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Sailmithril - ocean cruising adventures

The Other Stanley


Falklands capital should be twinned with Tasmanian town.

Falkland islands
Stanley cathedral

When I visited Stanley I often wondered why it was twinned with Whitby and not its namesake in Australia and now that I have visited Stanley in Tasmania I'm even more puzzled as the two towns have a lot in common. Tasmania was settled a lot later than the Falklands and with convicts at first but later other settlers arrived including what would today be called corporate investors. They set up the Van Dieman's Land Company which was granted a royal charter and a lot of land in the north west of the state. Stanley was the company town named for Lord Stanley, secretary of state for the colonies at the time.
The first industry tried was wool growing which wasn't successful for very long. Their most profitable activity turned out to be as agents and importers for the surrounding population. The company increased its business and profitability by selling off parts of its land grant to smaller companies and individuals which of course needed the services of importers and agents. The company built new towns and infrastructure as the population grew and today the north coast is the most industrialised part of Tasmania. The Van Diemans Land company still exists and has a large holding on the wild north west corner of the state where they have a very successful cattle stud. The original headquarters was a lovely old mansion "Highfield" outside Stanley which is being restored as a tourist attraction.
As other towns grew in the state Stanley became less important as an industrial port and it came to rely on fishing for survival with many boats using the town as a base for the fairly sheltered waters of Bass Strait. Now even this has declined with restrictions on inshore fishing and there are many other harbours closer to the ocean fisheries of the west coast. A few family owned trawlers still fish from Stanley and make a good living catching crayfish for export but the season is limited by law. The harbour itself is a much more comfortable affair than Port Stanley being a small basin at the base of the most prominent feature on the whole coastline; a large mountainous headland called The Nut. In lean times in the past local people harvested the short-tailed shearwaters, known as muttonbirds, which return to the headland to nest every year. Nowadays they are protected and only tourists make the steep climb to watch the 1000s of birds return to their burrows at dusk in summer. Penguins nest annually on the shoreline at the foot of The Nut.
With the general decline in fishing Stanley had to seek some other means of survival and tourism became more important. It is classified as a historic town by the National Trust as it has many old buildings some dating back to the 1840s which is very old here in Australia. These are mainly stone cottages with corrugated iron roofs. It has a nice seafront and a village green with the weather to match not like the South Atlantic. But tourism isn't enough on its own and the economic miracle came in the unlikely guise of Macdonalds - they of the golden arches. The area around Stanley now grows most of the potatoes used by Macdonalds in Australia. I don't think the Falklands will ever match that but Tasmania also has offshore oil and Stanley recently has started to gain more business for its port in servicing the rigs; and of course more local employment, but not any share in actual oil revenue. Maybe when your wells come in the politicians of the Falklands might grant themselves a junket to Tasmania and visit Stanley - who knows you might become a triplet town.

copyright Geraldine Foley.