Matt & Emmy in Antarctica & Easter Island travel blog

Landing on Steeple Jason Island

Gentoo penguin

Emmy spotting Albatrosses

Matt on West Point Island

The Devil's Nose on West Point Island

The downed airliner on West Point Island

Overnight, the Endeavour repositioned overnight to another of the islands off of West Falkland, called Steeple Jason Island. Steeple Jason is apparently rarely visited by either the Endeavour or other cruise ships because of the weather around the island and because there are only limited, treacherous places to put ashore in a Zodiac. In fact, our first attempt to land on the northeast side of the island failed due to high winds and currents, which made it too dangerous to launch the Zodiacs. However, the ship repositioned to the southwest and we did indeed land. The seas were much rougher than in previous landings; the Zodiacs were bouncing up and down 3-4 feet while we were attempting to board them, requiring us to time our step into the boats carefully. Our Zodiac driver told us he had been to the Falklands six times as a guide, but this was only the second time they even attempted a landing on Steeple Jason.

The landing place was also a tad treacherous - there was no beach, but rather a pile of rocks we had to scramble up to get onto the grassy island (see picture above). It wasn't too challenging for Emmy or myself, but some of our fellow passengers required a decent amount of help from the staff.

The difficult landing was well worth it - once we climbed up off the rocks, we were met by a colony of Gentoo penguins (recognizable by the white 'hat' on their head). These little guys are probably 2 feet tall and are quite unfazed by the dozens of us busily snapping away with our cameras. The rules of the various conservation agencies in the Antarctic region require visitors to stay at least 15 feet (5 meters) away from the wildlife, but if the wildlife approaches you, it is acceptable to be closer. The Gentoos weren't too interested in approaching us. Most were sitting on their eggs (which were barely visible) on top of nests made of piles of stones. This island is home to thousands of penguins, which was noted by earlier explorers who, sadly, figured out a way to get oil from the penguins - many skeletons and metal pots used to render the oil can still be seen.

After a long walk/hike down the length of the island, we came upon the largest black-browed albatross colony in the world - more than 100,000 breeding pairs. To see these, we had to approach through the head-high tussoc grass. The sheer number and mass of the nesting albatrosses was amazing - even the small percentage that were in flight at any given time made it look like a group of buzzing bees.

We returned to the ship, which then moved to West Point Island (population: 2 - Roddy and Lilly Napier, 3rd generation owners of the island). This island is quite famous locally as of late because one of the two planes owned by the Falklands Government Air Service crashed here last week. The plane apparently hit a pothole in the grass runway when landing and snapped a wing off. No one was injured, but the loss of one of the two inter-island planes is a big inconvenience for the Falklands. Air is the primary means of transport within this archipelago. The government-owed and operated service flies basically on demand. Each night at 7 p.m. the schedule for the next day is announced over the radio, along with a list of the names of the passengers! This is a huge source of Island gossip.

On West Point Island, we hiked a fair distance and saw the impressive cliffs on the "Devil's Nose". After this walk, the Napiers invited everyone (50+ people) into their home for tea. They are apparently local legends on the Falklands - every resident we spoke with asked if we had met them.

The Napiers came aboard for dinner, and after wishing them farewell, the Endeavour sailed for Port Stanley on East Falkland, where we should arrive in the morning.

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