Views: 3192620.11.2009 21:10:54
Camera Trip to the Falkland Islands – A Summary.

It’s not very usual to start with a summary. This article is more like a promise that I will write something more detailed than this overview. Something like a teaser.

506 Hours on the Falkland Islands
We, that is to say, me and Ondra Prosický entered on 10th January 2009 the Falkland Island at the British military base Mount Pleasant, apparently as the first Czechs, because we hadn’t found any previous record about visitors from the Czech Republic.

There are only 500-800 people visiting Falkland Islands a year. I don’t count about 5.000 “steamboaters”, as we had called passengers from cruise ships, who went ashore in rubber boats, dressed up in uniform red waterproof overalls, stayed there for two or three hours to exploat a giftshop or a settlement nearby and to put a tick next to their “I’ve seen the penguins.”

We spent 21 days on the Islands.

Our first journey led of course from the airport at Mount Pleasant to the 50 km distant Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands. So after the first day we were already not willingly and not very rightfully covered in the dust of the road, but not the metaphorical one, but real natural powder of flesh colour. These 50 kilometers we drove on a dusty road, or more exactly on a crushed stone rolled flat. It’s the only way to get from the single international airport on the Islands to Stanley. Our conveyance was not of the impervious and it rushed on at 80 kmph, so it’s obvious that it was a little bit dusty inside the vehicle.

Ondra Prosický - laying, shooting... Falkland Islands. Stanley. 2009

Stanley was our base. It was also a place where we took our first photos of things we actually wanted to take photos of – a real wildlife. On our way to town we spotted a few grazing Upland Goose. All of our co-travelleres, including the participants of Ralph Paonessa’s photo workshop, hid themselves and licked their wounds from the journey and the entry rite at Mount Pleasant base. But Ondra couldn’t wait and so we pursued them in the rain, just after putting our luggage in our room.sky was overcast, it was raining, so we put on the better-beamers and we were crawling after them, careless of husice wet, sticking, green s…
Our first pictures on the Islands.
Our joy wasn’t spoiled neither by a fact that we were on a football pitch nor that these geese are the most common birds on the Falkland Islands, as we discovered later.

Gypsy Cove
Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus). Gypsy Cove. Falkland Islands 2009

I couldn’t forget to mention our trip to Gypsy Cove in this recapitulation.
We had one day left to acclimatize ourselves before a departure to the Volunteer Point. We couldn’t just stay in the room – such a waste of time. In the local guide-book we found that it is only a “short-walk” 4.6 km to the Gypsy Cove. We put our sixteen-kilo-bags on, not to speak about my 4.5 kg Gitzo with Wimberley and we set out.
It was boiling hot, Ondra had a bad stomach ache and we needed to stop every ten minutes because of his stomach cramps, but he was holding on bravely. His eyes weren’t glassy yet, so we went on, occasionally taking photos of, for example gulls, a shipwreck, etc.
After more than 11 kilometers we arrived to our destination. We saw our first wild penguins ever down on the beach. We were off…
You can find 117 mine fields on the Falkland Islands, a reminder of the British -Argentinean conflict from 1982. One of those can be found right at Gypsy Cove. Badly marked at the map, but very clear in the field. Although we were determined to photograph, the penguins were too distant and we didn’t dare to go closer because of the mines, as Ondra said, “You know, I’m still young…”
But we had our first takes: Gentoo Penguin, my first open-air-penguin, Austral Thrush, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Kelp Gull. We didn’t return on foot. Ondra, clearly motivated by the vision of suffering another 11 km, asked in brilliant English some good man in a Landrover to take us back. So we both survived with second degree burns on the face, Ondra’s in addition to blotches from the sun and diarrhoea, which we stopped with applying some veterinary medicine.

Volunteer Point
A place in the North-East of the Falkland Islands, approximately two-hours-ride on a trackless ground covered in heather. You can ride wherever you want, but you must have a precise knowledge of the “wherever”. We stayed for five days in the sole building far and wide - a house of local warden.
There I met a penguin colony for the first time in my life. On the one-kilometer-long way from the house to the colony of King Penguins there were hundreds burrows of Gentoo Penguins and hundreds and hundreds of Magellanic Penguins. I will never forget the distinct and strong smell and cries of the colonies. And the beach. On the 750 metres long beach there were three species of penguins, they hovered round in small groups, tasted the water, the sun was shining, the sea had all the shades of turquoise, I took photos while a cutting wind was whizzing, I had sand everywhere and the Atlantic Ocean was pouring into my boots... and then quickly back, 25 meters up, to the colony of King Penguins, I didn’t want to miss a thing... I had 16 Gb of photos only that afternoon.
In the evening in the warden’s house, heated with turf, if I hadn‘t fallen asleep covered with my laptop before I could do anything else, I would have usually erased most of it. Quite unromantically.

King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus). Falkland Islands. Volunteer Point. 2009

Sea Lion Island

On the South from the East Island, the main island of the Falkland Islands, you can find the southmost accomodation on the Earth. We flew there with Islander, which is a six-seated little aeroplane of Britten-Norman brand owned by local airlines. We knew that its last accident was in 2006, when they broke one of the wings during the landing. After 75 metres we took off in 45 degrees to the ground. We had three stops, one of them in somebody’s garden, before we landed on the Sea Lion Island. When we were flying through a raincloud it sounded like there was a motor-saw running through the plane, but we emerged from the clouds surprisingly whole – one had got used to it.

I wasn’t paying attention and walked down through the grass to the shore. I found myself four or five metres from a male of tulen hrivnaty. It was very surprised, as was I. It had its head enlarged by a mane in the level with my chest, so I tactically retreated. Just 25 metres behind the retreting line there layed young males of Southern Elephant Seals.
There was a gigantic colony of Imperial Shag, on the 50m high cliffs rising from the sea. It was a temptation, which we quarried for 6km through grass and bog moss several times. Soles of our feet were hurting horribly, a result of walking in hard boots on a soft ground, but the view was worth it. And so were photos. We also found the penguins with very fitting name, Rockhoppers, so that was another species of penguins we had seen. We usually stayed long into the evening and one day the reward for that was a pustovka.

A synonym for „overfired“ photos was a photo shoot of Giant Petrels. Ondra had sneered at me for a long time, when he saw I was frowning over a badly exposed photo, „...so what? A Petrel...?“

Giant Petrel. Sea Lion Island. Falklands 2009.

Saunders Island - The Neck

We flew across the whole Falkland Islands to the north-west. We took on two shepherds at one stop, their felt coats full of pelt, they smelled like sheep from afar so much, that Ondra felt slightly sick, it didn’t even help that one of those men knew Prague, the Czech capital.
The private island with an area approximately like West Bohemia has five inhabitants and the two of us in addition. We rode through even harder terrain, the driver didn’t care much for the boulders the size of horse heads. The locality was The Neck, a beach between two hills and on its both sides there was the Ocean.
There were thousands of Magellanic Penguins, hundreds of Rockhoppers, Gentoo Penguins and most importantly Black-browed Albatross. They were clumsily dignified on the ground, their nests had a shape of russian papacha and there was one sitting fluffy grey hatch with what could had been a frozen smile.
Looking for macaroni (Macaroni Penguins), the only species of penguin which had been missing in our Falkland penguins collection, was unfortunately not successful. So it seemed as a compensation to receive a wonderful sunset, the only proper one we saw, actually. Ondra went almost mad about it.

In the morning, when I was sitting on a cliff above the ocean, I relished the feeling and sense of solitude, waves, wind, nothing hurted me and for hundreds of square kilometers might had been just two or three people. And somewhere over the hill ten thousand sheep.

Black-browed Albatross. Falkland Islands. 2009

Carcass Island

Since my childhood I have forgotten how should cream look like and taste like, I mean a cream straight from the cow not a chemical one. This was reminded to me, and to Ondra even in greater amounts, by Rob, the owner of the homestead on Carcass Island, where we lived for few days. It is sad when things are not as they should be, which can be said about cream same as about the Terns. We went to Carcass Island mainly because of them and we really walked through, and in a case of giant Tussac Grass even crawled through, the parts of the Island where rybaci should had been. Well, they didn’t die, my dear readers, but nested out, caring not for our almost perfect and until then well-working plan, they left their breeding place. A failure? Not really, we took photos of more than 30 speciess of birds, so I really enjoyed photo shoot of Magellanic Oystercatcher and Blackish Oystercatcher, which species I had slightly neglected previously.
There were other options ahead of us, since the absence of Terns. There was a beautiful colony of Kelp Gull, and mainly Southern Elephant Seals. At last we saw really big males and among them even bigger than big ones – five metres long and 3½ or 4 tons by estimate of living moving mass. That is two Volkswagen Passat cars, for your idea. When the Elephant Seal was lying it reached up to my waist, when it rised a little it was same high as I am, which is 1.81 meter.
Our courage (and stupidity maybe) increased with a desire to photo a really dynamic picture. I shooted with 17-35mm focus on a full-frame. Ondra described to me a weird effect, which I had already known from photo shooting sharks, for example: when you are looking through the range finder, you have a false feelinge of a bystander. But when you put your camera aside, you may find that especially with wide focus you stand face to face with a rippling Elephant Seal, which has no intention to move aside.

rypouš sloní. Southern Elephant Seal. Falklandy. 2009

I thought, that this would be a short summary, a teaser, as I had written at the beginning.
It is too long.
I thank for reading to those who have read through.

Bohdan Nemec, Santiago de Chile and Pilsen, February 2009

Translation from czech original version by Tereza Němcová: gwareth@seznam.cz
Comments on article 'FALKLAND ISLANDS - I. Summary'
Comment 1-4 / 4
28.10.2013 14:04:05
20.4.2010 17:01:29
Pavel / mikoska.com
Hezký článek.
20.4.2010 21:01:34
Bohdan Němec
Děkuji. Díky Vám jsem si uvědomil, že už je to rok, kdy jsem článek psal...
7.3.2011 17:53:19
Vladimír Jurek
Ahoj Bohdane, cesty interenetu jsou nevyzpytalelné na veterinární léčiva se mi objevil tvůj článek o Falklandech. Je to pěkně napsané, velice lákavá inspirace. Potkal jsem Ondru na vernisáži Rosti Stacha a Vaška Šilhy a uvědomil jsem si , že vy jste vyfotili skoro všechno za čím musel Vašek Šilha podstatně jižněji.
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