Home > news, Uncategorized, worldwide travel and exploration > Penguins and Battlefields

Penguins and Battlefields

January 11th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments


No one would ever go to the Falklands for either the weather or the view.  That at least has been the traditional opinion ever since Darwin commented on his first arrival, ‘scarcely any views can be more dismal than that from the heights: moorland and black bog extend as far as the eye can discern, intersected by innumerable streams, and pools of yellowish water….. These islands have a miserable appearance.’

Like the Hebrides though, catch them on a good day with a bit of sun and they have their own wild beauty.  Throw in some accessible colonies of penguins and you have the beginnings of a tourist trade;  a surprising amount of passenger boats now stop there for a combined ‘Penguin and Battlefield’ tour, with fish and chips in one of the pubs in Port Stanley afterwards.

One reason for the bitterness the islanders feel towards Argentina is apparent as soon as you drive out of Stanley – the amount of land that is still uninhabitable because of landmines, including many of the beaches which they used to play on as children. The cost, both human and economic, of trying to clear such large areas has proved too much.

Having just come from Argentina, I know that no one has ever lost votes there by making bellicose noises about the Falklands. Christina Kirchner, fired up by her recent success in the Presidential elections, is beating a very large drum as a distraction from the high inflation and low growth the country is currently experiencing.  Every Argentinean, whatever their politics, believes the islands to be theirs. Which is not to say that they want to see them retaken by military action. Memories of the military debacle are still too fresh – as they are on the Falklands themselves. At the memorial in central Buenos Aires to the 649 Argentineans killed in the conflict, which faces directly across to ‘The English Tower’, built a hundred years ago when relationships between the two countries were better, a flame still burns.  Left-wing critics of the government have asked when a similar memorial will be erected to the estimated 30,000 who ‘disappeared’ during the military dictatorship leading up to the invasion.

Some Porteños suggested to me that perhaps the two main islands could be divided, with the western, less populated one administered by Argentina;  one of those ideas that sounds like a sensible compromise but in practice, like so many partitions, would be difficult to administer, even if the islanders would remotely contemplate surrendering any of their sovereignty, which from the reactions I encountered in Stanley seems highly unlikely.

‘Widow Kirchner’, as the islanders call her, can thunder all she like from the pulpit, and persuade other South American countries to follow suit. The islanders are in no mood for compromise, and given that oil may soon supplement the lucrative fishing and burgeoning tourism, there are good economic reasons for Britain to hang onto the islands, as well as sentiment.
































  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.