A pair of turkey vultures sits, silhouetted, on a low bluff overlooking our landing site at Whale Point, which is on Fitzroy Farm on West Falkland. We are early, the air is cool, the water blue. A short walk up a steep grassy slope and we find the remains of a lamb, a meal for some predator. It is a harsh world, this windswept, island realm.
We scramble up and over rough rocks to reach a long stretch of white beach covered with bleached whale bones and dead kelp. Nearly a mile inland, through ankle-breaking tussac grass, we find a pond teeming with birdlife. Widgeons, grebes, and geese dot the water, while on a near shore, a half-dozen turkey vultures feast on a meal.
We fight our way back to the beach to find the skeletal remains of whales tucked between grassy sand dunes––massive skulls, vertebrae the size of basketballs, scapula as big as dinner tables.
I am struck by the beauty of this exposed and treeless environment. There is no forest overgrowth to obscure the cycle of life here, no large predators to scatter bones. There is just death alongside life.
When we board our Zodiacs to return to the ship, my somewhat macabre thoughts are quickly replaced by the joy brought by a playful trio of Commerson’s dolphins circling our little boat. They stay with us all the way back to the ship, riding our wake, circling us like a curious litter of puppies, eager to play, not a care in the world.