Carcass Island Landing by Kate Waite

Kate Waite

04 Nov 2014

carcass island, falkland islands

Sunday 2nd November, we made a landing at Carcass Island which lies to the northwest of the Falkland Islands archipelago. Despite a strong wind the sun was shining, with a clear blue sky providing a perfect backdrop for this remote wildlife haven.  

The island has a long history of conservation after being established as a sheep farm in 1872, when the owners at the time planted large areas of tussac grass. This mature plantation today, along with the absence of cats, rats and mice on the island means that it is home to a vast number of birds, in particular small birds such as Cobb's wren which can only survive on rat-free islands. 

Of course, for most of us landing on the island our primary interest was the penguins; the island is home to large breeding colonies of Magellanics as well as Gentoo.

Arriving on the shore of Dyke Bay there was almost a tropical feel as bright sunshine shone on the clear turquoise water lapping against the white sand bay. In fact, after crossing through the tussac grass to Leopard Beach on the south-eastern side of the island one passenger even decided to brave a bracing quick dip in the sea.  

THE MORNING WAS SPENT AT LEISURE, EXPLORING THE ISLAND.

Some chose to photograph Gentoo penguins surfing in on the waves, while others focused on the other birdlife such as the rock cormorants, striated caracaras or the prolific shore birds which include the endemic Falkland flightless steamer duck. For those feeling active there are a number of nature trails on the island or the climb up 500m high Jason Hill, rewarding those who exerted themselves spectacular 360 degree views.

For those who wanted to, there was an option to head back to the ship for lunch. During the zodiac rides back to the MV Ushuaia we were accompanied by Peale's dolphins who were playing around the bow of the ship. 

They swam alongside, leaping out the water sending a salty spray over the passengers. 

In the afternoon we had been invited by the landowners, Rob and Lorraine Mc Gill, to join them in the settlement for a traditional Falkland Islands tea. They have lived on the 4,680 acre island for 27 years and have continued the conservationist traditions here. They were happy to open their home up to us and the pile of wellington boots grew at the backdoor as hungry photographers padded into their house in search of the promised tea and cakes. The island is self-sufficient in organic produce, with plenty of home-produced meat, vegetables and dairy products; they even churn their own butter, a vital ingredient of the huge spread of cakes and biscuits that were laid out for us.

From the colourful settlement for those opting not to take a zodiac back to the boat it was an enjoyable 3km walk back to Dyke Bay and an opportunity to walk off some of the cakes consumed. The trail passed through the burrows of Magellanic penguins, who make their underground homes in this soft peaty soil. Several of these relatively shy penguins were seen emerging into the sun from their burrows along with numerous other birds who make their home along this stretch of coastal heathland. 

The late afternoon and early evening sunlight was perfect lighting for photographing the surfing Gentoo penguins on Leopard Beach as they came back to the colony after a day fishing. Tracking the groups as they were spotted off-shore proved challenging but many of the photographers were rewarded with some excellent shots as the penguins leapt from the water. 

A large sea-lion looked like he might spoil the fun but didn't interfere with the penguins as we ended the day as it began; on a beautiful wild beach.

Comments

Tom Brown

5/11/2014 8:57 AM

Sounds like an amazing day!!! I wish i was there for those cakes.

Arabella

4/11/2014 10:49 AM

Looks beautiful - would have loved to be there to have seen some surfing penguins. Big kudos to the person who went for a dip! Tea looks pretty good too...

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