The lovely Lady Liz.

Iconic shipwreck, and beloved part of the Falkland Island’s maritime heritage.

 

Cresting the rise from Gypsy Cove towards Whalebone Cove, the view across Stanley Harbour is dominated by the rusting wreck of the Lady Elizabeth.  Her three bare main masts and bow sprit stand proudly against the dramatic Falklands backdrop. It really is one of those ‘wow factor’ photo opportunities of the Falklands.

Affectionately called the ‘Lady Liz’ by locals, she had a thirty year career, hauling cargo around the world’s seas, before being shipwrecked off the Falkland Islands in 1912.  She was condemned as unseaworthy in 1913, after which she spent another twenty three years as a floating timber warehouse, moored off Stanley pier.  She finally broke free of her moorings one stormy night in 1936, drifting to rest on a shallow sandbar in Whalebone Cove, where she still sits today.

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The Lady Liz shipwreck, taking centre stage in the sunshine.

She was actually the second Lady Elizabeth built for a Sunderland-based shipping company, the first Lady Elizabeth having sunk off Western Australia in 1878.  It seems that the name was no luckier, second time around.

Her current owner, the Crown Receiver of Wrecks, bought her for £1,000 back in 1913.  More recently, plans were made by the Crown Receiver of Wrecks to salvage Lady Elizabeth and convert her into a floating museum. Due to lack of funding, however, the project was never completed. Sadly, much of her timber and many of her unique features have been plundered by opportunists, but nonetheless she remains a very photogenic wreck.

Over the years the Lady Liz has been slowly giving in to the ravages of time and the elements.  But many Falkland islanders believe that is exactly right.  Locals often take the view that the hulks of shipwrecks are part of the island’s heritage and should be left to their fate. The SS Great Britain, the Lady Elizabeth, the Charles Cooper and the Jhelum are all sea going vessels that came to the end of their voyaging ways after limping into the waters around the Falklands.

A notable exception is the French-built barque, the Fennia.  She was damaged off Cape Horn and bought by the Falkland Islands Company for use as a storage hulk.  Condemned in 1927, the Fennia was an integral part of the landscape, moored in the middle of Stanley Harbour for forty years.  For a time she was even used as lodgings for German prisoners of war and internees during World War II.  Sold to the San Francisco Maritime Museum as a museum centrepiece, the Fennia was towed out of Stanley in 1967.  Sadly, funds for her transfer ran out before her journey was completed, and she sits to this day, amongst a jumble of junk in a Uruguayan scrap yard.

The Lady Liz and other wrecks around the Falkland Island shores are beloved by many Falkland islanders, and if anything, the sad story of the Fennia has made islanders even more determined to keep them in Falklands waters.

If you are tough enough to brave the icy Falklands waters (or trust that your wellies are 100% leak free!), it is possible to paddle out at low tide and take a look at this rusting iron beauty of a shipwreck up close.  I’ve not quite mustered the courage yet, but it is definitely on my to do list!

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Whalebone Cove and the Lady Liz, looking towards Stanley Harbour and the mountains beyond.

Shining a light on the Cape Pembroke Lighthouse.

A new series focusing on favourite places from around the Falkland Islands.

To kickstart a series of short pieces highlighting some unique Falkland Island sights and sites, I’d like to introduce you to Cape Pembroke Lighthouse.

Found on the easternmost point of the Falkland Islands, this striking, automated 18 metre tall lighthouse was originally built in 1855.  She was operational until damaged in 1982 during the Falklands War.  Reginald Silvey was the lighthouse keeper at the time of the Argentine invasion, and was a brave and feisty annoyance to the Argentineans throughout.  Using an illegally-held radio, he secretly broadcast reports on Argentine troop movements, to assist British forces.

There have only been three lighthouses in Falklands history, Cape Pembroke and Porpoise Point being the ones that remain today.  There was also one at Cape Meredith, which operated in the 1930s-1950s but has since been lost.  Prefabricated in London, Cape Pembroke lighthouse was positioned to warn ships away from Billy Rock, a particularly dangerous rocky reef half a mile offshore.

Cape Pembroke Lighthouse
Cape Pembroke Lighthouse

As architectural structures, lighthouses can have an almost romantic beauty.  But stood beside raging, freezing seas like those surrounding the Falkand Islands, they have served a vital purpose over the years. Cape Pembroke lighthouse was certainly a welcome sight for survivors adrift on a lifeboat belonging to the British Criccieth Castle, shipwrecked over 180 miles off the Falkland coastline in the Spring of 1912. The lifeboat, containing the handful of badly frost-bitten and thirsty survivors, was spotted six days later by lighthouse keepers at Cape Pembroke, who waded out and pulled the boat ashore.

And what fuelled the light at Cape Pembroke? Rapeseed oil was originally used, before – unbelievably by modern standards – the switch to Sea Lion oil!  Unimaginable now, but it seems that during the 19th Century Sea Lion oil was the preferred choice as it was more readily available and affordable in the Falkland Islands than rapeseed oil. Thankfully for the Sea Lions, Cape Pembroke lighthouse was converted to paraffin by 1906, when it also become clockwork operated.

Now a listed building owned by the Falklands Government, accessibility has been considerably improved with a newly-laid track, and the lighthouse is currently undergoing renovation.

Surrounded by common land, visitors to the lighthouse can park up and go off exploring on foot.  There are great coastal views and lots of opportunities for possible wildlife sightings.  The area is a grassy haven for birdlife, and dolphins and sea lions are often seen splashing through the waters.  There is a bench to sit and take in the views, or if you fancy taking a peek inside the lighthouse, the key can be obtained from the Museum in Stanley, for a £5 day charge.