Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Islands (page 1 of 3)

Falklands reflections online

“The place where Margaret Thatcher is most warmly remembered”: Flanked by the Falklands flag and the 1982 Liberation Memorial, a bust of Margaret Thatcher watches over Stanley Harbour at sunset.

Today is the 36th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War, which I think of as “my first war” because it was the first to penetrate my childhood consciousness, otherwise occupied with all things me. It feels therefore fitting that today my short article reflecting on my month in the Falklands, called The New Battle for the Falklands, appeared online at Canadian Notes and Queries. It also appeared in the Winter issue 101 of the print version (p. 15-18). Emotions lingered from my time in the Falklands that were making it difficult to write up the work for a scholarly audience, so I challenged myself to write about it in a venue and with language more accessible to the public. Now CNQ is a literary journal– hardly plebian–but it is also quite funny and well-designed thanks to graphics by Seth. It also has a strong cultural storytelling angle and an ‘abroad’ column available to those who want to write about travel so it was a good fit.

Falklands PPGIS paper out

Congratulations to Denise Blake for her paper, out today in Ocean and Coastal Management, Participatory mapping to elicit cultural coastal values for Marine Spatial Planning in a remote archipelago (free for 50 days). The paper is based on map-elicited cultural values mapping of the Falkland Islands coasts. This work was undertaken to inform the Marine Spatial Planning process underway in the Falklands, led by Amelie Auge, I really enjoyed advising on this project. The geographical and connectivity issues in the Falklands made a more typical web-based PPGIS (public participation GIS) process impossible, and so it called for careful design to elicit values from citizens.  The analysis revealed particular hotspots of local value, but also that people were not particularly attached to areas near them.

Sightlines (2012)

My softcover edition of Sightlines (2012) looks like this.

While my first Kathleen Jamie experience, Findings (2005), came serendipitously while browsing the Halifax Central Library, my second was bought for me for Christmas by someone who knows me well. Dedicated “for the Island-goers” this spoke directly to me, fresh from the Falklands. Jamie is also a poet, and it is with such carefully chosen yet spare and modest language that she tackles these essays that work the vein between human and nature. Several concern remote islands and outcrops like St. Kilda and Rona, with historic human occupation that speaks of human ingenuity and fortitude, and where novel landscapes persist as a result. A favourite one conveys the zen experience of the Hvalsalen, the ‘whale hall’ in the Bergen Museum, its history and its renovation, which is recalled later in a meditation on the use of whalebone as memorial and in craft. One called ‘pathologies’ explores the human body as a habitat, for bacteria among other challenging organisms, inspired by our tendency to be selective about what we consider nature worth saving, or worthy of our awe. Yet another talks about Jamie’s experiences as a young archaeologist, excavating to ‘save’ history from development while erasing it. These are some of my favourites essays in this collection, which also have others focusing on natural phenomena like orca, aurora and seabirds. My preferences are not surprising given my interest in things social: after all, when presented with colonies of rockhopper penguins and black-browed albatrosses on West Falkland, I asked, “Can we go back and watch the shearing?”.  Jamie needs to go next to the Falklands, given her fascination for remote islands, wind, and the  history of human industry including whaling and agriculture. I think I’ll write and tell her.

Black-browed albatrosses patrol the rockhopper penguins, guarding their eggs, on a cliff at Dunbar, West Falkland.

A black-browed albatross patrols the rockhopper penguins, who are guarding their eggs, on a cliff at Dunbar, West Falkland.

Weatherland II – epic Falkland skies

Sky over Goose Green, enroute to the workboat, November, 2016.

Sky over Goose Green, enroute to the workboat, November, 2016.

When Alexandra Harris describes, in Weatherland, the slow introduction of real skies in English paintings, leading up to the cloud obsession of Constable in 1821-22, I cannot help but think of the Falkland Islands. My first trip I spent looking at the landscape, at large scales and small. This time, I was captivated by skies. As any visitor to the prairies knows, a lack of trees makes for big skies. But nothing is quite like the skies of the Falklands. No filters needed, or photographic skill. (It was hard to choose road trip music to suit such majesty, but I settled on London Grammar’s 2013 If You Wait.) The experience begged the question of where ‘landscape’ – my chosen research topic – ends: these skies are likely as fundamental to local identity as terrestrial (or marine) properties. A small sample of my pictures follows, in which land plays a very minor role indeed.

Epic skies over West Falkland, November, 2016.

Epic skies over burnt farmland in the north of West Falkland, November, 2016.

Entering Port Howard at dusk, the view from the Concordia Bay workboat.

Entering Port Howard at dusk, the view from the Concordia Bay workboat.

Sunset over Stanley Harbour, East Falkland, November 2016, with the wreck of the Jhelum (1870) to the right.

Sunset over Stanley Harbour, East Falkland, November 2016, with the wreck of the Jhelum (1870) to the right.

Lenticular clouds, North Camp, East Falkland, November 2016.

Lenticular clouds, North Camp, East Falkland, November 2016.

All kinds of weather brewing at Cape Pembroke, near Stanley, East Falkland, November 2016.

All kinds of weather brewing at Cape Pembroke, near Stanley, East Falkland, November 2016.

Back from the Falklands

Late afternoon sun picks out a river course on West Falkland.

Late afternoon sun picks out a river course on West Falkland.

I am now back from my 3+ week immersion into the farming culture of the Falkland Islands, with 700 photos, 30 hours of interviews, 20 pages of observational notes, and a strong sense of my inadequacies as a specialist within a land of self-reliant generalists. Despite coming at the busiest time in the farming calendar – shearing and lamb marking – farmers were incredibly generous in their willingness to talk, and sometimes tour and host as well. My research assistant, Marilou Delignieres, went far beyond her role as recruiter, guide and driver, happily engaging in farm work and babysitting to help me get time with farmers. Her parents, Hugues and Marie-Paul, helped us with logistics, but also provided additional opportunities during my visit. I relished my discussions with members of a contract shearing gang then working at their farm Dunbar, and got to experience a cruise ship visit, one of the ways that many farmers here diversify their incomes and benefit from hosting penguin colonies and other wildlife. I travelled by 4×4, workboat (ferry) and Islander aircraft. I marveled at all scales: skies to ground cover. These memories will sustain me through the difficult transcription phase which follows such research, and support my subsequent analysis. Thanks to the OECD Co-operative Research Programme and Dalhousie’s Supplemental Sabbatical Fund for the fellowship funding to undertake this travel, and SSHRC for its support of Marilou.

Marilou throws a fleece in the Dunbar shearing shed, as Alex shears, Polly rousies, and Hugues and Marie-Paul look on.

Marilou throws a fleece in the Dunbar shearing shed, as Alex shears, Polly rousies, and Hugues and Marie-Paul look on, ready to class it.

Cruise ship tourists visiting Gentoo Penguins at Dunbar farm, with Death Head in the background - one of their tricker paddocks to gather sheep in.

Cruise ship tourists visiting Gentoo Penguins at Dunbar farm, with Death Head in the background – one of their tricker paddocks to gather sheep in.

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