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The Union Flag is raised at Government House, Stanley

Today is Liberation Day in the Falkland Islands. A public holiday, of course. 37 years ago today the Argentine surrender was signed by General Menendez in the Secretariat, ending 74 days of armed occupation for the population here. It hadn’t come easily: 255 British servicemen, 3 Falkland Island civilians and approximately 650 Argentine servicemen (exact figures aren’t known) all lost their lives. Then, of course, there were the countless on all sides who bear the scars of War (both physical and mental).

There is a tangible build-up here in the days and weeks preceding Liberation Day. As the British forces closed in on Stanley and the war in the air and at sea raged on, one anniversary follows another at an ever-increasing pace. In the past few days, the key battles and major events have all been marked: the taking of Mounts Kent, Harriet, Two Sisters and Longdon, the advance across Wireless Ridge, the Exocet attack on HMS Glamorgan and the infamous battle for Mount Tumbledown last night. The course and events of the War are well-known (see the documentaries, there is one in the tab at the top), but it’s hard to put into words the sheer scale of the effects it had (and continues to have) on the islands.

As someone who is neither old enough nor has lived in the Falklands long enough to recall the occupation, it is nevertheless an important day for all of those who live here. Ultimately, the families of those men lost their loved ones to defend the rights of the people here and to defend the wider principles involved; no aggressive state should be able to invade another against the wishes of its people. Still, the sacrifice is a burden that weighs heavily on the collective mind of the population here. As a result, there is a sombre mood that hangs over the day and almost seems to physically do so as Winter brings its oppressive climate to the day. There is also, however, an undoubted joy at the liberation itself and a sense that this should be celebrated, for those who suffered. So, I’ll shortly leave to attend the parade and service at the Liberation Monument, before the government invites all citizens to a Reception.

We will remember them.

A Starkey reminder

It’s no secret that I’ve carved myself something of a niche in Falkland Islands history. It hasn’t been altogether deliberate but born more out of a mixture of insatiable curiousity and the need to teach the students here about their past. In some ways it’s an unfortunate specialism; like our in-depth knowledge of the habits of different species of penguins, it’ll be of little use if/when we live elsewhere, bar the odd pub quiz. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to make the most of it: giving tours to friends and family, my guiding on Sea Lion Island and some museum lectures for the local population.

Recently, I decided to channel my inner David Starkey and paired up with our local(/national) TV station to record this little gem for the Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust:

You’re welcome, Earth.

(Re)collecting moments

In 2015, when we made the decision to move the Falkland Islands, we knew this would mark some change in our lives. Like any significant relocation, deciding to uproot and transport ourselves to another country (albeit an English-speaking one) was likely to have some consequences and many (but by no means all) of those have been mentioned throughout the last 4 years’ worth of blog posts. Still, I think neither of us could quite have expected the extent to which this place would affect our lives. At various times, we have seen these islands affect our personalities, our hobbies/interests, our relationship (now marriage), our financial/career prospects and, I suspect, our future too.

Among the strange experiences that the islands have thrown up there’s been a few odd highlights. To name a few, there’s  been:

  • Walking in the minefield (with guidance, don’t worry)
  • Picking-up a young albatross and two types of penguins
  • Being attacked by a globally endangered bird of prey (Striated Caracaras)
  • Having King penguins swim around my feet
  • Driving our car to the top of a battlefield hill
  • Eating eggs from birds we hadn’t thought we ever would (namely: an upland goose and a Gentoo penguin)
  • Wandering among harems of 3-4 tonne elephant seals
  • Running from wild sea lions
  • Finding whale ribs taller than me (and I’m 6’5″)
  • Firing bullets left over from a War
  • Flying a plane
  • Whale-watching in our lunchtime
  • Climbing a lighthouse
  • Scrambling on 19th century shipwrecks
  • Owning (and walking) a pet sheep
  • Han creating a shawl from said sheep
  • Recording a history piece for the national TV station (watch this space)
  • Swimming with wild dolphins
  • Getting stranded on islands

and the list goes on and on. None of the above should be all that surprising to regular followers of Pengoing South but it helps us to remind ourselves sometimes of what a time we’ve had here. Similarly, regulars will know that I spent the Summer just gone working on the unforgettable Sea Lion Island. The reason I bring this up at this point is that last week I had another unpredictable thing occur: I was unexpectedly credited in a Belgian Porsche magazine.

Allow me to explain: while I was working on Sea Lion Island I had the pleasure of meeting and guiding guests from all over the World and from all walks of life. We saw tour guides, photographers, reporters, TV crews, researchers, biologists, military servicemen/women…you get the drift. Inevitably, I built up some great relationships with some of the most memorable guests and two of my favourites (I’m probably not supposed to have favourites, but you know…) were the fascinating and charming couple Sven and Kathleen. They have the highly-enviable job of traveling the World seeking out obscure locations of Porsches and writing about their adventures as they go. Yes, I did ask them, but I’m still not 100% sure how to go about getting this dreamy employment. Anyway, they managed to find a Porsche here in the Falklands and so they came a-hunting. Their Island issue is now out and available at the Porschist website HERE.

It is well worth a read for both the accurate descriptions and the stunning photography. It does a great job of capturing that inexplicable something that those of us who have been here find so hard to communicate to the curious. It’s also always interesting for Han and I to hear the views that other people have about our home. It’s certainly not for everyone, but we have this place to thank for a lot and we look forward to seeing what other memories the future will hold for us here.

Speaking of which, we’ve decided to stay for (yet) another year and we’ll have yet another reason to remember our time here:penguin egg