Everything in the Falkland Islands is geared towards proudly promoting their beloved penguin colony!
My mum brought me back a penny from the islands because they are one of the only nations in the world that displays penguins on their coins.
Land Rovers: Falkland Islander's vehicle of choice!
To travel in and out of the Falkland Islands the residents have to fly to Santiago, Chile and take a connecting flight to England, or fly out of Stanley direct to England via the Royal Air Force. The British military planes can be booked by passengers, but Alan explained that the tickets are ridiculously expensive. Argentina has the nearest international airport to the Falkland Islands, but any flight service into Argentina was cut off after the 1982 conflict.
The majority of the residents on the Falkland Islands are of British descent and they aren't afraid to display how proud they are of their heritage!
After wandering around and discovering Stanley, my mum joined a tour to visit the penguin colony that lives at Volunteer Point, a two hour drive outside of the capital. Visiting these penguins turned out to be the highlight of her six week trip! Penguins coming up next!