Stanley – nice.

Saturday 9 March 2024­ – One of our guides on Hondius, Martin, once lived in Stanley, and served as a policeman in the Royal Falkland Police Force for a couple of years.  I was looking forward to visiting Stanley even before he gave a lecture about his time there; his talk added more background, describing it as a very close, honest and welcoming community.  We arrived in Stanley at about midday, and that morning Martin, who is also the main birder and photographer among the guides, also gave us a talk about the birds we could expect to see.  Our unusually fine weather stayed with us during the morning, and there were birds around the ship so I could get more practice at photographing them in flight.

Black-browed albatrosses predominated, but (first picture) there was a wandering albatross to photograph, too.

The entrance to Stanley Harbour is through a narrow passage called, imaginatively, The Narrows,

where one catches the first glimpse of Stanley itself.  It takes some navigational skill to get a ship like Hondius through. Our captain managed it, and on the way in we passed a couple of instances which were less successful.

I heard a comment from another of our guides that the Falklands was used in bygone days as an area for dumping ships in order to collect on the insurance; whether that was the case for either of these hulks, I don’t know.

Remaining outside The Narrows was a Viking cruise liner which was too big to go in; we learned later that the windy conditions also meant that its passengers couldn’t go ashore because of the difficulty of navigation of their tenders – they use the ship’s lifeboats, apparently, and previous experience teaches me that it’s very difficult to steer those things with any great accuracy.  One wonders how impressed the passengers were to get this far and not be able to visit; but overall, of course, it played in our favour, since it meant that there were 800 fewer punters wandering the streets of Stanley at the same time as us.

We did, however, pass one other expedition-style ship which had made it in,

and we were soon parked up a short Zodiac ride from the shore.

One could see Tumbledown Hill, the site of one of the final battles in the Falklands War of 1982.

We had a swift lunch on board and then were ferried in so that we could have a look round.

Stanley has a population of around 2,500 (the Falklands Islands overall about 3,50), so you can imagine that that 800 extra punters would have made quite an impact; as it was it was fairly quiet as we walked around.

It’s a nice place.

It helped that the sun shone, something that always makes a place look nicer; and the wind blew as is, we were told, almost always the case. (I had heard, well before we even envisaged going on this trip, that the wind always blows in the Falklands, and I can now vouch for this; I found the constant wind wherever we were to be quite oppressive, actually, although I suppose one might get used to it eventually.)

Immediately we landed, we got to see some of the local bird life.

Kelp gulls, imperial cormorants, rock shags (aka magellanic cormorants)


Practically the first thing one passes in wandering along the front is the cathedral, Christ Church, with a very distinctive whalebone arch outside it.

The whalebone arch dates from 1933 and commemorates the centenary of the colony as a British possession.  It remains a British Overseas Territory to this day, despite the efforts of Argentina, who lay claim to Las Islas Malvinas, as they call them.

The bricks to build the cathedral were on a boat which sank on arrival, apparently.  The bricks were retrieved and the cathedral built, but salt water and bricks don’t necessarily go together well, as can be seen in places inside.

It’s a handsome building, outside and inside,

with nice stained glass

and a serious nod to the military history of the islands.

Looking over the water from the front, one can see further evidence of this, in the form of the names, picked out in stones, of naval protection vessels which have served in the Falklands.

Near the cathedral is the supermarket

which also demonstrates the islands’ UK heritage.

Inside, much of the clothing is actually under the F&F label used by Tesco in the UK, and the fresh produce is, as one would expect, very expensive, since it all has to be imported, and not from Argentina.

As I had expected, there were many more reminders of the UK heritage

and the whole place has the air of a well-maintained English seaside town of a few decades ago.

(The mast is from SS Great Britain, Brunel’s boat, by the way)

There are pubs, one of which, the Victory Bar, is a pretty convincing replica of an English pub on the inside

although less so from the outside.

There’s a local newspaper

and a determination to observe British roots.

The Dockyard Museum

is thoroughly worth a visit.  Some exhibits are emphatically drawing, once again, on British roots

while others show that it’s a more exotic location,

with a unique history, which, of course, includes the 1982 war against Argentina.

Ah, yes; the war.

The Falkland Islands have had a disputatious history ever since the uninhabited islands were first discovered in the late 18th Century.  France, Spain, Argentina and Britain have all claimed the islands, but there’s been a British colony here since 1833.

The latest dispute ran from April – June 1982; or March – June 1982 if you include South Georgia.  In March 1982, some 50 Argentinians landed unannounced on South Georgia, ostensibly to collect scrap metal. But on April 2, the same day as Argentina attacked Stanley, Argentine ships sailed into Cumberland Bay (where Grytviken and the HQ of the British Antarctic Survey are, you’ll remember, of course).  By 25 April, the Royal Navy had turned up to South Georgia and their bombardment forced an Argentinian surrender; following that, South Georgia was used as a base to support the British recapture of the Falklands.  Reading about this reminds me that both Canberra (on which I have sailed) and Queen Elizabeth 2 (on which I have not) were pressed into service during the war.

In the museum there’s a short film consisting of narrative from residents who were children during the period describing how it felt from their point of view.  It’s quite moving.  It’s all too easy for us Brits to brag that we gave those Argies a bloody nose; but for the inhabitants at the time it was terrifying, and there’s a feeling that there are still emotional problems among some residents hanging over from those times.

And, of course, there’s a war memorial

with, beside it, a bust of the UK Prime Minister in 1982, Margaret Thatcher.

It’s somewhat ironic that a war which, some say, was started as a vehicle for the Argentinian president, Galtieri, to shore up his public image, ended up as one which did just that for Thatcher.


It was pleasant to wander about for a couple of hours, although I was disappointed that the island’s infrastructure was unable to provide any meaningful internet access.  The local provider, Sure, has enabled some hotspots, but only at glacial speeds; even Hondius gives faster access.

Most people know that Stanley is the capital of the Falkland Islands. Perhaps fewer would know that it is on the eastern side of the more easterly of the two major islands in the group: East Falklands and a more western major island, called, yes, you guessed it, West Falklands.  Fewer still, and that number would have included me before this trip, will know that there are some 750 islands in the Falklands, although many of these are smallish bits of uninhabited rock.

What we did know was that, weather permitting, we had two further days to explore some of the lesser islands in the archipelago before we had to head off back to Ushuaia and the end of our trip.  The forecast was – yes, you’ll probably have guessed this, too – windy.  We would find out in due course what this meant for our passage and the possibility of further expeditions.

One thought on “Stanley – nice.

  1. Katharine C Burridge

    It must have been unsurprising that the wifi glacial speed had to navigate glaciers lol. The Penguin News! Rog & I always wanted to visit there. TY, Steve! Great photos per usual.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.