Falkland islands offer unique experiences

Christ Church Cathedral has a whalebone arch in the yard. This is the southernmost church in the world.

A key to the lighthouse we visited. It was large, iron, heavy and looked ancient.

Sweet treats at Kay’s house in Stanley in the Falkland Islands.
By : 
Dr. Jan Meyer
Biker's Diary


While our time at Stanley, Falkland Islands, was limited on this trip to Antarctica, it was filled with experiences. We went inside Christ Church Cathedral, which is the southernmost church in the world (in the southernmost capital of the world). Most of the furnishings of the church were original, and of particular interest, at least to me, were handmade items such as the needlepoint covers on the footrests in the pews. Its front yard is home to the famous whalebone arch, actually made out of huge whalebones.

We were able to go inside a restored cottage, furnished with pioneer-type items, which was one of the house “kits” sent from the UK in 1849 to building housing for the first settlers. Some early houses had been built with bricks, but it was too expensive to ship bricks there, and kit houses became quite common.

Towards the end of the tour, our guide Dunham took us to Kay’s house, a planned stop for these tours. Kay is a native, I’d guess in her 60s, whose children and grandchildren also all live in Stanley.

First we had to remove our boots or shoes and our jackets in a tiny little entryway; we took turns because we did not all fit. Then we entered Kay’s house through the kitchen to the small dining room. She is an incredible baker and all 12 of us were seated around her dining room table which had been pre-set with about 10 large plates of different homemade sweets. It looked like a photo display for a baking magazine. I marveled at how she could bake all of that in her tiny little kitchen! She said she does it all the day before a cruise ship is stopping, and in between she bakes for a local restaurant.

When we were all seated, she brought tea to go with the sweets. And, she kept refilling the plates as we ate our way through the goodies. Kay said she does this for every tour group, which seems very ambitious. I thought it said a lot about the closeness of the people who live on the island. Being able to talk to her, and ask questions, was a bonus of the tour.

When our tour was finished, Dunham asked some of us if we wanted to see more. I was curious, so asked him what that entailed. He said he would drive us around what we hadn’t seen yet of Stanley the city, and we would go out into the country to visit a very old lighthouse and some of the penguin colonies on the beaches. When he said they were rock-hopping penguins, I misheard him and thought he had said “rock opera” penguins and maybe they were going to entertain us!

I guess most of the others from the tour group wanted to go shopping, but two of us did elect to join Dunham for a visit to the countryside. Before we left town, we stopped at a government office and picked up the key to the lighthouse, and a special key it was. It was large, iron, heavy, and looked ancient. It seems regular tours who go to the countryside get to see the lighthouse from the outside only; we were privileged to be able to get inside. There we climbed three straight-up-and-down ladders to reach the very top, where the view was incredible.

We drove by the town’s racetrack and Dunham said they usually have three or four races per year. It is only a very few wealthy families who own a horse, so the races usually have at most four competitors. The tradition is that the winner must ride down the main street in the town after the race, and people in houses along the route have their big windows latched open, holding out a beer for the winner as he rides by.

We didn’t see any singing “rock opera” penguins, but we did get to the beach. Unfortunately, we were limited as to the area we could enter because of landmines: during what is termed the “Liberation War” with Argentina, the Argentines planted landmines on most of the beaches to hopefully deter the invading British. It is too expensive to clear the landmines, so many of the beaches are posted as off-limits and dangerous. Dunham confessed that he thought it was okay to not have them cleared because it deters people from spoiling the environment.

I was curious about how waste and trash were managed on the ship, and was told that everything is recycled or treated. I saw the evidence as we were returning to the ship on the pier at Stanley. Stacked alongside the ship were huge bundles of flattened cardboard boxes all tied together, bags of bottles and cans, and everything you’d see out on the curb at home awaiting pickup by the recycling truck. It was a piece of evidence of how those coastal towns have adapted to the relatively new business of tourism to their part of the world. They also sell a lot of supplies to the ships. I knew that not all of that food could have been carried on board from Norway, so there had to be re-stocking along the way.

The weather had turned pretty bad by the time we got back to the ship. In fact, the wind had picked up so much that once again it was difficult to remain upright when facing into it. So it was good to get back onboard and inside after a day of walking, looking and listening. And we weren’t finished yet.



"While our time at Stanley, Falkland Islands, was limited on this trip to Antarctica, it was filled with experiences. We went inside Christ Church Cathedral, which is the southernmost church in the world (in the southernmost capital of the world)"
This is not really accurate. Ushuaia, Argentina, located about 2,000 miles south of Buenos Aires, is the capital of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) province and is the southernmost city on earth. It is also home to the southernmost Catholic church on the planet—Our lady of Mercy. There is a Mormon church in Puerto Williams, a Chilean village (less than 3,000 people) just across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia and about six miles further south. There are conflicting claims… Punta Arenas is the southernmost diocese in the whole Roman Catholic Church and its parish Nuestra Señora del Carmen, in Puerto Williams (Navarino island), is the southernmost Catholic parish in the world.
Much depends on use of narrow definations.