The Future of the Falkland Islands and Its People/Preface
Like many human undertakings, the creation of this publication started by one first step, in this case by Robert Rowlands, who kindly invited me to visit his country and give a public lecture in Stanley. And I did it, accompanied by my younger daughter Nusha, on our way back from Antarctica in early March 2003. We spent a week with Robert, enjoying the hospitality of his home, meeting people and seeing both the town and Camp.
Having left Nusha largely to her separate teenage agenda shared with Robert’s own daughter Jane and their friends, I ventured out a bit of exploration, driving and trekking in all directions of the Stanley area between Tussac Point and Mount Tumbledown. I had been looking forward to seeing some of the natural wonders encountered, like the local ‘stone runs’, so similar to the ‘stone rivers’ of Mount Vitosha on the outskirts of my native Sofia. Others were less expected, such as the giant rubber-sheet shaped kelp I came across at Hookers Point, or the shrubby Antarctic lichens found on the rocky high ground near Navy Point – a species familiar from the vicinity of the Bulgarian base on Livingston Island.
Equally enjoyable was my one-day tour of East Falkland, first driving west to Darwin and Goose Green, then Robert masterly navigating trails and slopes north to San Carlos Settlement and Port San Carlos, eventually turning back east towards Teal Inlet, Estancia and Stanley, with a brief pause to fix one of our jeep wheels after the unforgettable experience of watching it pass by even as we were speeding away from New House of Glamis.
A lot of my time was devoted to Stanley itself, strolling the streets past neat gardens and picturesque tin-clad houses, with occasional old brickwork here and there, and newer residential areas dominated by wooden Scandinavian and Scottish housing; or gazing at emblematic buildings such as the Christ Church Cathedral, the Falkland Islands Company premises and the state of the art Community School; or touring the Stanley Museum to view antiques and artifacts recreating life from early pioneer days to modern times; or wandering around the Stanley cemetery amidst so much accumulated history of present and long-gone Falklands families; or having a drink at the private Falkland Club with its bar on this occasion tended by Councillor Mike Summers himself.
When at home I used to discuss with my host each and every aspect of past, present and future Falklands life, poring over plenty of maps, books, magazines and papers (including the apocryphal Goose News) from his library. Knowing my interest in South Georgia, he had me visit his aunt Betty Biggs and her daughter Colleen, Grytviken or rather King Edward Point old-timers in whom I was happy to find fellow enthusiasts of that beautiful Antarctic country.
Particularly appreciated among my meetings in Stanley were those with the Falklands legislative councillors Jan Cheek, Mike Summers, Richard Cockwell, John Birmingham and Stephen Luxton. The time I spent on a few occasions with them was both pleasant and enlightening for me. Similarly for former Councillor Lewis Clifton (whose paper on the Falklands national identity was noteworthy) and Stuart Wallace.
Alexander Arhipkin, Chief Scientist of the Fisheries Department kindly explained to me certain peculiarities in the configuration of the Falklands maritime economic zone, and more. While still there at the floating port facility, I was glad to meet Chris Harris, whom I knew by correspondence from the Falklands-Malvinas web forum.
Inevitably the local media got involved too, with Corina Goss interviewing me for the Falklands radio, and Juanita Brock for her own electronic edition that published my lecture along with the Penguin News.
Let me proceed with some acknowledgements though, lest this preface grows into travel notes featuring also ship wrecks and hulks, gaucho corrals, war monuments and cemeteries, minefields, penguins and upland geese, motorcycle-shepherded sheep etc. etc.
Of the people to whom I am grateful, Robert naturally comes first. I extend cordial thanks to him and to all the Islanders I met during my stay in the Falklands, for their friendly hospitality as well as for the incredible experience of seeing a country in the making – something one might have probably felt if visiting the United States a couple of centuries ago.
Special thanks go to Boris Bekyarov and Robert Rowlands whose financial support has helped make this project possible.
I wish to express my thanks to Nusha for her company, despite the fact that she skipped my Stanley lecture, like she had skipped her Deception Island and Hannah Point landings in Antarctica before. I trust she enjoyed our time in the Falklands, judging from her enquiries about possible future trips down south.
Many thanks to my elder daughter Borislava and my wife Pepa for their encouragement and support.
Thanks are owed to the famous Bulgarian sculptor Georgi Chapkanov for his specially created metal icon of Saint Nicholas, with the patron saint of fishermen – and by extension of the Falklands principal industry – untraditionally depicted as holding a large fish (albeit not a squid). That piece of art is now housed at the Legislative Councillors’ Office, Gilbert House.
I am most grateful to former Falklands Governor David Tatham for his valuable comments and suggestions on my paper.
Thanks are also due to Ernie Spencer, Wayne Thompson and Svetla Racheva for their kind help in editing parts of the present collection.
It has been a pleasure to work with Todor Vardjiev on the publication’s design.
And last but certainly not least, I offer sincere thanks to my co-authors Carlos Escudé, Ernie Spencer, Howard Fergus, Jan Cheek, John Ondawame, Mark Sandford, Mike Summers, Noel Cox, Nora Femenia and the Government of Saint Helena for joining this publication to contribute opinion and analysis of their own, reflecting their diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
Sofia, September 2003 - March 2004