Blown Away

The Falkland Islands are 5,400 miles from our home in the Florida Keys; Saunders Island settlement is 100 miles from Stanley town; and, The Neck is 10 miles from the settlement.

Not feeling remote enough, on our second day at The Neck, we decided to hike around Mount Harston to the ponds near Elephant Point, 4 miles away. I think we were about as isolated as we will ever be on this planet.

The weather wasn’t too bad when we started off from the Portakamp.

We walked down the hill to the beach on the south side of The Neck where we saw an abandoned “try-pot” up on a rocky outcropping. Try-pots were used around the time of the American Civil War in the 1860s to make oil out of Rockhopper penguins, by, essentially, melting them down – an activity that, fortunately, was not very profitable and lasted only 15 years, though it took the lives of nearly two million Rockhopper Penguins.

We continued our trek across The Neck. You might be able to make out the thousands of Gentoo penguins in the photos, above and below; there is a huge colony here inhabiting The Neck.

Additionally, you should be able to see the Portakamp on the righthand side of Mount Richards in the center of the photo, below; the lefthand promontory is where we saw the Albatross and Rockhoppers.

We hiked on sheep trails along the slope of Mount Harston. Sheep are very skittish creatures.

About an hour out from camp, the wind started to really blow and the temperature dropped significantly; then, it started to hail. You can see it hitting Dale’s jacket.

After another hour, having hiked about four miles, we dropped down the hillside to the beach, skirting the ponds that had been our destination. Looking back into the wind, we could see we had quite a hike to get back to camp at the foot of Mount Richards.

The wind was blowing near 25 knots by now, turning the breakers into perfectly surfable waves – except for the fact that the South Atlantic is probably around 50° F and the wind chill took the air temperature down to near freezing.

But these Gentoo Penguins didn’t seem to mind.

Then, as it gusted to 30 knots, they thought better of it and headed for the hills, leaving us to deal with the sandstorm and the surf.

Walking into the wind was considerably more tiring than hiking with it at our backs, but two hours later we saw that wonderful sight: our Portakamp, up on the rise.

As we walked through a colony of Gentoo penguins (above), a Skua swooped in right behind us. He wasn’t the least bit afraid of us and I was able to get right up to him for this photograph.

We were glad to get back to camp to warm up – just in time for afternoon tea.

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