Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Diving at Fitzroy and a flat tire on our 4WD (Feb. 2; Frithjof)

 Today we headed to Fitzroy, a picturesque, historic settlement in East Falkland – which promised an easily accessible shore for a dive. On the way, we were met by Sarah Lee in her Landrover, who (together with her husband Simon) had already enthusiastically contributed to the Painted Shrimp Expedition to Ascension Island last summer. As we arrived in Fitzroy, Sarah suddenly asked us, ”is there something wrong with your rear tire?” Indeed, it was hissing and flattening dramatically fast… a pointed screw sticking right in it was the cause!! This was a problem in progress, but we decided to leave its resolution until after the diving.

Fitzroy is another place in the Falklands drenched in history. It is named after Robert Fitzroy, Captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin’s epic voyage (which included 2 visits to the Falklands). On June 8, 1982, Fitzroy was the site of the single largest loss of life for the British forces when their supply ships RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram, loaded with ammunitions, were bombed by the Argentine air force, killing 56. The shore overlooking the cove which was to be our dive site has several memorials which are often visited by veterans of these dramatic events.
Sarah and I readied our dive kit and got into the water. After yesterday’s gale, visibility was very poor. We had 2 rather shallow dives, totalling almost 1 hr, but we managed to collect 24 species including what we think may be a new record of a pathogenic brown alga on the kelp Lessonia - and we got a number of reasonably good underwater photos, all close-up of course.  A particularly memorable moment was when we surfaced beneath a cliff with a cormorant colony right above us at the end of the 2nd dive. In summary, another great day of diving in the Falklands’ cold waters! Sarah, you were great!
Then came the more difficult issue – getting our car back on the road for getting back to Stanley… None of the 4 of us had ever changed a tire before, and the jack included with the vehicle turned out to be a useless toy. We were lucky to be in a settlement  - one most helpful inhabitant came with a proper jack for farm vehicles, jacked up our Mitsubishi Pajero, and we got the flattened tire off in less than 5 min. The car once crashed off the jack before we got the spare tire on (never end up underneath a jacked up vehicle…) – only to discover that the rental car agency had given us a vehicle with a flat spare tire and a defect suspension of the rear axis…!!! “We also have the technology to sort that out!” said that friendly Fitzroy resident and took us to his utility shed where he had an inflator (he still showed us his current construction project – a 7 kW wind turbine, which was to power and heat his home, replacing electricity at £ 0.70 / kWh from the communal settlement generator and lots of fuel oil). Unthinkable if we had been on one of the roads we had been driving over the last week, somewhere in the middle of the Falkland Camp (as the outback or countryside is called here), we might have spent a day or a night waiting for help – most of the islands’ land surface outside Stanley is extremely sparsely populated! We crept back to Stanley, to be met half-way by 2 guys from the rental car agency.
Another very busy afternoon and evening in the lab at SAERI followed, concluded by writing this blog. We are planning another great dive with Sarah next weekend – Sunday.

Sarah and Frithjof in the water 

 Giant kelp Macrocystis at Fitzroy

 Fitzroy Memorial

Our flat tire at Fitzroy 





Falkland Island girl

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