Just off West Falkland’s north coast, Pebble Island takes its name from the colorful agates, sometimes polished and turned into jewelry, that litter its westernmost beaches. Visitors come to the 24-mile-long offshore island for its diverse wildlife and landscape: East of the settlement isthmus, a pond-filled plain teems with wildfowl while sea lions breed along the shore; to the west, several penguin species have colonized the coastal greens and headlands, along with giant petrels. There are more than 40 resident bird species.
Immediately north of the settlement, horseshoe-shaped Elephant Bay has no elephant seals, but its white crescent beach is the starting point for a two-hour walk to Little Wreck Point; at the end, there’s a shoreline graveyard of beaked whale skulls, ribs, and vertebrae. Magellanic penguins breed here and swim in the large pond.
On the night of May 14–15, 1982, Pebble was the site of a British commando raid that destroyed 11 Argentine spotter planes—an action that made their naval counter-invasion of East Falkland feasible. On the slope of First Mount, just west of the settlement, there’s a monument to HMS Coventry, which sank with at least 10 British helicopters onboard after being hit by a missile, about 10 miles to the north. A nearby gravesite marks the resting place of two Argentine pilots whose Learjet came down a short distance from here, but the remains went undetected until 1992.
Some distance west, on a coastal green, there’s a substantial gentoo colony with the occasional king, and a midsize rockhopper colony with the odd macaroni. Giant petrels also nest on a nearby slope, but visitors should not approach too closely as these easily disturbed birds may abandon their nests.
The former manager’s house, Pebble Island Lodge (tel./fax 41093, www.pebblelodge.com, £99 pp with full board for adults, half-price for children 5–15) has six spacious doubles and one odd compact single entered through its own bathroom; all baths are private but have showers rather than tubs. The enormous sitting room, with excellent natural light, has a self-service bar on the honor system. There is 24-hour electricity from a wind turbine and storage batteries, and 24-hour hot water.
The food is well above average by camp standards, with very fine homemade bread and good desserts. There’s a respectable choice of wines, mostly Chilean.
Islanders Allan White and Jacqui Jennings, who run Pebble Lodge, offer eight-hour Land Rover tours (£60 pp) that cover western Pebble thoroughly; Allan, who has substantial cruise ship experience in both the South Atlantic and South Pacific, is particularly knowledgeable on natural history but also on the 1982 conflict (“When I was in England in school, I watched the TV news every night to see what was happening . . . ,” he says). As of late 2010, the lodge was up for sale.
For hikers, the lodge has Land Rover drop-off service whose cost depends on the distance from the settlement.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition