February 14, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 9
The Plan: Explore Stanley, the gigantic capital of the Falkland Islands.
We got to Stanley this morning after steaming around the island chain in the Marco Polo overnight. For the first time of the trip, we were allowed to disembark from the ship for more than an hour. Today, we had nine hours to explore the city, and were even given an included bus tour.
Stanley isn't big enough to have a cruise ship jetty, so we had to take a tender to shore once again. This time, the ocean was a little rougher than yesterday, so water constantly splashed inside the lifeboat as we road toward the shore. Everyone inside freaked out and will no doubt complain about the poor service to the cruise line.
When Craig and I arrived on shore, the first thing we did was take our free tour. We were loaded onto a bus and driven to the outside of the city. We saw what seemed like 100 wrecked ships as we drove away from shore. We also went past a minefield, which was left by the Argentine troops when they invaded in 1982. Luckily, no civilians on the Falklands have been injured because at school, kids are shown gruesome images of what mines can do to people.
On the way back into town, we passed several houses whose owners have dedicated to protests against whaling. These houses had whale skeletons, harpoons, and signs telling everyone to save the whales. Next to the skeletons was a pile of pete, which the locals collect to make bricks for their houses because it costs way too much to ship bricks in from overseas.
The tour ended with a trip to the museum, which was really big and gave a lot of info about the war that occurred on the islands. We only had twenty minutes to look around before being herded back onto the bus, though. Overall, the tour was informative, but it was pretty annoying that we kept stopping, unloading, and reloading the bus every few minutes to take pictures instead of walking around town. Stanley only has 2000 inhabitants, after all!
After we got dropped off where we started the tour, Craig and I slowly made our way through town and back to the museum. We stopped for a look at the governor's mansion, a few souvenir shops, and the war memorial on the way. It took us another hour to get through the museum. On the way back to the tender, we saw a crazy gnome lady's house, a cathedral with a blue wale jawbone structure outside, and the town's cemetery.
Stanley was a nice, quiet town. Even though I was near South America, it felt like I was in England. The only bad thing was that everything was three times more expensive than I was used to paying. Maybe someday when I'm rich I'll return and explore the islands more thoroughly for a month or so.
Tonight, the Filipino crew of the Marco Polo put on a show. They danced in traditional costumes and sang songs in Filipino and English. At the end of the show, they pulled audience members onto the stage to dance along with them. It was an interesting and colorful show.
With the highlights of the trip already behind us, the atmosphere of the ship has gotten a lot more festive.
The photo album for this entry is here.