2018 Travels 2 - South America Cruises travel blog

Port Stanley Falklands

We were “at sea” all of yesterday so much rest was acquired. Of course, the ship tries to keep everyone busy with their various auctions, sales, demonstrations and such, but we just walk around and mix with the crew. Today we’ve stopped at Port Stanley, The Falkland Islands. With a population of less than 2,000 people, Port Stanley has the feel of a small English village; its small size and remoteness make it unlike any other capital city in the world. The self-guided Maritime History Trail tells the tale of vessels that struggled to sail around Cape Horn; many ships were abandoned and still lie in the harbor. The islands boast magnificent unpolluted coastlines. One landmark edifice is the Christ Church Cathedral, built in 1892. Penguin-watching season runs September to April but, they are usually found on the other side of the island which entails a 7 ½ hour drive. We passed on seeing the Penguin, probably much to their delight.

Now for your current events and history lesson and keep in mind, there are only 2,000 people on this island:

Stanley is the main shopping centre on the islands and the hub of East Falkland's road network. Attractions include the Falkland Islands Museum, Government House – built in 1845 and home to the Governor of the Falkland Islands – and a golf course, as well as a whale-bone arch, a totem pole, several war memorials and the shipwrecks in its harbor. The Falkland Islands Company owns several shops. Stanley has four pubs, 11 hotels and guesthouses, three restaurants, a fish and chip shop and the main tourist office. There are three churches, including the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral, the southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world, and the Roman Catholic St. Mary's Church. A bomb disposal unit in the town is a legacy of the Falklands War.

The town hall serves as a post office, philatelic bureau, law court and dance hall. The police station also contains the islands' only prison, with a capacity of 13 in the cells. The community center includes a swimming pool (the only public one in the islands), a sports center, library, and school. A grass football pitch is located by the community center and hosts regular games. Stanley Racecourse, located on the west side of Stanley, holds a two-day horse racing meeting every year on 26 and 27 December. The Christmas races have been held here for over 100 years. Stanley Golf Course has an 18-hole course and a club house. It is also located to the west of Stanley. King Edward VII Memorial Hospital is the islands' main hospital, with doctors' practice and surgery, radiology department, dental surgery and emergency facilities. Several bus and taxi companies operate out of Stanley. Stanley is also home to the Falkland Islands Radio Station (FIRS), the Stanley office of the British Antarctic Survey, and the office of the weekly Penguin News newspaper. A nursery and garden center is also here, in whose greenhouses some of the islands' vegetables are grown.

The original capital of the islands was at Port Louis to the north of the present site of Stanley, on Berkeley Sound. Captains Francis Crozier and James Clark Ross were recruited by Governor Richard Moody in his quest to find a new capital for The Falklands. Both Crozier and Ross were among the Royal Navy's most distinguished seafarers. They spent five months in the islands with their ships Terror and Erebus. Governor Moody however, decided to move the capital to Port Jackson, which was renamed "Stanley Harbor", after a survey. Stanley Harbor was considered to have a deeper anchorage for visiting ships. Not all the inhabitants were happy with the change, notably one JW Whitington is recorded as saying, "Of all the miserable bog holes, I believe that Mr Moody has selected one of the worst for the site of his town."

Work on the settlement began in 1843 and it became the capital in July 1845. It was named after Lord Stanley, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies at the time. And, just like Mt McKinley in Alaska and Pike’s Peak in Colorado, these folks had “things” named after them although they had never visited the place or had made it to the top (in Pike’s case). In 1849, 30 married Chelsea Pensioners were settled there to help with the defense of the islands and to develop the new settlement. The settlement soon grew as a deep-water port, specializing at first in ship repairs. Before the construction of the Panama Canal, Port Stanley was a major repair stop for ships travelling through the Straits of Magellan. The rough waters and intense storms found at the tip of the continent forced many ships to Stanley Harbor, and the ship repair industry helped to drive the island economy. Later it became a base for whaling and sealing in the South Atlantic and Antarctic. Later still it was an important coaling station for the Royal Navy. This led to ships based here being involved in the Battle of the Falkland Islands in the First World War, and the Battle of the River Plate in the Second World War.

Landslides (peatslips), caused by excessive peat cutting, destroyed part of the town in 1879 and 1886, the second landslide killing two people. At about midnight on 29 November 1878 a black moving mass, several feet high, was moving forwards at a rate of four or five mph. The next morning the town was cut in two; the only way to travel between the two parts was by boat. During the Second World War, a hulk in Stanley Harbor was used for interning the British Fascist and Mosleyite Jeffrey Hamm. Something of a minor player in the BUF due to his youth, Hamm moved to the Falkland Islands in 1939 to work as a teacher. He was arrested there in 1940 for his BUF membership (under Defense Regulation 18B) and later transferred to a camp in South Africa. Released in 1941 he was later called up to the Royal Armored Corps and served until his discharge in 1944.

Stanley Airport is used by internal flights and provides connections to British bases in Antarctica. It was opened by the Argentine Air Force on 15 November 1972 (previously, international flights were by seaplane from Comodoro Rivadavia). Flights to Argentina ended after the 1982 conflict. A weekly flight to Punta Arenas in Chile commenced in 1993, which now operates out of Mount Pleasant Airbase (RAF Mount Pleasant). Scheduled passenger flights between the Mount Pleasant airfield and the UK. are also operated twice a week by a civilian airline contractor on behalf of the Royal Air Force.

Stanley was occupied by Argentine troops for about 10 weeks during the Falklands War in 1982. The Argentines renamed the town Puerto Argentino, and although Spanish names for places in the Falklands were historically accepted as alternatives, this one is considered to be extremely offensive by many islanders. It has however gained some support in Spanish-speaking countries, though its acceptance is far from unanimous. Stanley suffered considerable damage during the war, from both the Argentine occupation and the British naval shelling of the town, which killed three civilians. After the British secured the high ground around the town the Argentines surrendered with no fighting in the town itself. The beaches and land around it were heavily mined and some areas remain marked minefields.

Falkland Islands War, also called Falklands War, Malvinas War, or South Atlantic War, a brief undeclared war fought between Argentina and Great Britain in 1982 over control of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and associated island dependencies. Argentina had claimed sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, which lie 300 miles (480 km) east of its coast, since the early 19th century, but Britain seized the islands in 1833, expelling the few remaining Argentine occupants, and since then consistently rejected Argentina’s claims. In early 1982 the Argentine military junta led by Lt. General Leopoldo Galtieri gave up on long-running negotiations with Britain and took control of the islands. Ten weeks later, they gave the islands back to the UK.

Since the Falklands War, Stanley has benefited from the growth of the fishing and tourism industries in the Islands. Stanley itself has developed greatly in that time, with the building of a large amount of residential housing, particularly to the east of the town centre. Stanley is now more than a third bigger than it was in 1982.

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