"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Antarctic Journals, Chapter Eleven, A Malvina by any Other Name Would Still be a Falkland

A Malvina by any Other Name is Still a Falkland

It would be a much simpler world today if the Falkland Islands had just stayed put.  

 But, no, when the super continent of Gondwana broke up and started parceling out continents and tectonic plates and scraps of land around the globe, what became the South American tectonic plate took off westward.

That tiny red spot near the bottom represents where the Falklands were before they began their sea journey.  Note the shape of the area to the right of the "G" in Gondwana.   Look familiar?

As did the Falklands, becoming an archipelago on its own geologic platform.  The problem is they didn’t separate enough.  A little globe I bought for 25 pesos from a street vendor in Buenos Aires explains why:

Note that Argentina, in orange, claims the Falklands, South Georgia, the Antarctic Peninsula, and everything  south, as well as a slice of the Antarctic Continent.  The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas stirred the stuff when it prescribed an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that allows states to have special rights 200 miles seaward from its shores.  Two hundred miles from Argentina’s shore happens to overlap the Falkland’s 200 miles, and so on.

Approaching the outer islands from the west, I noticed the steep, wind and water-carved cliffs.

 The French started it with a small settlement in 1698.  But then, there is that wee curiosity about the canoes found on the islands.   Maybe flotsam from the tribes in Tierra del Fuego?

 The French named the islands Maluines.  They left and Great Britain established a crown colony in 1765, but later gave the islands to Spain, which translated the French name into Spanish—Malvinas. 

Argentina claimed the Malvinas (Falklands) after it won its independence from Spain, on the basis of the islands being in the Argentine Sea and inside the Argentine continental shelf.   Argentina established a colony in the Malvinas.

Then the British came back and took it back, ousting the Argentines in 1833.  Ever since then, there has been a British colonial government on the Falklands.

Our destination on New Island, West Falklands.

Notice how I keep changing back between Falklands and Malvinas?

This is how to be politically correct when you’re dealing with the British or the Argentines:

If you’re talking to someone on the islands or to a British subject, you say Falklands Islands and the capital city is Stanley.

If you’re talking to an Argentine, it’s Malavinas and Puerto Argentino.

In mixed company, it’s best to play it safe and not use proper nouns.  Instead, say the islands and the capital city.

(If you don’t think you can keep them straight, not to worry.  Neither can our president:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2131359/Barack-Obama-makes-Falklands-gaffe-calling-Malvinas-Maldives.html)

Look, they fought a war over this in 1982 and it’s still a sore subject, especially in Argentina because they started it and the British ended it as the winners.  More on this later in these journals.

Even this Rockhopper penguin seems upset about the fuss.

Nowadays, the islands are populated by 2200 more-British-than-British residents and probably an equal number of Land Rovers.  Those four-wheel-drive vehicles are manufactured in Britain, of course.  Also on the islands are around 1000 British “service agents” garrisoned at a military base.  And sheep.  And penguins and cormorants and albatross.  Plus, lots of land birds.

As well as some Upland geese and their goslings.

More about this later.  Let’s set foot on land now and see what’s there.

Our first landing after 1186 nautical miles and  more than 90 hours at sea.

Strong arms to help with a slippery boat launch landing.

Tide's out, hence the rope for help.
Gully and Kathy under a whalebone arch.

A small museum and gift shop.

After a moderate walk across the island, in rain falling sideways, I finally reached the stopping point.

This pretty much is what the weather looked like.

And once I got my jaw back where it belonged and my eyes could see the tree for the forest, this was my first penguin sighting, less than 30 inches from me.  It's a Rockhopper penguin.  He's sound asleep and drenched with rain.   Rockhoppers are known to attack humans if they approach too close.  This guy slept through it all.

Just beyond him, a penguin couple.  Note the water far below.  Wondering why they're called Rockhoppers?  Because that's how they got this far up the cliffs, hopping on rocks.
This photo taken with a rain spotted lens is what made my jaw drop.  All those black things are penguins.

Gully and part of the penguin colony.  My camera bag is soaking wet and I'm hiding cameras under my blue parka.  That penguin, is still sleeping.  He's in the center water spot.

That's my hand at the left, and my knee at the bottom of the photo.  The Rockhopper is pulling a blade of dead tussock grass.
The grass wouldn't come loose so he whacked it with his fin (wing) and marched off with it.
And took it home to his mate.
Another penguin bringing home a beakful of wet vegetation.
More penguins in the opposite direction.   Rockhoppers lay two eggs, but only one chick survives.   Why?

Could it be because there's always a scavenging albatross nearby?

But not because of these Blue-Eyed Shags (cormorants).  They eat fish.

Heading back to the ship.

With a couple local residents.  Note the rope that dad uses to pull the bike along.


If you’re wondering why I posted all these penguin photos with information about continental drift and tectonic plates, there are two reasons:

   1.  When the Falklands slowed down and hovered where they are, they became the perfect penguin habitat, and,
 I I took about 2000 photos on this trip, most of them of penguins, so I need to stick them in somewhere.  Besides, they’re cute.


  1. Jealous! So jealous.

    P.S. On the way into town from the Buenos Aires airport is a sign that reads "Las Malvinas son Argentina!" So there ;-)

  2. You'll never post too many penguin pictures. I love them so much!!

    Keep up the good work, Gully. I'm trying so hard to be only happy for you and not jealous. It works some of the time!!!

  3. Expat: You should see Ushuaia! There are signs all over. I'll be dealing with this more later on when the journals arrive in Ushuaia. It's funny and sad.

  4. Shaddy: Know how you feel. Just remember I'm a lot older than you so maybe someday you can also go. Hang on, these journals have a long way to go before they conclude. I was telling a friend I was trying to think of a way to shorten them, and she almost flipped her lid. NO NO NO, I want to know EVERYTHING! Vicarious adventure for her.

  5. I just sit here and MARVEL .. Cap ..

  6. That first Rockhopper (the one with the huge pinkish-looking feet) looks like it's wearing Black Shatter toenail polish. Yikes.