Falklands, a place of all seasons

CAROL MARTINDALE, carolmartindale@nationnews.com

Added 10 October 2012

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The Nation's Carol Martindale recently visited The Falkland Islands for a one-week media tour. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1982 betweenArgentina and Britain. Martindale toured Stanley, the capital, as well as camp  - settlements in the country. For the next few days she will be sharing her views on the visit. It's true what they say about the weather in The Falklands; you can experience four seasons in one day. Yes, I do mean in 24-hours. The Caribbean journalists on the media tour to this part of the world experienced this on Day 2 of their visit to this side of the world. It’s Sunday, and the weather has gone from misty, to clear skies, to freezing cold and then to windy, with a high of 8 degrees Celsius but with a wind chill pushing it to 4 degrees Celsius. We woke up that day excited that we would be heading off to Sea Lion Island where we were told we would see king penguins and sea lions - with the rare opportunity of getting up close to them. Needless to say we were all excited as many of us had never seen first hand penguins nor sea lions, far less getting that close to them. So this day promised to be an exciting day. But alas it was not to be. The heavy cloud of mist that blanketed the Darwin area presented a challenge to pilots who were to take us on the 20-minute plane ride across. Hearing that news we didn't give up hope that we would go later in the day when the weather cleared. Graham and his wife Fiona were being kept abreast of any weather changes. In The Falklands - certainly in Darwin, calls are made to people in some areas and they report on the status of the weather. This amused us. We were further amused when we heard our names each being called out on radio as passengers on the upcoming flight. Instead of waiting around though, we headed off to the nearby settlement called Goose Green –an area small in size but rich in history and picturesque. Goose Green has a population of 25 to 30 people and a speed limit of 15. There are five children who attend school in Goose Green and they are all up to nine years old. As we pass the sign that says ‘Welcome to Goose Green' we are met with dozens of geese strutting around, as well as the lush green grass, hence the name. There are some houses, all few and far between, and again, no sign of activity nor spotting of another human being. Didlick shows us the school and then he takes us to the Goose Green Hall which is now used for meetings, dances and church. But what is most intriguing about the hall is the fact that during the 1982 conflict with Britain and Argentina, 115 people were held captive there for 29 days. At the time, 60 residents were living in Goose Green and at the time of the war some residents from Stanley had even fled to the area thinking they would be safe Perish that thought…because they were not. Instead, they were kept in captivity jam packed like sardines with access to only one bathroom. They ranged from about four months to 84 years old. These residents were thought to be spies. When it came to food only two people were allowed to go out and bring in food supplies, according to Didlick who filled us in on the details. We took a break after that and walked to a small café in Goose Green for some hot chocolate, tea and coffee and there we saw other people from the area. From there we passed the shearing shed which still carry the mark POW (prisoner of war) as well as PG which means the same in Spanish. By this time we had received more news that the trip to Sea Island was looking even more unlikely because of the weather - not in Goose Green or Darwin but in other parts. So we continued on our sightseeing mission which turned out to be very interesting. Next up, we visited the grave of Flight Lieutenant Nicholas Taylor who’s grave still has parts of his plane near the headstone. Taylor was one of the men on the HMS Hermes and he died on May 4 1982 at 32 years old. It was now definite. We were not going to Sea Island. But we would still get to see the penguins - but in New Haven, another nearby settlement By this time it is raining but even these conditions and the long drive out didn't deter. We wanted to see penguins. And that we did. What a happy bunch we all were as we made our way down closer to the water to take pictures of and with the penguins. We were cold and wet but this was an opportunity of a lifetime and we weren't going to miss it. Then when we thought the day couldn't get any more exciting, Graham took us to Bodie Creek Bridge where the most southerly suspended bridge in the world is found. It has been closed for years now but the bridge was built in 1926. According to Didlick, it was shipped in three parts and wasn't even built by engineers but by local trainees. The bridge was built to cut down on the amount of time farmers had to spend rounding up the sheep to be shorn. With all this history which many of us had no idea was all captured in The Falklands, it was ready to call it a day and reflect on all we saw, heard and learnt. At the end of the day no one even sulked that we didn't get to Sea Island and we were all looking forward to Day 3 of this media tour to The Falkland Islands. What history will unfold and what other sights would be unveiled? Only time would tell. Next up: Goodbye Darwin, hello Stanley. carolmartindale@nationnews.com    

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