Last week, dear readers in Our Town and far beyond, my bride, Debbie and I started our memorable Norwegian Cruise Line adventure around the bottom of the world.
We began our cruise outing from legendary Eva Peron’s hometown, Buenos Aires, Argentina. We had already experienced initial port stops in Montevideo, Uruguay, and in the port of Puerto Madryn, Argentina, a city serving the northern Patagonia region.
Now, folks, we are ready for our next port, and even more incredible adventures.
Our next destination? The desolate, isolated, Falkland Islands, and its only town of any size, Stanley.
The Falkland Islands are truly almost in the middle of nowhere! Geographically speaking, they are 300 miles east of the southern Patagonian coast of Argentina, and 752 miles from the northern tip of the frozen Antarctic Peninsula. That location is way down in the South Atlantic Ocean, simple code for “no where”. In recent history, they are famous for a two-month long conflict, when Argentina occupied the islands, before British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in April, 1982, sent her military forces to retake the distant archipelago for the United Kingdom. These lands consist of 778 islands, and are officially named a British Overseas Territory. There are continuing political disputes even today, almost 40 years later, between Argentina and the United Kingdom concerning the Falklands, mostly due to the islands’ oil-producing activity, and, as thus, their future potential economic value.
History aside, our NCL ship almost was not able to take us to this tiny spot on the world map. Our ship’s captain informed us via the intercom, he was 50/50 we would be able to dock at the pier in Stanley due to one of the many frequent sea storms that routinely occur in that region. However, after much skill and effort, he was successful, and we docked on the wind-swept, treeless, East Island, and small community of Stanley. The country’s entire human population is only 3,400 people, many times outnumbered by the islands’ sheep herds, well known all over the globe for producing high-quality wool.
After shopping in the few shops that were open in town, my bride and I took a shore excursion out to a HUGE penguin rookery on the East Island. Collectively, the islands support 5 different penguin species, and the area we visited had several of the species mixed together. Therefore, there were literally hundreds of assorted penguins, concentrated over the rugged landscape, Well, yours truly, always searching for a grin or two, purchased a large penguin head mask in a downtown Stanley store, before heading out to the rookery. Because penguins are relatively tame birds when there is a large group of them together, I was able to put that big fake penguin head on, and walk among the wild gathering, without causing too much penguin chaos. Our fellow NCL travelers certainly got a chuckle out of it, as did Ms. Debbie, and me, too. My outfit attracted an official NCL ship photographer, who snapped several photos of me with my penguin flock, and later posted them in the ship’s photo gallery, We ended our memorable afternoon by entering a sheep herder’s remote home to warm up with hot soup and hot drinks. This certainly helped take away the chill we had all experienced outside with the penguins. We had great conversation with our local hosts, too, as they explained their live styles to us. Wonderful fun for this boy/man (“me”) from Our Town, of course, in that very blustery day far, far from home!
Back on-board our ship, and away from land, we cruised southward and onward. Our fourth port stop was in the Tiera del Fuego archipelago, at the southern tip of Argentina, at the city of Ushuaia, Argentina, population 58,000. Ushhaia is sometimes referred to as the southernmost city in the world, and is a primary staging port for ships going to/from Antarctica. Our shore excursion here took us through historic Tiera del Fuego National Park. In this incredible bio diverse sanctuary, we saw penguins, seals, Orcas, and many varieties of both sea and land birds. We also received a great guided-tour in English of the area’s early human history that was very interesting indeed.
As our ship left dry land, we crossed the southernmost headland of the archipelago, around Horn Island, and officially crossed from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific Ocean. There was an on-deck ceremony aboard our ship, and all passengers were presented a certificate of our Crossing the ‘Horn. Now, it’s on to Chile, and more wonderful natural features to be described in next Sunday’s edition. I sincerely hope you follow us on our northbound cruising adventure.