Volunteer Beach, Falkland Islands; By Joe Kelley

Posted In Beach of the Month, Features
Jun
1

fig4

By Joe Kelley, University of Maine

The Falkland Islands are a place distant from most people, but magical in their wildness and wildlife.

It is not easy to drive to wild beaches (Figure 1), but drivers for hire abound and they ARE NECESSARY to drive across the open country. It takes about 2.5 hours to get from Stanley to Volunteer Beach.

Volunteer Beach is one of the nearest big beaches to the only town in the Falklands, Stanley. The beaches near Stanley are lovely and can be seen from a distance, but they were mined by the Argentines in the 1982 war and remain surrounded by barbed wire. Penguins may not set off the mines, but a person can!

In the first view one gets of Volunteer Beach (Figure 2), it looks like many other barriers around the world. It has a white sand beach that is backed by a low flat area and a lagoon. The water is a beautiful shade of blue that reminds one of the tropics. A small bathroom is located in the center of the flat ridge behind the beach.

A closer inspection (Figure 3) shows that the beach begins with a cobble patch with a blue-green sand dune plant colonizing the beach. No large dune exists landward of the beach however. The wind in the area is fierce, but there is no proper sand dune at all. The flat area behind the beach (Figure 3) is a sheep-grazed, penguin-burrowed area that is eroding more than accumulating sand.

The beach proper is made of almost pure quartz sand. This “sugar sand” beach is very rare. One might think of someplace as near to Antarctica as a formerly glaciated landscape, but not this part of the Falklands. The landscape is ancient and the rocks have been weathered down to almost pure quartz with few other minerals remaining.

“ The beach proper is made of almost pure quartz sand. This “sugar sand” beach is very rare.”
— Joe Kelley

The main attractions to Falkland beaches in November, when I visited, are the penguins (Figure 4). King Penguins, standing more than a meter high, are everywhere and not very shy. Visitors are asked to keep 6 m from them, but they often walk towards people. They stand and face the sea for long periods of time, and then suddenly rush forward and swim into the surf using their wings like paddles.
Among the small sand accumulations trapped by kelp in the back of the beach are several kinds of nesting birds (Kelp Goose, figure 5). It is best not to approach too closely when they are nesting or they might walk away from their chicks, a cold prospect for the small birds.

Penguins do not nest on the beach, and they “run” up the bluff bank after fishing to return to their colony. Gentoo Penguins (Figure 6) are a lot more fearful of people than King Penguins and move quickly across the beach. Some penguins have eggs and chicks in burrows on top of the ridge behind the beach. This landform is a peat deposit that the birds easily dig into (Figure 7). The Tussoc Grass that formed the peat was destroyed long ago by burning and sheep and no other native grasses replace it.

The backside of the peat deposit contains several large colonies of nesting penguins (Figure 8). These are somewhat roped off, but it is not difficult to photograph the King, Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins back here. One has to wonder at the impact of the penguins on the coastal landscape, as well as the profound impact of the sheep who walk among them. Prior to European colonization, the Falklands were uninhabited and Tussoc Grass grew all around the perimeter of the island. Now Tussoc Grass is seen only on inaccessible ledges (Figure 9). This grass, that formed the peat behind Volunteer Beach, grows to 3-4 m in height and would make the landscape very different in appearance if it were re-established.

Tags:

More / Beach Of The Month

Management Strategies for Coastal Erosion Processes; By Nelson Rangel-Buitrago

June 1st, 2018

The Special Issue Management Strategies for Coastal Erosion Processes (MSforCEP) presents an international collection of papers related to the implementation of various management strategies for coastal erosion under specific objectives.

Read More

Sand volcanos on a flat and sandy beach in the Netherlands; By Bert Buizer, PhD

May 1st, 2018

In 2013, some interesting water escape structures were observed near the coastal resort of Bergen aan Zee, in the Netherlands.

Read More

Te Pito O Te Henua shore (Rapa Nui or Easter Island): a remote and mysterious place with rare beaches; By Nelson Rangel-Buitrago, William J. Neal & Adriana Gracia

April 1st, 2018

One of the most remote and youngest inhabited volcanic islands in the world is Te Pito o Te Henua Island, or as more commonly known: Easter Island (Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua). World famous for its mysterious monumental statues (moai) erected by the early Rapa Nui people, the island is located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean nearly 3,650 km west of Chile.

Read More

Newfoundland’s Sandy Beaches: A Glacial Legacy; By William J. Neal & Joseph T. Kelley

February 1st, 2018

“Newfoundland” as a coastal place does not conjure up images of sandy beaches, but rather scenes of wave-cut rocky cliffs, bird rookeries on small rock islands, sea stacks, and boulder and cobble beaches if wave deposits are present. But scattered among the latter are genuine sand beaches.

Read More

Torrevieja, Spain; By Norma J. Longo

January 1st, 2018

Torrevieja, a former fishing village on the southeast coast of Spain (Costa Blanca) in Alicante province, is now a thriving tourist city with a 2016 population of around 85,000, down from a high of over 105,000 in 2013.

Read More

The rugged coast and black sand beaches of the Azores; By Gary Griggs

December 1st, 2017

A soft, white sandy beach on a lush green island is probably the vision many people have of their perfect coastal vacation. Eight hundred and fifty miles west of Portugal and 2400 miles east of Boston lies the lush island of São Miguel in the Azores. It is one of nine islands making up an archipelago spread across 300 miles of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Read More

Colombia’s Tayrona National Natural Park: A Caribbean Coast Gem; By Nelson Rangel-Buitrago & William J. Neal

October 1st, 2017

Colombia’s Caribbean coast has a rich geological, biological and cultural diversity that is reflected in the complex coastal zone extending from the border of Panama to that of Venezuela. One of the most spectacular regions in both this diversity and scenery is the Tayrona National Natural Park (TNNP).

Read More

The end of the world’s most famous beaches; By Orrin H. Pilkey and J. Andrew G. Cooper

August 1st, 2017

All over the world there are beaches lined with condos, hotels, restaurants and the like, in high-rise buildings (i.e., skyscrapers). Such beaches are generally the nation’s premier tourist areas, important to the local people and the local economy and prime spots for national and international vacationers. The powers that be in most of these places continue high-rise construction and seem oblivious of the sea level rise.

Read More

Archive / Beach Of The Month