New Island, Falkland Islands

New Island and our landing beach on Coffin Harbour

We went ashore first at New Island, which was one of the earliest of the Falkland Islands to be colonised, and American whalers may have arrived as early as the 1770s. Coffin's Harbour, where we landed, commemorates the Coffin family of Nantucket. In 1813, Captain Charles H. Barnard, from Nantucket, was marooned with his crew on the island.

Captain Barnard was engaged in a sealing venture around the Falklands and was marooned along with four of his men on New Island. These events occurred in the context of the war between America and England in 1812. After rescuing survivors of the wreck of the British ship Isabella, which had gone aground on Speedwell Island, Barnard and his men were left on New Island by the very men they had saved. With his own vessel Nanina stolen, Barnard and his companions were left with only a few personal items, his dog and an open boat. For two years they survived on or about the Island until they were eventually rescued. Barnard describes his exploits in a book he published in 1829.

During their time on the Island, Barnard and his men constructed a rough stone building. Its exact position on the Island was uncertain. Through a lot of research and patience, a copy of Barnard’s original narrative and map, it has been established that the position of his stone shelter was at the head of what is now called Settlement Harbour, where the current Captain Barnard Museum now stands. This is the oldest standing building in the Falklands and was restored to become the museum in 2006.

In 1823, Antarctic explorer Captain James Weddell anchored at the island, and commented on its excellent harbours and its natural food and water supplies. In the 1850s and 60s, the island's guano deposits were mined.

A number of attempts were made in the 1900s to catch whales in commercial quantities, but all failed after short periods of existence. The Norwegian whaling company Ørnen, controlled by Christen Christensen of Sandefjord, sent the first modern floating whaling factory, Admiralen, to New Island in 1905. The vessel arrived on 24 December, but during one month of operation only 40 whales (24 fin, 12 sei, 3 sperm, and 1 humpback) were caught. With scant pickings, Admiralen quickly sailed on to the South Shetland Islands to look for blue and right whales. From 1908, the Scottish company Chr. Salvesen operated a land based whaling station under the name New Whaling Company. A transport vessel and a whale catcher arrived in 1908 and brought a decommissioned land station from Iceland. 226 whales (215 sei) being caught the first season. Results were unsatisfactory though, with the station last operating in 1915. Of the reported catch, over 900 were sei whales (about two-thirds of the total). Remains of the station is still visible.

The wreck of the Glengowan remains from the time of the whalers. After loading a full cargo of coal at Swansea for delivery to San Francisco, the Glengowan cargo caught fire in the South Atlantic and forced Captain Doughty to head for the Falkland Islands in an attempt to save the ship. She arrived in Port Stanley in December 1895 but was scuttled the following day in shallow waters at Whalebone Cove. Purchased by Chr. Salvesen & Co., Leith in 1909 and towed to the company’s shore-station at New Island for use as coal storage hulk. During the 1910/11 whaling season, manager Andreas Nilsen decided to make a large gap in the vessel’s stern to allow 24” gauge railway coal wagons to be rolled directly into the ship to ease unloading the coal. This may have been the idea for whaling factory ships some years later. In 1916 the New Island shore station closed down, and most of the plant equipment was shipped to Leith Harbour, South Georgia. The Glengowan sank at her moorings. Parts of her structure is still visible and we saw them as we left Coffin Harbour. .

The island also has the shipwreck of a sealing vessel, the Protector III. She was built in Port Greville Nova Scotia Canada at the Wagstaff and Hatfield Shipyard as a mine sweeper for the British Admiralty in 1942. Protector III was used in the Falklands as a sealer and later as a fishing and general workboat:she was beached in 1969. This is the ship that we saw on the beach when we landed at Coffin Harbour.

Since 1996 the island has been owned and run by The New Island Conservation Trust which acquired the freehold of the entire property in 2005. The Trust is managed by a Board of Trustees under the Chairmanship of Air Vice-Marshal David Crwys-Williams CB, a former Commander of the British Forces, Falklands Islands, in the 1980s.The major benefactor to the Trust has been the Geoffrey C Hughes Charitable Trust which not only made the purchase possible, but also funded the well-equipped Field Centre used as a base for teams of wildlife researchers from many different countries. The Trust relies entirely on donations to continue its conservation and research work.

Today 39 species of bird regularly breed on New Island. More than two million seabirds inhabit its shores and surrounding smaller islands, with large numbers of breeding Rockhopper, Gentoo and Magellanic penguins, and more than 13,000 pairs of breeding Black-browed Albatross. The importance of New Island as a breeding ground, along with a number of other islands in this part of the archipelago can be attributed to the Falkland Current. A main stream of this current flows to the west side of New Island, creating one of the richest marine resources and feeding grounds for wildlife to be found around the Falkland Islands.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a larger photo

An odd weather condition as we approach New Island Our landing beach was where the wreck of Protector III sits An ex-minesweeper, hence the wooden hull used as a sealer And the museum built from the restored ruins of Barnard's hut
A short walk over the ridge to the windward side of island .. ..where our goal was the Rockhopper Penguin colony .. Living up to their name, these little fellows do hop their way .. ..up the rocks to get to their nests at the top of the cliffs.
Like most penguins they are "cute" and this species .. ..sprouting eyebrows make them easy to identify. The boys liked the penguins and wanted to get among the guano. A number of Albatross bred on the cliff as well. These big..
..birds needed the windward facing cliffs in order to takeoff .. They build towers of mud for nesting and make regular flights . ..out to sea in order to feed their enormous "chicks" These are big birds, and lumber in order to get airborne.
The walk back to the boat gave us a chance to see other birds .. The falklands are known for different species of geese. These breed in the tussock grass, which is an essential part of the .. structure. The grass is now recovering as the island is..
..a nature reserve. So it was .. ..back down to the beach, and .. ..into the Zodiacs for the short .. ..ride back to Explorer and away
The wreck of 1800 ton iron Glengowan. She was used as a coal hulk by the whaling station And New Island drops away behind us as we head to our next stop at Saunders Island And a couple of geese with the moon behind to see us off.  

Next to Saunders Island

Falkland Islands in Silversea Explorer