Believe it or not there is a small book available in the gift shops with the title ‘Place names of the Falkland Islands’. So far I’ve managed to resist purchasing a copy but one of the resounding patterns that you notice flicking through it is that it doesn’t take too much imagination to name places here (Sea Lion Island, Whale Point, Goose Green to name but a few). We live on the largest of the Falkland islands (East Falkland, also creatively named). The second largest island is West Falkland (see what they did there?), across the stretch of water that gives these islands their name; Falkland Sound. Since arriving we’ve constantly heard the phrase ‘West is best’ (mostly from people who grew up on the West but never mind that) so a short-notice trip to the West was on the cards as our last hoorah for the Summer/Christmas holidays.
The West is home to just under 100 permanent residents across an area about half the size of Northern Ireland (if you’re wondering how that works, the farm we were staying at was some 40,000 acres and had just one very nice man looking after the 6-8000 sheep that called it home) and is accessed either by the Islander flight (see previous posts) or the Concordia, a once-a-day ferry that you can reverse your car onto and relax with a free cup of tea. Boiler suits are highly commended aboard and it’s cold out on the Sound! We’ve been eager to see some whales since arriving and were told that the ferry regularly spots them but alas, we missed the whale-blows that the crew spotted. Still, our greeting at Port Howard (the main settlement and port) left us greeted by not a single human being but dolphins in their dozens keenly awaiting the ferry’s arrival for some play and food. (Remember to click the photos for captions).
HISTORY WARNING: Attacking Argentine fighter planes would often approach low over West Falkland to hit targets on East Falkland and the British landing operations (at San Carlos in particular) without too much risk of being intercepted or hit by anti-aircraft fire from Royal Navy ships. Some were intercepted, however, including by British fighter planes engaging their Argentine counterparts in classic dogfights – but using modern jets! The British had their aircraft-carrier-based Harriers, and the Argentines sent their jets from the mainland, for example A-4 Skyhawks (US-built ground-attack jets) and Daggers (an Israeli derivative of the French-designed supersonic Mirage), bought second-hand from Israel only a couple of years before the Falklands War.
The West being less visited than the East, the remnants of ’82 are far more untouched, as evidenced by this Skyhawk remains:
Our home for the weekend was Port Edgar, a large a scenic farm on the Sound, with stunning coastline, a self-catering cottage and a welcoming host in the form of Tex. Port Edgar provided us with everything we could possibly want for the weekend away – wildlife, off-roading coastal trails, stunning scenery and light, clear night skies, fishing for my first ever fish (one of several mullets, caught not 30 steps from the door of our cottage and feeding us well for two days) and gained knowledge on how to catch and fillet fish from a great host.
We also had a day trip to Port Stephens, the very South-western tip of West Falkland. Here we found more King penguins amongst the many gentoos, sea lions following us along our coastal walk and, once again, the legendary Falklands hospitality we have come to love. The remoteness of the West seems to encourage it; not every fuel station will bake a cake for your expected stop in on the return journey!
Maybe West IS best.