Just realised its 26 years since I did a tour in the Falklands, I can still remember the landscape and the people, the wildlife and the scenery as well as the grand guys I worked with.
It was a bit of a strange thing to do, I had spent my early time in the Royal Air Force as an Aircraft Engine Engineer on trainer aircraft for the first 5yrs then a bit of fun on Tornado's, the Tri-national squadron where our pilots and navigators flew with German and Italian aircrew to allow them all to work together. That was a lot of fun. Then off to St Athan in ‘sunny’ south Wales, EROS – Engine Repair and Overhaul Squadron, a damn factory, not an aircraft in sight. One day I got told I was off for helicopter training, Chinooks – Wokkas !
Next stop Falklands. For someone who was keen of photography and wildlife it was a bit of a okay thing to do – there was still a bit of ‘fun’ with Argentina playing silly buggers but most of the 4 month tour was 5 min satellite phone calls home each day, flying to remote outposts to take food, mail and drink to the army guys and keeping the Wokkas flying, keeping sane and getting through the time so as to come home.
They all had names, the aircraft, Timmy was the Tristar that took you there and home, Fat Alberts were the Hercules, we used to go to their site in the evening for later supper in Victoria’s bar, Chinooks were Wokka’s, it’s the sound they make. We had our own bar, Lot 22, that was the lot number for the ISO containers that we bought in the auction to make the bar from – silly but it helped.
The islands are so reminiscent of the Scottish Isles but with fewer trees, the wildlife was something else, Striated Caracaras, Turkey Vultures, Kelp Geese, Penguins of all sizes, Elephant seals, Fur Seals, Sea lions. My favourite haunt on my time off was Berthas Beach. Beautiful silver sand, clear blue sky, warm and sunny crystal clear blue sea, dolphins surfing the waves, then out of the water in front of you 30+ Gentoo penguins power out of the waves onto the beach and casually wander in front of you, surreal to say the least. A trip to Sea Lion Island got me pictures of arguing Bull Elephant seals and Fur seals as well as Chinstrap penguins amongst others. Here’s a tip, elephant seals like to lie out on rotting kelp, it gives off heat as it rots, never go downwind of a herd and breath in – its kinda hard to throw up and breath in at the same time – the stench is awesome.
We worked 12hrs on then 12 off then change shift for two months then you had 4 days off then start again till you fly home. Everything was shipped down that was not urgent so food for all was container shipped, storms in the Atlantic ocean often meant the ships were delayed, so, whats for breakfast? – rice boiled or fried, the ships late! For a vegetarian it made life interesting.
The weather was grand, we had days where it started warm and sunny – went to snow and sleet – went to rain – went back to warm and sunny for the evening and then it looked like someone set fire to the sky. Just a normal day in the Falklands in April.
Having trips over the islands in the Wokkas was fun, drop the tail ramp – put on safety harness and sit with legs dangling out the back going backwards 50 feet up. Through the valleys over the tops and down the other side, there is no amusement park ride that comes even close to that experience. Saw Goose Green and all the other hot spots from the air.
I have to apologise for the lack of photos, I do have some slides but at the moment I cant find them and once I do I have to transpose them to digital, it will happen and I will post them.
This is the only one I can find at the moment a Striated Caracara, now very rare, it was common a bit like the Red Kite. Gone down in numbers for the same reason – morons with guns and poison. I got within 10 ft of this one.
Apologies – this is a really bad copy via a flatbed scanner from ages ago.
Ah well, I have lots of memories of the trip and would go back on day if I could it is a really interesting place and the light and wildlife are awesome. I guess this was my key time in the Royal Air Force that will always be with me.