IIn the harbor there is a red telephone booth, row houses made of dark brick stand side by side. A few steps further a pub and a small tea house. The wind whips the rain through the streets, tea and scones await inside.
Folk music echoes subtly from a loudspeaker, photos of the sea, green hills, fences and sheep hang on the walls. Great Britain as it could hardly be more British. But the small coastal town of Stanley is on the other side of the world.
The almost 2000 inhabitants do everything to maintain the spirit of the empire. But at the latest when you look into the souvenir shops, where stuffed penguins cuddle up on the shelves, it becomes clear: The gray sea that laps its waves on the pier is not the North Sea, but the South Atlantic. And the island not Britain, but East Falkland.
It is easy to explain why the Falcon countries so clearly demonstrate their solidarity with the United Kingdom: The trauma of 1982, when the Argentines surprisingly occupied the islands and started a war with bombs, skirmishes, mines and raids, is still deep to this day.
The South American country had taken possession of the islands, which were uninhabited before the first European settlers arrived from France, in 1820. Great Britain followed suit in 1833, stationed a fleet on the islands and forced the Argentine administration to withdraw.
Argentina calls for “end of colonialism”
Since 1837, the Falkland Islands have belonged to Great Britain as a British overseas territory, which still has around 1,700 soldiers stationed there as a deterrent. in the Historic Dockyard Museum fishermen, shepherds, housewives and soldiers tell of the 72 days of the war in an interactive exhibition.
All exhibits are labeled in English only. Which is entirely in the interests of the islanders: In a referendum in 2013 they voted 98.8 percent to stay with Great Britain. Argentina rejected the referendum as “illegal” and is demanding an “end to colonialism” from the British.
In Argentina, the islands are still called Malvinas and continue to claim them officially. Which is also due to the rich fishing grounds and the suspected oil deposits in the South Atlantic.
No cruises to Antarctica due to Corona
But not only the ownership claims between Argentina and Great Britain have shaped life on the 200 islands. Antarctic expeditions such as that of the seafarer James Weddell and the bloody business of whale and seal hunters have also experienced the Falklanders up close.
Hard work under harsh conditions defined everyday life for centuries. Tim Miller, for example, comes from a family of sheep farmers; he moved from West Falkland to Stanley. He’s not like sheep, he says and grins.
With a hunched back he walks through the long rows of his greenhouses in the hinterland, caressing the skin of the eggplant, plucking a leaf from the tomato. He proudly demonstrates the aquaponic facility, thanks to which he grows more than 50 different types of lettuce, herbs and vegetables – completely without soil.
“Everything is eco”, he says, and shines with the one eye that the Falklands War left him with. “We don’t use pesticides either, we fight pests purely biologically.” An organic farmer in the middle of the Atlantic.
For 20 years, he says, he has been heating his greenhouses exclusively with waste oil from fishing boats and cruise ships – that is not entirely clean, but at least it is recycled. In general, the crusaders: Before Corona, many ships sent their cooks ashore in Stanley.
Tim Miller was her last chance to take fresh vegetables and lettuce on board for the way to Antarctica – a business that the farmer broke away because of the pandemic. The shipping companies will probably not set course for the Antarctic again until winter 2021/22.
The mines in the Falkland Islands have now been cleared
Back in solitude, the gaze wanders over the beach. White sand, blue sea – the sun has burned a hole in the clouds. The sea has calmed down. A ship rotates picturesquely in the shallow water, two whales swim along the coast and fountains of mist blow into the air.
Thick ropes limit the hiking trail, signs warn: “Danger – mines!” It is estimated that 20,000 landmines were buried on the islands during the war. At least the last mines were cleared at the beginning of November, three years earlier than planned, and the signs will soon disappear. But the memories, the thoughts of the war will stay alive on the Falkland Islands for a long time.
Fortunately, at this moment a rustling in the bushes distracts from the dark past. A Magellanic penguin peeps curiously out of its nesting cavity. He is not alone. The colony huddles on the beach, throaty roars can be heard when the waves carry a newcomer ashore.
The islands have been a favorite place for breeding and migratory birds since the Falkland Fox was extinct in the 19th century. A million penguins gather here, 63 different bird species build their nests. Not just common birds, as ornithologists assure you: with the Falkland steamship duck and the Falkland wren, the islands have also produced endemic species – those that only occur there.
Penguins stir up the birds
A special paradise for bird lovers is New Island, a small island in the far west where the storm blows waves into the brown grass. He has shrunk the few trees to gnarled bushes. Kelp geese crouch in the bushes.
A black-browed albatross enjoys the stiff breeze. It can be carried by the thermal 80 meters up to the edge of the cliff and then floats on the spot as if it had been pinned to the sky. The giant bird, with a wingspan of a good two meters, looks to the left, to the right – and then performs a clumsy landing maneuver.
He waddles two or three steps and he is already beaking a large gray cotton ball: his chick. Isolated by thick fluff, it waited for hours for its mother to return, now and then stretching out one leg or scare away an intrusive rockhopper penguin with its beak.
The penguins can do that. They busily hop back and forth, annoy a cormorant here, an albatross there – and stir up the bird colony. If the hunger becomes too great, they hop over the steep slopes down to the sea.
Constant coming and going on the steep face, including minor falls. For the rockhopper penguins, the laborious renewed ascent pays off: birds of prey such as the caracara and giant petrels, which could be dangerous to the penguins, do not dare to venture into the kingdom of the albatross.
At some point the mother albatross has had enough of the screeching penguins, spreads her wings and throws herself off the cliff into the wind. Without flapping its wings, it glides away, beneath it the small boat boats, the fountains of the whales – and the gray waves of the South Atlantic.
Tips and information
Getting there: The Falkland Islands are visited by many cruise lines, mostly as part of an Antarctic trip, such as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (hl-cruises.de) and Hurtigruten (hurtigruten.de), which, due to the pandemic, will not be offering expeditions again until winter 2021/22. If you arrive by plane, you can usually get to East Falkland via Santiago de Chile or São Paulo; the connections with Latam are suspended until at least March 31st (latam.com). Alternatively, travelers can book flights from the UK Department of Defense to Mount Pleasant Airport ([email protected]), but this connection is currently not open to tourists either.
Accommodation: An overview of self-catering accommodation, bed and breakfast providers and the few hotels can be found on the tourism website (falklandislands.com/accommodation). Guests are usually picked up at the airport, but there are also rental cars, public transport and ferries between the islands.
Crown-Info: Anyone planning a trip should find out more about entry and quarantine regulations on the government website of the islands, currently a 14-day quarantine is required after arrival (fig.gov.fk/covid-19).
Participation in the trip was supported by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit.
This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We will be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.