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.
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.