Camping near Ceritos House under Mount Usborne on 25th February 1984

Camping near Ceritos House under Mount Usborne on 25th February 1984

25th February 1984 - Mount Usborne

Some guys who were newcomers or hadn't been on the previous trip wanted to climb Mount Usborne so Dave G, Barry O, Ray K, Stirling M, Mark T, Ken D joined George L, Tony R and me. We set off after 4 pm on Saturday and as usual.

I led them onto the summer grass track past Black Rock House and it proved faster and smoother than the bumpy clay track with frequent water-filled potholes. We reached our previous campsite near Ceritos House, started a fire and had a meal. The sky was clear and we had a spectacular view of a satellite moving across Orion. When we were in our sleeping bags Ken soon started snoring, so George got up and moved near me.

The next morning it started raining hard. When we stopped half-way up for tea I put my rucksack down on a rock and heard a tinkle of breaking glass. My thermos was at the bottom and the glass inside was in tiny pieces, so no tea. When we got to the summit we were in a white-out and it hailed a bit. We couldn't see very far and got disorientated. We got out George's compass and set off south-east but soon came to the 300 foot precipice. We had wandered east rather than south-east. The cloud cleared as we descended a bit and we looked down at the ponds and had lunch.

Mark T drove from Burntside House back to the site and got bogged on the track. We heard that two LMA landrovers had got bogged on the way back from Goose Green and they had to leave one of them and walk five miles. We never had to abandon one. Jim L and Martin R who had gone to Stanley got bogged three times on the way and five times on the way back - and this was summer!

4th March 1984 - Bertha's Beach

George and Frank took my landrover to Stanley, they didn't want to take No. 4 on difficult trips any more as it was clapped out. It was one of the landrovers the surveyors had the previous summer. I generally wasn't keen on going to Stanley, they, and Frank in particular, just ended up in bars. I walked to Bertha's Beach and met up with Barry O, Dave G, John G, Mark T and Dave N. The nesting seemed to be over and the young penguins were just wandering around, afraid to go in the water.

When George and Frank returned, they told me that Pat C had pushed out the small side rear window. He always seemed a bit heavy-handed. I was sure he'd ruin the landrover when it was later borrowed for the round-the-island trip on 24th March and it certainly was. It was never young and spritely again.

10th March 1984 - San Carlos

We set out with the intention of going much further than Third Corral Mountains, possibly across to the east of the island, down to Estancia House, then Stanley and back to site. Others on the trip were Martin R, Jim L, Tony R, Alan W, Barry O, Pat C, Ray K and Stirling M. It had rained a lot since the end of January and I wasn't sure it would be as easy as the last attempt.

We found it very slippery going up to the top of Sussex Mountains and when going along the top, where the water tends to lie, Stirling M got bogged twice, then I got bogged going round and back towards his front end as we couldn't move him backwards.

The bog-ins delayed us and it was 8 pm and getting dark as we slithered down towards San Carlos. The track seemed much more churned-up than before, whether by landrovers or BVs we weren't sure. Jim L, who had had a lot of cider while driving, was highly excitable and got bogged in the dark. I was leading at one point and got out to put down metal psp strips, but forgot to tell the last landrover to pick them up afterwards.

We camped next to a stream at the bottom of the mountain just before the estuary outside San Carlos. As I lay in my sleeping bag I was thinking not that we couldn't get round the island but that when we returned on Monday or Tuesday instead of Sunday, Maurice C would probably ban all future trips. We were after all wearing out the landrovers and wasting fuel. It was Pat C who snored this time. Next morning I woke up, moved, heard and felt the crackling of ice all over my bivvy bag.

Jim got up early, surprisingly, and we packed in the dark and left, intending to have breakfast later. It was slippery up the hill past the rifle range. When we got to the top there was a white mist below us over the whole of the interior of the island. We hadn't even got as far as Verde House when we started discussing the chances of making it round the island.

Although some didn't have much work to do on Monday, especially the M & E guys whose real work hadn't started, some of us did. The PSA guys were aware that they only had one year tours whereas we consultants would still have another summer for trips, so they thought it was their last chance. We had a vote. Four voted to go on, four to return and Stirling M said he would accept the majority verdict!. Since there wasn't a majority, we decided to return.

As it happened, I don't remember anyone considering a round-the-island trip the following summer. The landrovers were worn out and had lost the use of low-ratio and diff-locks, the winter had been wetter and we knew it would take three days at least so although there were one or two trips to San Carlos we tended to go to other places like Lafonia or follow the progress of the new road east to Stanley and climb the mountains just west of Stanley. In addition at that time I was still suffering from a bad back and I didn't fancy being jolted in a landrover for three days.

An added factor in deciding to return was that Ray and Stirling's landrover had got a badly bent trackrod so that the wheels were splayed out and it was already difficult for them to handle. Time pressures were lifted and we started to relax. We had a large cooked breakfast with steaks on the San Carlos side of the hill.

After looking around San Carlos and the cemetery we started the return journey. The hill up Sussex Mountains looked even worse in the daylight. We tried going up steeper, rockier places but failed. The normal route we had come down looked really bad but we managed to find a new route along and higher up the slope. We rejoined the normal route at the top but there was a narrow drainage ditch completely covered over with grass which I didn't see, so I got bogged. We were passed by two army men we had seen at the gate at the bottom, they had walked up the hill and caught us up.

The sun came out and we had a snooze on the top of a hill above Hell's Kitchen. Ray and Stirling's landrover was virtually undriveable so before Goose Green we bent the trackrod straighter with a tow rope attached to another rover. We had to do it again before Swan Inlet.

17th March 1984 - The Waterfall

George wanted to go to the waterfall, so off we went, with Ken D, Mike R and Ray K. Stirling M was suffering from the previous night's curry as I was, so he didn't come, but I didn't feel too bad. Frank got us lots of food from Kelvin, he had plenty of contacts and was good at that sort of thing, although he didn't like camping and didn't come. We camped next to a large pond beyond the ruined house. We started a fire in a stone hearth, but the stones exploded and George got a red hot piece shot at him just next to his eye. It was very red afterwards, but luckily not serious.

Breakfasts were getting better the more we camped. Kelvin's bacon was normally greasy and stringy but when cooked on a camp fire became nice and crisp. Sausages were brown and crisp too. An uneventful walk to the waterfall in sunshine.

24th March 1984 - The round-the-island-trip

The PSA senior men had been secretly plotting another round-the-island attempt and not invited any consultants. There was a bit of a division developing between us now that more people were in the camp. In the early days we were all just pioneers, but we felt the newer PSA guys were acting a bit superior. Frank S, however, an inky with an independent streak, would have nothing to do with his superiors, so he didn't go, nor did George, who were both PSA. So I didn't go on this trip, but I was told that our landrover would be borrowed by Pat C. As it happened, both George and I had bad sore thoats and a fever.

It had been drier weather for a week or two, so their chances were better than our's last time. John G and I didn't think they stood a chance of getting back on Sunday. They took all Sunday and Monday to get to Stanley, arriving long after dark. Tony R walked the last few miles from Estancia House in front of the landrovers as a guide. Maurice C saw them in Stanley and was "a bit irritated" as one of them admitted. They had not arranged time off. They got back to site on Tuesday at lunchtime. My landrover had a badly bent trackrod, a missing mudflap and several other minor defects, as had all the rovers. Leyland blamed me! The landrovers had only done 5000 miles but were getting worn out.

8th April 1984 - Fitzroy

George L wanted to go to Fitzroy with Frank S to meet PSA guys and two girls from Stanley who were supposed to be going there for an outing. He had borrowed my landrover to go down to the Merchant Providence for a hot breakfast as the site camp at this time had no canteen and wanted to take it to Fitzroy later, so I decided to go too. Frank drove off fast as usual and George driving my landrover was in one of his go-for-it moods, chin forward, crashing over the ditches and humps. I left my seat many times and wondered how the landrovers took the punishment.

We called in to see Ron B the farm manager but he hadn't seen any rovers from Stanley. We went up over the hill and down to Fitzroy bridge. There were no landrovers coming down the hill the other side but we could see a bogged landrover so we crossed the bridge to see what the problem was. The ground after Fitzroy bridge was notoriously bad. George struggled valiantly up the hill, revving like mad and got bogged about 500 metres from the bogged landrover. You need to be fairly gentle driving on muddy peat, but firm at precise moments, continuous bulldog tactics never work.

We found Eric, who was trying to visit his wife who worked in Stanley, and Don Carruthers. LMA weren't supposed to leave the site at all after some LMA guys had gone to a pub in Stanley. They pinched women's arses, sung vile songs, took their trousers and pants down during the National Anthem which the locals sing at the end of an evening's drinking.. Eric and Don had left the site at 1.30 am and been bogged since six am. It was then mid-morning. Frank had taken a track slightly further north and reached them and us, pulling us both out.

Don wasn't keen to go on and we had no reason to go on, but George wanted to see the Fitzroy Cove memorials so we went back through Fitzroy while Frank and Jim O visited friends in Fitzroy. We all met up at the Fitzroy club about half an hour later. Bad move - I realised Frank wouldn't ever leave and George would be difficult to prise away. 12.30 pm closing time passed, so did the 1.30 pm extension time. Norman from Island Harbour came in. Others kept drifting in and out and I could see us being there all afternoon. George was having far too many rums. In the end, mid-afternoon, I managed to drag George away and I drove back, leaving Frank and Jim still there. It certainly was bumpy, there seemed to be endless small wet ditches and elsewhere the track was black and sticky, but with lumps of hard rock in unexpected places.

15th April 1984 - Mount Pleasant

It was cold, windy and snowing. Some people wanted to go camping the other side of Mount Pleasant with a view to going for a walk further north the next day. I still had a sore throat and a cough, many of us did at this time due to the over-chlorinated water we thought, and I'd been to Mount Wickham on a glorious summer day, so I decided to stay in.

The next morning there was a decent layer of snow on the ground. The six campers returned before lunch. The snow had been difficult for them and they didn't go for a walk as the jumbled up rocks in the rock runs were too slippery to cross.

6th May 1984 - The Frying Pan

It had been wet and stormy for weeks. The site was liquid mud everywhere and trips far away from site were impossible. As Dave D, a G & T colleague, had just arrived, John G, Mike D (an LMA QS who knew Dave) and I took him out and about, visiting Mount Pleasant House, the quartzite quarry and then to the Frying Pan bridge on the track to Fitzroy. A haul road had been laid some way in that direction, but even that was boggy.

13th May 1984 - Goose Green and Fitzroy

George L tries L'Antioja on 13th May 1984

George L tries L'Antioja on 13th May 1984

George wanted to take Esther to see the Goose Green battlefield. We set off at 8 am and the sleet had just stopped. At L'Antioja stream George tested the depth of the ford and found it much too deep even before he had got into the swiftly flowing middle.

We had to abandon this trip and went to Fitzroy instead. Dave drove there quite successfully for a beginner. It had dried out a bit in a week. We visited the memorials at the cove, then went up over the ridge and down to the bridge, John G driving this time, getting wheelspin and temporarily stuck but not needing a tow. We went off the main muddy track and used the grass around rather than over the hill which was easier.

We had lunch at the bridge. Penny P succeeded in slamming the rear door of George's landrover, damaging the lock and removing the small side window. We mended that but later she couldn't shut the driver's door. We tied it with string but it never shut properly again.

I drove back to site, using yet another lower route as water seemed to lie on the higher ground and virgin grass was easier. The bit just east of Fitzroy at a gate and stream was always bad and unavoidable.


I went on leave on 14th May 1984 as winter set in.