Volunteer Point, East Falkland

The ship anchored off Stanley, and we had a dry landing at the jetty in Stanley. Here we picked up our Falkland's guide, who would take us by Land Rover to Volunteer Point

Volunteer Point is one of the easternmost points of the islands. During the Falklands War, Argentine commanders considered it a potential British landing point, because it was far from continental Argentine airbases and their new Falkland base at Pebble Island, but also a strategic foothold for any British force wishing to retake Stanley .However, in the event, the British landings took place on San Carlos Water in the west of East Falkland, on Falkland Sound. Having seen Volunteer Point Beach on a "quiet" day, I can appreciate why no British invasion force commander would have considered anchoring off this exposed beach and trying to land men and supplies over a period of weeks.

Getting there is an adventure in its own right. After a few hours the road runs out, and there is a further 1.5 hours over some of the wettest, boggiest land on East Falkland. Apparently it is not unusual to get 3 or 4 land rovers 'bogged' along the track. Although "track" is a bit of a euphemism, as for most of the time we seems to be driving over virgin bog with no discernable track, and not that many features for navigation. Due to its remoteness, there are relatively few visitors at any time, and when we went there were only the three of us in the land rover, and not another soul to be seen.

Birds for which the site is of conservation significance include Falkland Steamer Ducks (75 breeding pairs), Ruddy-headed Geese (100 pairs), Gentoo Penguins (100 pairs), Magellanic Penguins (2000 pairs) and White-bridled Finches. Volunteer Point is also notable for having about 150 pairs of King Penguins breed here, at the most northerly part of their range. King Penguins were once nearly extinct in the Falklands, and Volunteer Point contains most of the Falkland population.

The beach is spectacular.The waves crash in, the penguins wade in regardless. The sand is whipped up into a skin rasping sandpaper by the wind. Kings inhabit one end of the beach and Gentoo the other. This was also life in the raw - the occasional penguin carcass lay on the beach to be picked apart by carrion birds. The King Penguin colony is resident all year round and, due to the gestation period of Kings, there are usually chicks to be seen. King chicks are covered in thick, brown, downy feathers which can make an adolescent chick appear larger than an adult bird. Like most other penguin colonies, Volunteers is a noisy, quarrelsome place with much trumpeting and strutting.

Our Falkland guide was a fount of knowledge on the Islands, and though a bit reticent, we drew her out into animated conversation for the 5 hours we spent in the 4*4 to get to Volunteer and back. About half way back - having got back in mobile phone range of Stanley, we were summoned to return immediately to the ship. A freshening breeze was making the prospect of exiting the narrows, at the mouth of Stanley harbour, an increasingly difficult prospect. So the Captain wanted to get off as quickly as possible. The upshot was that we missed the hours wander through Stanley that we had expected, but such is the unpredictability of travel.

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

We nosed into the inner harbour at Stanley and took the Zodiac .. ..into the jetty in town, where we had a dry landing and met our.. ..Falklander guide and her sturdy Land Rover, that took us out .. see the penguins at Volunteer Point
This is one of the better stretches of the track that led across the .. ..bog to the windswept beach at Volunteer Point itself. The King Penguins huddle together at one end of the beach. Various groups or individuals would wander off from the main..
group, and just take the airs or go down to the beach and .. ..plunge into what I assume to be icy waters. We left it to the .. ..penguins to go swimming. The Kings certainly are very .. ..regal. The boys were sufficiently in awe to keep out.
As one went along the beach , the Kings gave way to Gentoo.. .. but both types were happy to co-exist, and brave the waves. The beach was held in place by this Sea Cabbage, which ... ..anchored the sand in the strong and persistent wind
Chris has a small admirer here, they were very curious. The lying flat with head to wind seemed their preferred posture. Not surprisingly it took a bit of courage to actually enter the .. ..water. And groups would hang round on the edge of the water ..
..until one, braver than the rest would plunge in, and the others . ..would follow. It was hard work for us walking into the wind. The occasional dead penguin pup would be scavenged. The Magellanic Penguins live in burrows, and sometimes all you .
saw was the head sticking out from the penguin on guard. Back along the track to Johnsons Harbour and onto a better road. Such is tourism that this toilet block had been built. A crashed Argentine Ch47 from the War. Also 2 pumas near by
Back on board, the wind was .. ..strong as we gently edged away from our anchorage and out into open sea. Past Nat Geographic.

So safely out of the narrow exit to Stanley Harbour, the Silversea Explorer headed west and south to South Georgia, another British territory.

Falkland Islands in Silversea Explorer