Sunday, March 21, 2010

Trip to Bleaker

On the 8th of March I was invited out to Bleaker with some of the wives. It was a stunningly clear and bright day, still with the usual Falkland Islands wind but beautiful nether the less.
It was strange to be back on Bleaker as this is where we stayed when I came to visit John over 3 years ago now. Above is one of the Load Masters on the BRINTELS. These chaps make sure that the loads within the helicopter are correct, synched down, passengers move aboard and depart safely from the heli and he helps guide down the helicopter onto the landing sites. Generally they are a very cheery bunch of chaps who are fantastic with the kids.

They have done quite a bit of work to some of the buildings on the island. The hut above has been renovated and now serves as a place for day trippers to get out of the wind, use the facilities and make themselves a cup of tea. Jeannette who owns and runs the island had kindly left us three kinds of home baking to sample with our morning tea. She had Whacky cake which is an eggless chocolate style cake, Drop scones and some lovely Oatmeal Cookies. I was an absolute pig and sampled all of them and then at the end of our trip had to ask her for the recipes. She also gave me a recipe for an eggless ginger bread cake which I must try, eggs being as bad as they are down here this recipe could be a real winner.

We made our way around the south west of the island. I was hoping to see some sea lions as I have yet to find any on my travels. We did stumble upon a colony of King Cormorants basking in the sunlight. The light was so bright that photography was a bit of an issue.

There were hundreds of the birds which I call shags after our time in Scotland. You could get really close to them without them flinching. After climbing through some rather tall tussac grass and deciding it was a bad idea we headed further inland and made our way along the fence line. I did managed somehow to get a two inch slice in my newest jeans without noticing as I climbed over the fence. Further up the coast we could hear and smell the Rock Hoppers before we could see them.

There was lots of noisy chattering and general squabbling about who should sit next to who. This is the first time I have seen Rock Hoppers in the wild and they really are quite funny animals. Much, much smaller than any of the other penguins and very different in their appearance and mannerisms.

Although quite a few things are similiar between the breeds such as sleeping on their tummies.

The Rock Hoppers beaks are alot shorter and of course they have the fantastic tufts of plummage at the sides of their heads. They are fatter and squatter than the Gentoos and have a slightly more pee'd off look on their faces.

They climb up some huge cliff faces to make it to the colonies breeding area which consists of muddy hillocks near the tussac grass. On this particular day they weren't moving about much. They mostly sat about enjoying the sunshine like the pair above.

As I went down the cliff face slightly to get the picture above I noticed a movement in the water. It turned out to be my first sighting of a sea lion. This fellow had a dead penguin and was mouthing it and then spitting it out. I don't think it was one he had just killed, I think it had been in the water for some time by the look of it.

These were the best shots I could get of him as there was a thirty foot drop between me and the sea which I didn't fancy trying to negotiate to get closer. They are really huge creatures and have the most fantastic tails. We stood and watched him for a good 20 minutes while he pottered about around the seaweed and shores edge.

The Kelp and seaweed is really magnificient to watch. It changes shape constantly in an elegant dance with the waves. This picture doesn't do it justice, I hope on another not quite so bright occassion to get some more photos of this subject.

As we headed back to the settlement we had the usual company of a turkey vulture overhead. These animals are really, really ugly and yet at the same time fly so elegantly. We have alot of them on camp and on warm mornings you can hear them scuttling along the roof line of your home.
When we got back to the hut we made ourselves a cup of tea, sampled one last piece of Whacky Cake and then had a quick poke around the "shop". I hadn't planned on buying anything so didn't bring any money with me. Unfortunatley Jill had brought some spare cash and I found myself the proud new owner of a genuine Falkland Islands Lambskin Rug. It is beautifully crafted and has a really deep pile. I thought Fergus might claim it as his own but it has fast become Maddie's go to place when she is watching tv.

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