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Heating with Peat

Falkland Islands Tour (Islas Malvinas)

This engaging streaming video presentation (approximately 4 minutes) on the Falkland Islands was filmed by Herb Coleman on his journey to Antarctica. The information provided here has been kept intentionally brief. Please visit accompanying links for more details regarding life on these remote islands.

by Annette M. Hall

Video Transcript

Herb: This is our tour guide.

Tour Guide: [This is] different than the peat in Ireland. A lot of people are used to peat in Ireland and as it is in the United States as well but this is different all to do with the raw material. And it's basically this famous little deep part that makes all the difference.

Ok

So for us to be cutting, we can't cut it the same as they do in Ireland coming down from the top with a hook, that doesn't work, it physically doesn't work.

What we've got to do is cut into the bank here, as they say traditionally, first Monday in October, you come along and you mark out the bank, in other words you get your peat stays and you go along marking it out as if your cutting turf.

The next stage is you come along this way, and your going to cut along there and you've got cuts, as you see one going there, one going there, one going there, and so on.

The next stage is to take this top sod off in one big swoop and put it down and stand on it. If you don't do that then two things - one you've got a sloppy mess like trying to cut into that morass over there and secondly you could get a peat slip, which has happened in our, in our, history.

So you get the top sod and stand on it, that helps to regenerate the peat, and peat is regenerating. Ok?

Then you cut into the bank and cut it shoulder height and below you cut it into 9" x 9" x 9" blocks, heave it up onto the side on here and leave it to dry. That's the man's job.

Ok

He then goes home.

The womans job, female of the species, their job is to take each one of those blocks and to turn it over. Alright so you get it nicely dried on all sides, that called rickling, and then you put the sods into a pile, that's called a rickle.

So all these piles, there's one missing, there was one there he's taken that in. But if take this total amount you can see, plus one more, then this is one years supply.

Now modern man like me, I'm still on peat but there is a machine that cuts my peat for me. So, I do tour guiding for a bit of pocket money, then I use that pocket money to pay someone to go and cut my peat.

That's the mans job. However, there is no machine to actually rickle peat, so I still send my wife out to work to turn every one of those sods over and put it into a stack called a rickle. That's called demarkation of labor, I love it.

Any questions?

Herb: You're alienating half the audience.

Tour Guide: I know - but they've got a smile on their face, so it doesn't matter.

Herb Narrates: These piles, it takes three of these piles for a years supply, about 100 cubic meters. And over in the back over there, is a years supply, of peat. This is the blocks that they have and they keep their fires burning year around. All the time.

This stuff burns a lot like wood they say, and not a whole lot of ash.

We're on the back side of town, headed on down the hill. Everything is very unique here. They have no taxes, everybody burns peat and they go out and dig it. You can't sell it and you can't buy it but you can pay somebody to do the labor and that's all you can charge for it. Whatever, whether you got somebody do the work but you can't sell it.

You can see the smoke coming out of that chimney there, that's a peat fire. He said that you could smell it here but I don't have any, I don't, I can't smell any of the distinction. Not much of a breeze blowing, but the air is pretty clear.

Learn About the Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands

Just mention the Falkland Islands and most people draw a blank, having no idea where this isolated country is located. Even if geography isn't your cup of tea, seeing is believing. The hidden charm and the unspoiled wildlife intermingled with the friendly inhabitants of this unique landscape are unforgettable.

The Falkland Islands are one of the last stops made on most cruises to the frozen lands of Antarctica. Geographically located 250 - 400 miles off the eastern coast of South America, depending on points of reference, consisting of two main islands and hundreds of small outlying islands, it is here tourists get the first glimpse of the weather, which lies ahead on their long journey. The winds around the Falklands blow nearly continuously and change in intensity very rapidly and without warning.

The landmass of the Falkland Islands consists of 4,697 square miles and is about the same size as the state of Connecticut. The country is made up almost entirely of peat bogs with mountains rising up through the bog. Although the mountains are not high by most standards, they are extremely rugged (the highest is Mount Osborne at just over 2,000 feet).

Charles Darwin once decribed the Falkland landscape as "an undulating land, with a desolate and wretched aspect, is everywhere covered by a peaty soil and wiry grass of one monotonous brown color." And at first glance, only dull brownish colored grasses and ferns appear to blanket the hills as far as the eye can see. The colorful flowers and bright berries of the 163 native plant species grow hidden in hollows, coves, marshes and streams. Native boxwood (10 feet) and tussock grass (12 feet) are the tallest native plants.

Learn About Peat Moss

Of all the Falkland plants, tussock (Poa sp.) is the most important. Tussock decomposes in the cool, wet climate into a fibrous dark humus called peat. The tussock base is easily tunneled, offering shelter and nesting burrows for Magellanic penguins, prions, diving-petrels, white-chinned petrels and shearwaters. Black-browed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins use the fronds and eroded pedestals for nests.

There are no roads except in the immediate vicinity of Stanley and a few paths near each settlement. There are no trees on the islands except where they've been carefully nurtured around homes on the Islands. The population as of July 2005 was a mere 2,967.

Geography

Wildlife Photos
& Facts

The inhabitants of Stanley, the capital city, lead a simple life style, which is rustic in nature but fairly affluent. The local standard of living is stable and unemployment is unknown in this isolated land. Until only recently, the main heating and cooking fuel was, peat which is formed into bricks and dried. There has been a significant change in the fuel used for household heating and cooking as the use of peat continues to decline. It is not an ideal heating source because it creates a great deal of dust and burns at variable temperatures. Peat is divided into three types: low type peat, transitional type peat and high type peat. Each kind possesses its own Peat Types that are determined by peat formatted vegetative remains. Low type peat usually has a bigger ash percentage.

Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetable matter. Peat forms in wetlands or peatlands, variously called bogs, moors, muskegs, mires, tropical swamp forests and fens.

According the latest census, kerosene is currently the main heating fuel used by Islanders, being used by 618 out of 1,061 households. Of the 148 houses built in the last five years, 136 use kerosene. The reminder use diesel. Only three houses built in the last ten years use peat. Only 62 households reported having no central heating, as compared with 120 in 1996. Only one dwelling built in the last five years has no central heating installed.

Electricity is the dominant means for cooking, being used by 410 households. Gas (propane) is used by 364 households and 97 households still use peat (488 used peat for cooking in 1986 reduced to 213 residence in 1996).

Stanley, has pubs, snack bars and restaurants. Food, generally British in character, includes large 'camp breakfasts' and smoko (tea and coffee with homemade cakes) with lunch and dinner.

It should be noted that any location outside Stanley is known as "the Camp". (Camp is derived from the Spanish word for countryside.) Camp life retains many of the cattle rearing traditions from the South American gauchos who managed vast tracks of land in the 1850s.

In good weather, 19th-century sailing ships and wrecks abandoned over the years can be explored in and around Stanley and Darwin. The inland areas provide opportunities to observe the varied wildlife in the midst of the Islands' natural beauty as well as good fishing. In addition, many visitors come to the Islands to see places made famous by the events of the Falkland Islands conflict such as the battlefields at Goose Green and Pebble Island.

Household Appliances

There has been a great increase in the ownership of household appliances since the 1996 census. Out of 1,052 households, over half (542) now own a computer and 454 have internet access. The Internet did not exist on the Islands in 1986, although 252 households did have computers. Today there are 1,008 households with television, the most common household appliance.

There are 1,054 vehicles available to Islander households in Stanley. In Camp, there are 258 vehicles available for use by 105 households in East Falkland and 204 vehicles available for 68 households in West Falkland, in keeping with most modern countries, despite having relatively few roads.

The Falklands are a clean and orderly society: there is no dirt, no waste products, no stealing and even less violent crime. There are no fast food restaurants, no neon signs, traffic lights or supermarkets. The Falklands are a bastion of serenity, the kind of place which is becoming a rarity these days!

Education

School is free and compulsory for all children from 5 to 16 years of age. The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) provides staff, material and supplies from one end of the isles to the other. Two schools in Stanley provide education for children during the whole of their school years and 3 small establishments serve the big farms (Port Howard, Goose Green, North Arm).

The young children, living in isolated farms, receive private lessons from travelling teachers for two weeks out of six. The smaller establishments and the travelling teachers are supported by the "Camp Education Unit" based over the radio network or telephone and it also helps by giving homework to children between teacher's visits.

Older children take lessons in Stanley and live with area families. For university studies the students generally travel to Great Britain.


The Falklands Regime

This true story tells how twenty years after British troops died for democracy in the Falklands War, a British citizen would be forced to flee the Falklands to escape political corruption and death threats, to seek democracy and freedom of speech in Argentina.

When a British biologist dared to connect the starvation of 5 million penguins to commercial fishing that was making the Falklands elite rich, a deadly game of cat and mouse was unleashed. Bungled attempts to deport, imprison and kill Bingham, landed the Falkland Islands Government in the Supreme Court, which ruled that the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Executive and Executive Council had committed acts of human rights abuse that were "morally and constitutionally indefensible".

When the Falklands Government stated in public that they were not going to be stopped by the Supreme Court ruling, Bingham was forced to seek safety in Argentina.

This is our first attempt at creating a streaming video clip, the quality has been reduced to allow those on dial-up to watch as well. We hope to add several more in the near future. Special thanks to Mr. Herb Coleman for sharing his DVD, in which he invested many months and was a true labor of love. I'd also like to thank my dear husband, Shawn K. Hall for the many hours he invested in learning how to accomplish this task. For technical problems or feedback, please contact: Annette M. Hall

Updated: May 5, 2013

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