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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 02:42:12

Falkland Islands 2010:3 - Carcass Island

Saturday to Tuesday, December 11-14, 2010

We just had time to finish breakfast before our flight arrived. Troy, the pilot, had a young lady from London seated beside him. She was a medical student getting practical experience at the hospital in Stanley, and would spend a night at Carcass Island. Troy was giving her a sightseeing tour, which worked well for us as he flew at an altitude that varied from less than 100 ft to 250 ft, enabling us to get a good look at some of the 740 islands that comprise the Falklands, and the wildlife on them.

The first leg of the flight was 40 minutes to Port Steven on West Island, where we picked up a couple of people, then another 25 minutes to Carcass, flying over some rocky islands with high steep cliffs riddled with sea caves. When we were flying over one settlement I pointed out a herd of animals to the kids, which the pilot said were reindeer.

Rob and Lorraine McGill, the owners of the island, were both there to meet us with a Land Rover each. It is about a 20 minute drive over high hills with great views to the settlement from the air stip. As soon as I saw the house I recognized it from when we were here with Explorer in 1996. At that time we rode zodiacs to the beach below the house where they laid on tea and a table loaded with cakes, biscuits and other good things. Now the house has 6 guest rooms with private bathrooms - our room has a king sized bed, and the kids have a room with twin beds.

Lunch was served by the Chilean cook Roldan and his wife Eva, then Rob drove us all back to the beaches near the airport, which were loaded with hundreds of elephant seals. They were more active here than at Sea Lion Island, play fighting on the beach and in the ocean. There were also a couple of fairly intact whale skeletons, which fascinated Daniel. We have nicknamed him "Bones" because of his fascination with the large number of animal and bird bones and skeletons we have come across.

After about 3 hours Rob returned to collect us and two Frenchmen that had been dropped off earlier in the day. Back at the house we made use of the honour system bar for drinks before and wine with dinner. The kids beat Marilynn and I at cards again before we headed to bed. We had hoped to see a sunset, as they are said to be beautiful, but couldn't stay awake that late. It is light by 3:30 AM - very long days!

On Sunday a 50 foot fishing boat arrived to take us to West Point Island. The day started off rainy and miserable, but cleared a little when we boarded the boat. The ride was rough, with what I would consider good sized waves, although the locals felt it was about normal. We were heading into the wind, so had to remain huddled in the small cabin as heavy spray washed over the boat. I'd given the kids half a Gravol tablet each before we left, but even so they were pretty green after being tossed around for awhile. Saisha managed to last for the 75 minute crossing, but Daniel lost breakfast shortly before we arrived.

A Land Rover drove us from the jetty to the main house, where tea and cakes were laid on. We were then driven across the island to the windward side, and put on the trail to black browed albatross and rock hopper penguin rookeries. The site was high on cliffs where huge seas pounded in, filling the air with foam and sea spray. The freezing wind was so strong Marilynn couldn't hold the camera steady enough for photos. It was interesting to watch how closely the albatross and rock hoppers lived together - the albatross sat on eggs on raised nests, and often the rock hoppers nested right under them.

A rain squall seemed to be moving in from the sea, so we decided to look for shelter. While pushing through high tussock grass I stepped into a mud hole, soaking my foot to the ankle. Fortunately I didn't go in deeper, as I lost my balance and fell backwards over a clump of tussock grass. It took me awhile to get back on my feet as I had my head on one tussock, my feet up on another and my backside hanging between.

Fortunately the rain didn't reach shore. We found some shelter from the wind behind boulders to have our lunch, where Marilynn fell asleep when the sun broke through. We then moved across a small valley into another area of high tussock grass, where we snuggled under to await our pick up. It was suggested we spend 4 ½ hours here, but I changed it to 3 ½ hour - however even two hours in the biting cold wind would have been enough. In the end it worked out OK - Marilynn & I were warm deep in the tussock while the kids made a game out of leaping from the top of one clump to the next.

We were picked up right on time and taken back to the farmhouse for another cup of tea while the kids took off to play in the tussock nearby. The boat ride back was smoother, even though the waves were higher, as we had a following sea. The captain took us by a large colony of gentoo penguins, giving us the opportunity to watch them in the ocean. Most of the return trip was on the outside deck in spite of freezing temperatures, as Daniel's last wish was fulfilled - to see dolphins. Two of them joined us, playing in the ship's bow wave for most of the crossing.

There is an island near here called Steeple Jason where the largest black brow albatross nesting site in the world is located, the birds there number in the hundreds of thousands.

Back at the house I sat outside on a log cleaning the mud off my shoes. Promptly I was surrounded by curious caracara birds that twice made off with my shoe shine cloth. The dirtiest cloth caused a battle between four of the big birds, although the winner soon lost interest giving me the chance to recover it. They apparently steal everything, including the windshield wiper rubbers off the cars. After dinner we collapsed into bed.

Monday started out bleak, cold and rainy - and this is summer here! Rob said winds were expected to reach an average speed of 50 knots, and all of us except the French decided it was a good day to say inside. There were games for the kids and books to read so it was an easy day. There is concern about our scheduled flight to Sanders Island tomorrow, as today's flights were first postponed then cancelled. On the other hand, the food here is good, the bar well stocked and the house warm - we could be stranded in a lot of worse places!

It cleared up in the afternoon, but the winds increased to over 60 knots. Rob drove us to Leopard beach, named after the large number of Leopard seals that used to breed there, but none remain. It is about an hour's walk in calm weather, but would be very difficult in the wind. There were a large number of gentoo and magellanic penguins near the beach, where white sand was blowing into the air and being carried out to sea. The water was covered with foam.

I hung onto the grand kids tightly after fighting to open the door of the vehicle, to keep them from being blown away. We walked down to the beach, staying in the cover of an overhanging bank, and then walking over the point to the other section of beautiful white beach. The French fellows were there with their giant camera waiting for a sea lion to show up that had been there earlier in the day, and that Clive had photographed the previous day when it was killing a penguin.

The kids now had the idea of dealing with the intense wind gusts and were having a great time being blown around. One penguin on the beach was blown over and then rolled over and over until coming to a stop in the surf. The sea lion showed up again, cruising the shallow water near the beach looking for his next meal, but we left before he attacked. When I opened the Land Rover door to leave the wind tore it out of my hand, slamming it open and bending in so it no longer shut tightly. The force was amazing!

Back at the house Daniel and Saisha continued to work their way through the large variety of games that were available, both before and after dinner.

Tuesday morning after breakfast we packed. The weather was changeable - in a couple of hours we had two hail storms, sunshine, heavy rain and a snow storm, but the wind had gone down so Rob was confident we would be leaving. As mid day rolled around he arranged lunch for us, even though we were supposed to be on our way. Not too long after lunch a call came in from Stanley to say they were having very bad weather and that all flights were cancelled.

Rob, who has continually gone out of his way to make sure our stay was the best possible, then drove the two Frenchmen, Clive and I to Leopard Beach - Marilynn, much to her later regret, chose not to come and instead went for a walk with Saisha and Daniel. We were not out of the Land Rover before we saw the huge sea lion swimming off shore, and then charging across the beach and up the sand dunes pursuing penguins. The first time was unsuccessful, but the second time he came off the dunes with a penguin in his mouth. Clive and the two French guys had grabbed their cameras and headed down the beach at a run, arriving just in time to get photos as he plunged back into the sea.

I returned to the house with Rob - the others chose to walk back later, but when they arrived it was with amazing stories and photos of the sea lion making six more successful attacks on the penguins. Rob was upset, as this has been going on for ten days. He says the sea lion is rogue, no longer killing for food but for sport, and in the process causing serious damage to the penguin population as he kills the adults, leaving the chicks to starve to death.

Marilynn phoned the manager at Saunder's Island where we were to have stayed tonight, as we were told a beach area called the neck was the best for wildlife and we wanted to be sure we would get there. She was apparently quite abrupt and unhelpful, making it clear she would not be taking us there, but staying at a remote place called the Rookery a considerable distance away. It should be interesting, as we will be on our own for food.