Tuesday, May 29, 2012

There's Nothing Casual About Penguins

I took a couple of days to settle in and get acquainted with the area before I went into the museum. On Monday Steve, the museum's taxidermist/handyman, took me to see some of the sites outside Stanley. He drove the the museum's 4x4 across some rather treacherous terrain out to Cape Pembroke, the most eastern point int the Falkland Islands. There were tracks through the rolling grass/peat/rocks, but many had filled with water and it was a challenge to figure out the best path without getting stuck. For five pounds, the museum lends out the key to the Cape Pembroke lighthouse, which no longer works as its mechanism was damaged in 1982. However, you can climb all the way to the top and out on the walkway of this prefab cast-iron Victorian structure.
You can just make out the lighthouse beyond the dunes.
I'm pretty sure neither the National Trust nor the National Park Service would let anyone up there as the last two ladders are a bit tricky and it's easy to loose your footing on the walkway in the smallest wind.  If I'd let it, the wind would have blown me around the top a few times. Back on the ground, we walked past the memorial for the Atlantic Conveyor, a ship sunk in 1982, to a small spot covered in the native Tussac grass. This grass appeals so much to the wildlife that it has disappeared from much of the Islands. However, mine clearing operations are helping to bring it back as clean areas are being replanted with Tussac. Farther to the west, we spied some Gentoo penguins enjoying white sand beaches made private by the presence of more mines. Don't worry, the penguins aren't big enough to set the mines off (if they're even there).
Barbed wire and the risk of death separate me from the penguins.
Continuing west, we stopped again at two of the most popular wildlife spots in the summer. Yorke Bay and Gypsy Cove spend months crawling with Magellanic penguins and other creatures, but they have vacated for the winter. Instead of making nests, the Magellanic penguins dig burrows where they lay their eggs. Visiting the Falkland Islands, you're much more likely to trip over one of these than tread on a mine. However, the resulting infestation of penguin fleas may make you wish for the mine. Our adventures left plenty of time for Steve to drop me at the library before it closed. The Community Library occupies part of the Community School/Leisure Center complex and lends books to visitors and residents alike. I was pleasantly surprised by both their excellent selection and the availability of DVDs to rent. It looks like I'll be catching up on my new releases when I'm not devouring their local interest section
A typical Stanley day - snow one minute, sunshine the next.
 The museum's manager, Leona, was out on Tuesday, but I still got to look around the museum. For a small operation, their collection is fairly impressive. Unfortunately, they just don't have the space to display everything properly and most of the exhibitions have been assembled rather haphazardly over the years. The artifacts are grouped somewhat thematically/chronologically, but there's no overarching interpretation or story and text is restricted to small object labels. Within the next year and a half, the museum is planning to move from its current location to a historic building closer to the center of town. This should increase both their space and visitation. Currently, most visitors have to walk a mile from the jetty where their cruise ships drop them off and not all tourists are up for the walk. I'll try to take some pictures at the museum next week. On Wednesday, Leona was in and she handed over what oral history materials she could find.

The museum is in chaos preparing for an exhibition on 1982 they're opening in town next Wednesday, so I took my box of CDs and assorted paperwork back to the house. After isolating the clocks behind the closed office door (they were ticking and I hate ticking clocks), I've set up shop on the dining room table. Most of the recordings were done in 2009, but there are plenty of others and there's no central location for documentation or recordings. The archives has a fairly complete spreadsheet, but the head archivist used to be in broadcasting so she doesn't distinguish between Oral Histories and other recorded primary sources. I've now finished rough transcriptions of two interviews from the 2009 collection. In class at NMSU, I also advocated for the inclusion of all "um"s, "uhs"s, "you know"s, and pauses in oral history transcripts. I TAKE IT BACK. I'm so glad the museum is letting me leave those out. However, I am rapidly forming a rather negative opinion of the gentleman who did these interviews. He doesn't begin the recordings by introducing himself/the interviewee/date/location, he's constantly interrupting, and asks a lot of leading questions. In general, he just talks far too much. On one of the recordings it was quite entertaining to listen to his interviewee getting more and more irritated.

Of course I have already acquainted myself with several of the local pubs. My favorite, known locally as "the Vic," even has a cat! I went in there on Wednesday for Steak Night and didn't get home until about 4 in the morning. It was so crowded that I didn't have anywhere to eat my steak until a group of relatively young guys made room for me at their table. Since then, I've hung out with them (and others of the 20/30-something expat community) a couple of times and I'm even going to a birthday party this weekend. It seems strange to use the word "expat" since many of them are Brits, but there are also Canadians, Chileans, and people from all over. It's a little terrifying how many people I've met here who came on a short contract and years later still haven't left.

The mysterious pub cat, waiting to be served. I've heard several strange stories 
about his identity. One person told me he had a twin, another that his name was 
"Bacardi." I think the most likely story was that his name is "Smoky." How original...
My house does have a car I can use, but I'm staying far away from that adventure as I can't drive a manual transmission, I've never driven on the left, and I'm much more comfortable in my Fiesta than a hulking 4x4. This means that I walk pretty much everywhere. As the center of town is about a mile away, I'm walking 2-4 miles everyday. On Friday I'm pretty sure I walked 6 as I went into town twice and wandered around quite a bit. Today, I tested grocery shopping for the first time. I took a reusable shopping bag from the house and walked to the supermarket at the center of town (after making stops at the museum, the archives, and the library). I discovered that the very sturdy and affordable bag safely holds a basket's worth of groceries. Perfect! It got a bit heavy on the way home, but the cold kept anything from spoiling and I made it.
The ever so convenient and sturdy shopping bag. Why
don't they make them this well in the US?
MK will appreciate this: On Friday night, after the pubs closed, the party continued at the apartment of one of the Brits. He explained to me that I was freaking out rather unnecessarily when Patrick Wolf's "The Magic Position" came on somewhere between the Top 40 and the Chilean dance music as it was perfectly logical for a Brit to have a song by a British artist. However, I do believe this was the first time I have ever heard this song played by someone who was not MK or myself. For the rest of you: Enjoy!


  1. YOU HAVE WAITROSE THERE?! I'm so jealous! I love Waitrose!

    1. Well, the store is actually owned by the Falkland Islands Company, but it carries a lot of Waitrose products.

  2. :D i hope you pointed at him. pointing is most important.

    1. Oh no! I forgot about the pointing! I did, however, explain about the clapping.