Goodbye Falklands


After almost ten days here at the Falkland Islands, it is now time to head home. Our Sailing SOUTH 2024 expedition comes to an end here. And we as a crew are going our separate ways again for the time being. We all have to get used to this after this long, intensive time together, just like life afterwards. Saying goodbye is incredibly difficult.

The Falklands were a surprising and very special chapter of this expedition. And they are definitely worth a longer trip of their own! There are still so many coasts and islands to discover here. We still have an unfinished business with South Georgia anyway. Perhaps we could combine the two? In any case, the ideas in my head are slowly taking shape …

After the adventure is before the adventure 🙂

Falkland Islands’ Mountains

Hiking and History

We had a wonderful place to stay with David in the former boathouse right on the harbour with a view of the water, even though we first had to get used to the amount of space and the distribution across two huge flats after our long time on board the Selma. Cooking together in the evening or going out and being out and about during the day was therefore the order of the day. Not least because of the large number of cruise ship tourists who still flocked to the small town about every other day at the end of the season.

On those days, we turned our backs on Stanley and went hiking when we weren’t on the coast or off-road to see the penguins.

To the west of Stanley stretches a barren, wide, hilly, golden-yellow landscape. Often interspersed with so-called “stone runs” or “stone rivers” – extensive, mostly linear fields of huge grey quartzite blocks stacked next to and on top of each other, which line the slopes and seem to flow down like waterfalls made of stone – a geological phenomenon and remnant of the last ice age, which Charles Darwin already described enthusiastically.

Despite their relatively low altitude, the rocky ridges and peaks offer beautiful views, magnificent panoramas and plenty of history – traces, relics and memorials from the time of the Falklands War. Almost all of these surrounding mountains were the scene of the military conflict between Argentina and Great Britain – far too often with fatal results, as the countless crosses and memorial plaques on the peaks show.

We hiked Mount Harriet, Mount Tumbledown, the Two Sisters and Mount Longdon – sometimes in the rain, often in the sun, always in strong winds. And on some evenings when we came back, Alan, who had been fly fishing with Adrian on the Murrell River in the meantime, was waiting for us with fresh salmon trout or mullet.

There is no better way to end the evening than with freshly caught fish with home-fried kelp chips, collected tea berries and a glass of Falklands gin or a round of pisco sour. But as beautiful as it is here, it’s time to say goodbye.

Falkland Islands’ penguins

A paradise for penguin fans

Five different species of penguins live in the Falklands: Magellanic penguins, gentoo penguins, rockhopper penguins, macaroni penguins and king penguins. We were lucky enough to encounter and observe four of them.

Not far from Stanley, after a picturesque walk along the beach, you reach a colony of gentoo penguins near Yorke Bay Pond.
And we had an extra dose of luck: individual king penguins rarely stray onto this beach.

Magellanic penguins nest in their burrows at Gypsy Cove, but also on numerous other stretches of coastline around Stanley.

The route to two other representatives is somewhat further and more arduous.

On Murrell Farm to the punks among the penguins

Two colonies of rockhopper penguins can be found on the coast of Berkeley Sound on the grounds of Murrell Farm.

Adrian and his son, who run the farm together with around 3,000 sheep, took us on a wild off-road drive through the vast countryside to show us the penguins, who love to climb and jump. We were lucky enough to see them. High up on the rocky cliffs, almost without exception all the animals were in the middle of their moult and looked pretty battered and dishevelled. All punks on a bad hair day …
The lush greenery above the coast and between the rocks was speckled white with feather fluff. A good week later, in their new plumage, the entire colony will leave and only return here after the winter.

The English name rockhopper is a pretty apt name. The rather small penguins with the red eyes and yellow eyebrows move almost exclusively by hopping from rock to rock through the wildly rugged cliffs, which sometimes looks more, sometimes less elegant, but always very funny.

After the trip to the penguins, Adrian and his son showed us around the farm and the wool production, told us about the history of the farm, their life on the Falklands, life as a farmer, sheep farmer, self-supporter and guide in equal measure, and back in Stanley we had coffee and cake as a thank you.

The kings of Volunteer Point

However, the king penguins were a very special highlight.
Not only because we had previously missed them due to our change of plan at the beginning of our trip – not to head for South Georgia. But also because this was our last adventure together as the Selma crew. Unfortunately, only Piotr wasn’t there, but stayed on board to get the Selma ready for the upcoming departure.

And the three-hour journey to the colony at Volunteer Point is certainly an adventure. Three hours one way, mind you. Two of those hours are spent off-road and cross-country through the – at this time of year – extremely damp, soft peat landscape. Fortunately, we had two experienced drivers at the wheel, Artur and Susan. Nevertheless, we got stuck several times and had to pull each other out of the mud each time. It was exciting, thrilling, quite bumpy, but also a lot of fun.

And the long journey was worth it in every respect.

Volunteer Point is a nature reserve privately owned by Johnson’s Harbour Farm. In addition to gentoo and Magellanic penguins, cormorants, dolphins and sea lions, it is home to the largest colony of king penguins in the Falklands. Around 1,500 breeding pairs live here and raise between 600 and 700 chicks each year. They move back and forth between the two miles of white sandy beach and the green grassland of the breeding colony. Just like us, who spent two hours here marvelling and watching in awe.

We observe king penguins individually or in groups, along with their very own dynamic. On the beach, in the water, on the way to the colony. Swimming, lying on their bellies, upright. They look so serious when they walk past at a leisurely pace. Often in small flocks. The adults are beautiful and colourful. The chicks in their thick, brown fluff are the complete opposite: so clumsy and somewhat awkward. Always under observation and protected by the colony. Waiting for the parent to bring food.

And what a background noise! A polyphonic call from thousands of throats. Everyone has their own voice, they recognise and find each other among thousands. You can watch the hustle and bustle for hours. We also discover some very small chicks that hatched a few days ago. Occasionally, an egg is even carefully balanced on its feet. Much too late. In both cases, the chicks will probably not survive the approaching winter.

It is an impressive natural spectacle in a very special place, and we are happy to have met the king penguins at the end of our trip after all.

Thank you Artur and Susan!

Falkland Islands’ Coastline

Paradise Island with dream beaches

We have discovered wild and beautiful beaches.

Sometimes rocky and rugged around the lighthouse at Cape Pembroke, sometimes paradisiacal with a white sandy beach, turquoise blue or emerald green water and a magnificent dune landscape.

We watched dolphins playing in the waves at Gypsy Cove and Surf Bay, watched a sea lion hunting penguins in Rookery Bay and went swimming in the refreshing, 7-degree South Atlantic there and in Yorke Bay itself.

The wind here is always strong, causing the white spray to splash metres high. The waves crash against the offshore rocks or the wide beach. Huge kelp floats between the rocks in the crystal-clear water, waist-high clumps of tussock grass billow in the wind, albatrosses and giant petrels sail through the clear air. Every now and then you can see the blow of a whale off the coast.

Falkland Islands

What a surprise!

Don’t have any expectations and you won’t be disappointed. There’s a saying that goes something like this. Put a little more optimistically, it could also mean: Have no expectations and you will be surprised …

That’s exactly what happened to me or us on the Falkland Islands, the Islas Malvinas.

First of all, they were just the end point of our trip. That’s why I didn’t give it a second thought beforehand. It was clear that we were planning a few days here – as a buffer, to arrive on land, as a kind of transition from the time at sea, on board the Selma, our expedition … to the aftermath, the end of the journey, the return home. A time between worlds, so to speak, to get used to it and get used to it again. To the solid ground under our feet, to civilisation and everything that goes with it.

But the last few days have been so much more! Like a particularly delicious dessert after an already perfect meal.
Not that it needed any more icing on the cake …

The Falkland Islands are a real gem!

Magnificent, vast landscapes. Rough and barren. Empty. A mixture of Scottish Highlands and prairie, Midwestern grasslands. Grey rock, brightly coloured lichens, lush mossy green, white-yellow grass waving in the wind on black, peaty soils. Wild, rugged coastlines, paradisiacal sandy beaches, turquoise blue sea. Stormy winds, roaring waves, magnificent skies full of chasing clouds and magical light. A natural paradise with fantastic wildlife, Antarctica light you could say. Penguins, whales, dolphins, seals, petrels, albatrosses …

And on top of that, wonderful, open and helpful people.

The majority (90%) of the already small population of 3,000 is concentrated in Stanley (the only town in the Falkland Islands and also its capital and seat of government). The rest are spread out on individual farms, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, often miles apart. There are hardly any tarmac roads; you have to travel on gravel roads or off-road. Nothing works without a suitable car. And between the islands (there are around 200 in total, in addition to the two large main islands of East and West Falkland), one of the small aeroplanes operating here is often the first choice.

However, we opted not to fly and limited our explorations to the area around Stanley on East Falkland. On foot and – thanks to Artur and Marianna, who spontaneously lent us a car – on four wheels. Whereby limited is the wrong term in view of the many experiences.


The day after

This morning is different. And anything but good.

I’m sitting here in the old Boathouse, our accommodation, with todays first coffee in my hand, looking out of the window at the harbour. It’s actually a dream view, directly onto the water, directly eastwards into the sunrise. Already familiar after two days.

But today something is missing and the picture doesn’t fit for me at all: the jetty is deserted and empty. The masts of the Selma have disappeared, as have Piotr, Voy and Ewa.

This empty space hurts badly.

I was never really good at saying goodbye. Especially not when it means staying behind on the pier, on land, while “my” ship sets sail again and slowly disappears towards the horizon. Or – like yesterday – into the darkness of the night.

Ship ahoy

Late yesterday evening, the time had finally come. It came as it was bound to come at some point. It was time to say goodbye. At least from the Selma and from Piotr, Voy and Ewa. Farewell after seven weeks together with a long history, after a wonderful adventure, a fantastic journey with a perfect team and a very special spirit and cohesion on board.

We said goodbye to each other in stages. We disembarked two days ago and moved into our quarters here in Stanley in the former boathouse. We spent a wonderful farewell evening, ate, drank, celebrated, sang, talked and laughed. And went on one last excursion together, to the king penguins at Volunteer Point. But while we still have a few days here in the Falklands, Piotr, Voy, Ewa and Selma have to return to Ushuaia.

It is often difficult to leave. Especially after such an intense time full of shared experiences.

So much goes through your mind at times like this, so much you want to say – but you search in vain for the right words. Fortunately, sometimes you don’t even need them. A silent, firm hug does the trick.

And so last night, under the light of the full moon, we stood together on deck once again, in a circle, arm in arm, our heads together – a close-knit team. For a long time, in silence. Each of us completely alone and yet carried by being together. It was a heartfelt farewell full of warmth and filled with the spirit of the whole trip.

I will treasure this moment forever, as well as every single moment of these last few weeks. I will miss them, these ten people, Selma, the life on board. The ice, the light of the south, the vastness of the Southern Ocean, the wind and waves, the horizon and being out on the ocean together, in the here and now.

We stand like this for a long time, then we first untie each other and a little later the lines. The last words and wishes fly back and forth, a final greeting from the horn, then the Selma slowly disappears into the darkness shortly before midnight. At some point, only the white top light is visible, like a star in the night sky.

We stand silently on the pier, our eyes moist, full of melancholy and gratitude.

And our hearts full of hope and the certainty that this is only a temporary farewell. It’s not for nothing that we say “Hasta luego”. So see you soon, dear Selma. We’ll see each other again, I’m sure of it.

Port Stanley – Anchorage SH4

Sailing at last!

What a marvellous last day of sailing!

We couldn’t have had it any better. Especially after the last few days, when the wind kept letting us down and the Drake was mostly as tame as a lapdog, we hardly dared to hope for this.

We flew the last one hundred miles to Port Stanley.

My watch, from 2.00 am to 6.00 am, was not very promising apart from the initially starry sky. Something between no wind and hardly any wind and this from all directions. Nothing we could have done anything with.

So we left the Selma to her own devices and I watched over her drift. I let my thoughts drift too.

Every now and then I turned the rudder a degree more to starboard or port to keep us on course. I tried to hypnotise the anemometer. To drive up the number of knots, to stabilise the direction indicator. Sometimes this worked for a short period of time, whenever a large dark cloud passed over us. But never constantly enough to set sail. And so I waited impatiently for an approaching dark front, hoping that it would finally bring us the wind we were longing for. Meanwhile, Piotr enjoyed an extra portion of sleep.

And then, around seven, we were suddenly and finally out of the blue hole of the doldrums. From one moment to the next. From blue to red. From zero to almost 40 knots of wind. And a high swell mixed with steep waves.

We were so happy to finally being able to sail properly again. We took turns at the helm, swapped watches so that everyone could enjoy it once again. We savoured every minute at the helm with shining eyes. We surfed with up to 12 knots over foam-crowned 6 metre waves and got a good saltwater shower again and again. No matter – we had a lot of fun. Just like the albatrosses and petrels that sailed around us at high speed through the air and through the wave troughs.

Land ahead

The number of birds increased with every hour. Kelp kept drifting past on the surface – a sign that we were slowly but surely approaching land. Later in the afternoon, we passed two fishing trawlers. Then the Falkland Islands came into view, and with them a landmark that made it much easier to steer amidst the crests of the waves.

A group of dolphins (hourglass dolphins, so called because of their white markings shaped like an hourglass) suddenly appeared and accompanied us for a while. Played with Selma’s bow wave. The rather small representatives of their species dived and jumped around in the foaming water at lightning speed. Swam from left to right, sometimes next to us, sometimes under us. They seemed to be having fun, just like us. One of them actually jumped over Selma’s bow in a high arc. Standing at the helm, I could hardly believe my eyes, speechless and amazed at this very special farewell.


The Cape Pembroke lighthouse came into view, and all along the flat coastline and on many of the offshore rocks, the sea threw itself against the land, spraying spray metres high. We only left the jib standing. The evening sun came out, gilding the last few miles, bathing the coast and us in magical light, the landscape in wonderfully warm colours. The islands were flat and yellow-green, partly overgrown with tall tussock grass.

Still travelling at eight knots, we tacked into the bay of Port William and through the narrows between Navy and Engineer Point into Stanley Harbour. We had our hands full as a team on deck. Four tacks later, we had Stanley in sight and it was time to hoist the last sail. To head for the anchorage assigned to us. With the wind, we would have been reluctant to moor at the pier. And I was more than happy to keep the land, the many lights and noises of the city at a distance for a little while longer.

We let out the anchor one last time. And suddenly we were at our destination.

After a good 3,000 nautical miles, we arrived in Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands.

A strange feeling spread through me. Disbelief. Wistfulness. The day before it had been so tough, the destination so far away… and now: Somehow, the miles had flown by far too quickly in the last few hours. From one hundred back to zero in a flash, so to speak. This time definitive.

With every hug, we shared the joy and gratitude of having made it together. But at the same time, there was also the painful realisation that this shared adventure was now over. We also have to let go again.

And so I wasn’t the only one standing alone for a moment somewhere on deck, lost in thought, sometimes looking towards Stanley, but more often back towards the sea in the distance. Trying to hold on to the moment. To capture everything. Many moments of the last few weeks went through my mind. All that I had experienced, lived through and achieved. Our time together on board the Selma.

It was time to raise a glass. I had saved the bottle of whisky I had opened on Shackleton’s 150th birthday on 15 February for this moment. We clinked glasses on deck, in the dark, in front of the city lights. It was difficult to find the right words.

It all started with Shackleton and an idea. We sealed our joint plans with a glass of Shackleton more than a year ago, in December 2022, during a Zoom conference, each of us in front of a screen in a different part of the world. Apart from emails and a few digital meetings, we were complete strangers, did not know each other. Yesterday, here in Stanley, we finished this adventure as friends with a glass together. We shared a large sip with Neptune, grateful for the happy course and conclusion of our endeavour.

It takes a while to be able to accept this passing, at least for me. At first there is mostly sentimentality, sadness, a certain emptiness.

But this last marvellous day of sailing provides some consolation in that we have now arrived. And that our journey – at least the one on the Selma – will come to an end in a few days. However, we still have time to arrive in this world that is so very different from the one of the last few weeks. In civilisation, hearing other noises (cars), meeting other people, seeing other things.

Three days that we can all spend together on board the trusty Selma. To slowly get used to it, so to speak.

And then another week here in the Falklands.