Our windswept distant cousin, Falklands, made the news again today, almost forty years after the madness when Britain flexed its muscles to save a very, very distant possession of a pile of rocks peopled by Brits who seemingly preferred desolation to civilisation.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
All gone ... the mines planted for the Falklands' war have all been removed, reports the media today. Many thanks to the Guardian for the cutting.
I don’t mean to be unkind, but look over the islands and the little town and your raised eyebrows will be understandable.

The Guardian reported today, ‘The Falkland Islands have been cleared of almost all landmines, it has been announced ...'

The paper reported that it was nearly 40 years after the end of the war 'in which the British military retook the territory by force from Argentine troops.’

I sailed into the islands virtually moments before the war started. I was sailing alone around the world and was being troubled by the yacht’s steering. I certainly didn’t want to go into land for repairs, but the steering fault was too severe to treat at sea.

Not long after Cape Horn, the Falklands Islands offered habitation and blessedly English-speakers who certainly ought to be able to effect the needed repairs.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The Falklands ... The archipelago far to the south and close to notorious Cape Horn. Many thanks to Google Maps.
I radio’d the island, and the administration sent a vessel out to guide me in – a ship, no less - which in fact did take me in tow. Hard to beat hospitality like that.

Some strange dream

On shore, conversations were filled with dire predictions about the Argies.

Looking around at what the island had to offer, I put the notion that another nation would take that lump of rocks by force as rather far-fetched, more at home in some strange dream.

Of course, I was wrong. Well and truly.

Hardly had I left with the steering working properly again than what we know as the Falklands War began, with some horrible consequences.

The Guardian’s report today told of tens of thousands of mines and bombs being removed as part of a UK-funded programme since 2009, a task carried out by a team of specialist deminers, many of them from Zimbabwe.

Detonating landmine

Apparently, we learned, ‘Islanders will mark the moment with a ceremonial detonation of the final landmine at the weekend, along with games of cricket and football on reopened beaches.’

I wrote about the islands in my book of my circumnavigation, Loner (Hodder and Stoughton). ‘Brian Summers from the radio station invited me out with his girlfriend Judy for a Saturday drive. We motored towards the airport, then swung off across rough terrain, following tracks that were scarcely discernible.

‘A cold front was crossing the island and we could see its vicious edge towards the sea, which stretched away blue-grey forever,’ my story told.

‘The mountain peaks were clear and beyond lay the areas that were marked impassable on the charts. They were filled with stone-runs, virtual rivers of rocks.

‘The view from high over the town was incredible. A barren, desolate island, an unfriendly sea and an equally hostile interior. An old barque lay decomposing before us …’

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Belgrano sinking

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