British veteran’s Falklands war on stage

This video from Britain is a 1983 Elvis Costello & Robert Wyatt interview about Shipbuilding (song about the Falklands war).

By Michal Boncza in England:

A Soldier’s Song

Tuesday 16 July 2013

John McIntosh Arts Centre, London SW6

As A spotlight picks out Ken Lukowiak, a thunderous explosion startles the audience.

Lukowiak ducks for cover and agitatedly begins to speak as the sounds of battle rage.

This is Goose Green and the British army is hard at it, attempting to dislodge the Argentinian forces from the Falkland Islands in this dramatisation of A Soldier’s Song.

Some 10 years after that conflict, Lukowiak’s Falklands war vignettes were unearthed from his decorator’s tool bag by Jill Tweedie and Alan Brien and the rest is literary history.

His stories – written in English and translated into Spanish, Polish and Czech – are required reading on university courses and they’ve placed Lukowiak firmly alongside Erich Maria Remarque, Michael Herr and Bao Ninh as one of the greatest war writers of the 20th century.

The short stories which started as rock song lyrics – hence the book’s title – are memorable for a rare honesty and biting satire in a prevailing climate of obscene jingoism.

The tone of scepticism is reinforced by some much-needed moral reflection on the futility of war.

On stage Lukowiak brings all these factors to bear in an impressive acting tour de force as he oscillates between the terror of battle, childhood memories, caustic barrack humour and the occasional song.

Death is only a breath away and the enemy is a faithful companion in a shared charade of senseless carnage where only pain and suffering seem tangible.

Lukowiak despairs at the waste of it all and the absence of redemption that will haunt many for the rest of their lives.

Yet humour provides temporary respite as when a pompous toff of a general arrives in a helicopter on a morale-raising inspection of trenches on a dark, freezing night. He leaves the sergeant and squaddies with nothing but a healthy contempt as they mock-seriously ask of the Argentinian air force: “Where are they when you need them?”

Ably adapted for the stage by Guy Masterson the rhythm of the narrative is punctuated by Gina Hills’s superbly evocative soundscape. It’s a play which stunned audiences at last year’s Edinburgh festival and its present topicality could not be more obvious.

“As long as we continue to act out these plays that have been written for us by the politicians, their priests and the men of this world who control the money then we shall never put an end to the horrors of war,” Lukowiak warns, leaving the audience to pick up the gauntlet.

Falkland Islands wolves mystery solved

Old Falkland wolf family tree

From Wildlife Extra:

Mystery solved – Where did Falkland Islands wolves come from?

Ancient DNA solves 320-year-old mystery

March 2013. University of Adelaide researchers have found the answer to one of natural history’s most intriguing puzzles – the origins of the now extinct Falkland Islands wolf and how it came to be the only land-based mammal on the isolated islands – 460km from the nearest land, Argentina.
Previous theories have suggested the wolf somehow rafted on ice or vegetation, crossed via a now-submerged land bridge or was even semi-domesticated and transported by early South American humans.

Darwin questions

The 320-year-old mystery was first recorded by early British explorers in 1690 and raised again by Charles Darwin following his encounter with the famously tame species on his Beagle voyage in 1834.

New stuffed specimen found in New Zealand

Researchers from the University’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) extracted tiny pieces of tissue from the skull of a specimen collected personally by Darwin. They also used samples from a previously unknown specimen, which was recently re-discovered as a stuffed exhibit in the attic of Otago Museum in New Zealand.

16,000 years ago

The findings concluded that, unlike earlier theories, the Falkland Islands wolf (Dusicyon australis) only became isolated about 16,000 years ago around the peak of the last glacial period.

“Previous studies used ancient DNA from museum specimens to suggest that the Falkland Islands wolf diverged genetically from its closest living relative, the South American maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) around seven million years ago. As a result, they estimated that the wolf colonised the islands about 330,000 years ago by unknown means,” says Associate Professor Jeremy Austin, Deputy Director of ACAD and co-lead author with Dr Julien Soubrier.

“Critically, however, these early studies hadn’t included an extinct relative from the mainland, the fox-like Dusicyon avus. We extracted ancient DNA from six specimens of D. avus collected across Argentina and Chile, and made comparisons with a wide group of extinct and living species in the same family.”

ACAD’s analyses showed that D. avus was the closest relative of the Falkland Islands wolf and they separated only 16,000 years ago – but the question of how the island colonisation came about remained. The absence of other mammals argued against any land bridge connection to the mainland.

Eureka moment

“The Eureka moment was finding evidence of submarine terraces off the coast of Argentina,” says study leader Professor Alan Cooper. “They recorded the dramatically lowered sea levels during the Last Glacial Maximum (around 25-18,000 years ago).”

“At that time, there was a shallow and narrow (around 20km) strait between the islands and the mainland, allowing the Falkland Islands wolf to cross when the sea was frozen over, probably while pursuing marine prey like seals or penguins. Other small mammals like rats weren’t able to cross the ice.”

The study was published in Nature Communications.

Rupert Murdoch’s Falklands warmongering

Rupert Murdoch's phone hacking scandals, cartoon

By John Haylett in Britain:

Colonial knee jerk responses

Friday 04 January 2013

Just when things are going badly for David Cameron over his defence of Britain’s colonial grip on the Falklands, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun comes in to make things worse.

The Sun‘s strident “Hands off” full-page advertisement in an English-language Buenos Aires paper will not convince a single Argentinian that the islands, known throughout Latin America as the Malvinas, are a rightful British possession.

The fact that Murdoch’s rag surpassed itself in the excesses of gutter journalism through its stomach-turning “Gotcha!” headline to celebrate the needless slaughter of 323 naval conscripts by the sinking of the cruiser General Belgrano will not be lost on the people of Argentina.

This won’t concern Murdoch or his creature at the helm of the Sun.

News International titles have already demonstrated amply their estrangement from normal standards of decency and the Sun‘s advertising ploy is designed for domestic consumption not as a serious contribution to discussion.

In contrast to the Sun‘s exercise in self-publicity, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner‘s advertisement in two British dailies was a factual and moderate statement inviting discussions between London and Buenos Aires.

Fernandez de Kirchner noted that the UN general assembly passed in 1965, without a single dissenting voice, a resolution depicting the islands as colonial possessions and urging Britain and Argentina to negotiate decolonisation.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

The Argentinian president is not a reincarnation of the fascist armed forces junta that sought to win popular support in 1982 through military adventurism, landing troops on the islands.

She is a serious politician who has helped to rescue her country from self-induced immiseration through submission to neoliberal policies.

Fernandez de Kirchner has stood up successfully to vulture investment funds such as NML Capital, which failed in its speculative efforts to impound an Argentinian frigate in Ghana as a means of blackmailing her government into paying defaulted sovereign debts in full.

Argentina has won the backing of all of its neighbours for its stance over the Falklands – unlike in 1982 when Chile‘s military dictatorship, led by Augusto Pinochet, collaborated with Margaret Thatcher‘s government.

Just as Fernandez de Kirchner has no intention of replicating history, the British Prime Minister would be well advised to do likewise.

It is now clear that Ronald Reagan wobbled before putting US intelligence resources behind his close British Tory ally Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago.

Washington is nowhere near as powerful now as it was then.

It is engaged in efforts to retain influence in the western hemisphere, where the election of a succession of progressive anti-imperialist governments has enhanced regional unity and reduced US capacity to intervene directly in individual states.

Defeat for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the US presidential election in November was a setback for political forces whose approach has not moved on since the Monroe doctrine was formulated in 1823.

Dissatisfaction with Barack Obama’s failure to build bridges with Cuba and Venezuela should blind no-one to the gulf between the US approach under his presidency and what it could have been under Romney.

It’s nearly two years ago since US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Argentinian president in response to a request for US mediation.

Clinton did not touch on mediation, but she said openly: “We would like to see Argentina and the United Kingdom sit down and resolve the issues between them across the table in a peaceful, productive way.”

She added: “We will continue to encourage exactly the kind of discussion across the table that needs to take place.”

Cameron’s wooden reiteration of Gordon Brown’s jaded formulas about “self-determination” for the islanders being the key issue will convince no-one.

There is no Falkland Islander nation. The current population of the islands consists of 3,000 settlers from Britain living 8,000 miles away from their native land.

The idea of a self-determination referendum being held among these settlers, all but a tiny handful of whom were born in Britain, is preposterous and will leave international opinion cold, as will Cameron’s patronising advice that Fernandez de Kirchner should “listen” to its result.

Two events have coloured British government since the 1965 UN general assembly vote – the 1982 war and the more recent discovery of likely oil and gas reserves in the North Falkland Basin, north of the islands.

After Afghanistan and Iraq, it is difficult to believe that any British government could get away with a proposal for military action in defence of 3,000 British citizens’ right to fly the union flag 8,000 miles away, especially since the widespread suspicion would be that war was being waged at the behest of British-based oil transnational corporations.

Economic exploration of the mineral wealth around the Falklands can only be carried out with regional co-operation not by confrontation with Argentina and its regional allies.

Cameron’s “100 per cent backing” for the right of Falkland Islanders to “stay with the United Kingdom” may play well with members of his party who believe, or wish, that Queen Victoria was still on the throne.

But it does no service to anyone involved. The British government should swallow its imperial pride and agree to negotiate a mutually beneficial solution to the problems posed by this relic of empire.

The example of the Chagos Islands shows the government cares nothing for ‘self-determination’ in the Falklands: here.

Reagan tried to stop Falklands war

This is a video of British musician Robert Wyatt, singing Shipbuilding, against the Falklands war, on the Old Grey Whistle Test, on BBC TV.

By Tony Patey in Britain:

Reagan bid to halt Falklands revealed

Friday 28 December 2012

New light was shed yesterday on the so-called special relationship between B-movie actor turned world leader Ronald Reagan and chemist turned warlord Maggie Thatcher during the 1982 Falklands war.

Public records released under the 30-year rule reveal that Reagan showed a rare ray of insight by making a last-ditch appeal to Thatcher, who had sent a full-scale task force right round the globe to retake the islands following the Argentinian invasion.

In an 11.30pm telephone call to 10 Downing Street on Monday May 31 1982 the then US president urged Thatcher to abandon her campaign and to hand over the islands to international peacekeepers.

Official files released by the National Archives at Kew show that as British troops closed in on final victory Reagan begged Thatcher not to completely humiliate the Argentinians.

Reagan, whose country officially remained neutral, told the Tory leader: “The best chance for peace was before complete Argentine humiliation. As the UK now had the upper hand militarily, it should strike a deal now.”

Thatcher rejected his approach and ordered soldiers to fight until the occupying forces had been totally defeated.

Over the next two weeks more than 100 British troops died and around 150 mainly conscript Argentinian soldiers were killed.

Reagan, who had questioned whether the Falklands was really worth a war, faced a strategic dilemma during the conflict.

The US had a longstanding alliance with Britain, but by 1982 the far-right military junta in Argentina had become a cold war ally in Latin America as Washington sought to snuff out left-wing social movements.

The newly released files also revealed criticism of then dean of St Paul’s Rev Alan Webster for introducing notes of concern for Argentinian, as well as British, casualties in a thanksgiving service on July 26 1982 following the war’s end.

Argentinian deaths during the 74-day conflict reached 649, while 255 were killed among the British forces.

Three Falkland Islanders also died in the fighting.

The biggest single death toll came on May 2 1982 when a British nuclear-powered submarine sunk the light cruiser General Belgrano over 200 miles from the islands with the loss of 323 of its 1,090-strong crew.

Talking about Margaret Thatcher:

Red-faced Thatcher paid for son’s rescue

Friday 28 December 2012

An embarrassed Margaret Thatcher hurriedly repaid thousands of pounds of public cash used to save her playboy son from the Sahara desert, declassified files have revealed.

The penny-pinching former prime minister was busy wrecking the economy in January 1982 when her only son Mark disappeared while taking part in the Paris to Dakar rally.

Mr Thatcher and his French co-driver were found by the Algerian military after a six-day search.

The Algerian government footed the majority of the bill, but Britain was originally set to stump up £1,190.95 with Ms Thatcher contributing just £583.14.

But the “Iron Lady” scribbled a cheque to cover for her son’s racy lifestyle to head off a feared taxpayer rebellion.

Months later Ms Thatcher had to cough up for one final bill of £15.16 – for landing charges incurred by aircraft carrying her husband and son.

Thatcher memoirs detail PM’s anger at foreign secretary over Falklands. Previously unpublished memoirs reveal that Thatcher thought Frances Pym was combining with the Americans in attempt to outmanoeuvre her: here.

Newly released White House tape transcripts reveal how Ronald Reagan sought to mollify an angry Margaret Thatcher after the US invaded Grenada, part of the Commonwealth, without giving her advance warning: here.

Good black-browed albatross news

This video, recorded on South Georgia, is called Black-browed albatross chicks.

From BirdLife:

Black-browed Albatross shows population increase

Tue, July 24, 2012

A new report indicates a healthy increase in the numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses breeding in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas). The report, submitted to the Environment Committee of the Falkland Islands Government, indicated that recent and historical survey results show an increase in this threatened species.

Black-browed Albatross is currently classified as Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List. Over two-thirds of the global population breed in the Falkland Islands, so the status of the Falklands population has significant bearing on the global conservation status of the species.

Within the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas) different methods have been used independently to census the Black-browed Albatross population. Ian, and more recently, Georgina Strange have conducted aerial photographic surveys of colonies in the Falkland Islands since 1964, with archipelago-wide surveys in 1986, 2005 and 2010. Members of Falklands Conservation have carried out ground and boat-based surveys of the Falklands population in 2000, 2005 and 2010. Up until and including the 2005 census results, these initiatives reported contrasting population trends. The aerial based surveys indicated an increase in the population between the mid 1980s and 2005 and the ground based surveys a decline between 1995 and 2005.

However, the aerial and ground based surveys conducted in 2010 both reveal an increase in the population between 2005 and 2010 of at least 4% per annum. The positive trends from both of these surveys is further supported by favourable survival and breeding data from an ongoing study carried out by scientists at New Island (one of the twelve breeding sites in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas)), and an additional aerial photographic survey carried out later in the 2010 breeding season. The breeding population estimate obtained from the 2010 ground-based survey was larger than the estimate for 2000. Furthermore, the 2010 ground-based estimates for the two largest colonies in the Falklands (at Steeple Jason and Beauchêne islands) were similar to those derived from surveys carried out in the 1980s.
Dr Cleo Small from RSPB/BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme said: “When 17 out of the world’s 22 species of albatross are listed as threatened with extinction, it is hugely encouraging that Black-browed Albatross colonies in the Falkland Islands are now known to be increasing. There is still some way to go – with the UK Overseas Territories other major population on South Georgia continuing to decline. But this result gives us great hope for turning around the fortunes of other albatrosses. Bycatch in fisheries is their main threat, and efforts are underway in many longline and trawl fleets worldwide to reduce the numbers killed. If we can keep this up, there is real hope that the black-browed albatross will set a trend for the future.”

Dr Anton Wolfaardt, ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) officer for the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories and author of the report said: “The exact reasons for the increase are not entirely clear, but efforts to reduce seabird bycatch, and beneficial feeding conditions, are likely to have contributed.” On the basis of the reported results, and the fact that the Falklands population comprises approximately 70% of the global total, the report recommends that consideration should be given to downlisting the species from Endangered. The report has been submitted to BirdLife International for use in the Red List assessment process. The report also recommends that efforts to further improve seabird bycatch mitigation should continue, both to buffer the local population against possible future changes, and to improve the conservation status of other populations and species.

Wildlife endangered in British colonies

This video is called Wildlife Falkland Islands.

While the British government spends lots of money on war-mongering sabre-rattling in the remnants of its empire, it lets its overseas historical monuments like Captain Scott’s hut rot, and presides over ecological disasters.

From BirdLife:

Seabird species face extinction in remote UK islands

Fri, Mar 30, 2012

They are more exotic than the gulls, gannets and terns of Britain’s home coastlines, but many of the fascinating and charismatic species of birds on the remote shores of UK overseas territories are now close to extinction. In a report to the government, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) warns 33 species of birds, including penguins, parrots and albatrosses, are now critically endangered across the remnants of the empire. And that means we have a duty to fulfil.

“Our overseas territories hold more threatened bird species than the entire European continent,” said RSPB official Graham Madge. “Yet only £1.4m a year is spent by the government protecting habitats that provide homes for these endangered creatures. We need to spend 10 times that amount to save them.”

The society’s report is part of a series of submissions to the Foreign Office, which is preparing a white paper on Britain’s strategy regarding its 14 overseas territories, including Montserrat, Bermuda, the Falklands, Tristan da Cunha and the atolls of the British Indian Ocean Territories as well [as] Gibraltar and a chunk of the Antarctic. The white paper will propose economic and political changes in policies for running these areas and will outline ways to use them more actively to bolster Britain’s defences.

The key concern for environment groups such as the RSPB is the need to improve care of the alarming number of threatened and endangered animals now found in these territories. “The overseas territories hold 85% of the threatened biodiversity for which the UK is responsible,” said Jonathan Glenn-Hall of the RSPB. A typical example is the Tristan albatross, which breeds almost exclusively on Gough Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago.

The albatross’s numbers have been destroyed by invasive species that have been brought to the island, in particular, rats, cats and pigs which eat albatross chicks. These invaders were eradicated several years ago in a campaign that only triggered a new threat to the Tristan albatross: mice. Without predators, mice on Gough Island have thrived and now grow to three times their normal mainland size. They burrow into the flesh of nesting chicks so that the birds bleed to death. Then the mice eat them. About 1,000 Tristan albatross chicks are thought to be killed each year this way. One recent survey has shown that, in 2008 numbers of Tristan albatross chicks that have managed to fledge is five times lower than normal.

“Invasive species – pests like rats and cats – are a major problem for the overseas territories,” added Madge. “The remnants of our empire consist mainly of the odd remote island on which a small number of species have settled and evolved into forms unique to that place. They have evolved in a little bubble and that makes them very vulnerable to threats introduced by humans and gives us a special responsibility for looking after them.” In the case of Gough Island, it is estimated that at least £5m will be needed to eradicate its giant mice and save the Tristan albatross from extinction. “We estimate that in total, Britain needs to spend £16m a year for the next five years to halt the worst threats to the habitats of its overseas territories,” added Glenn-Hall.

Birds are not the only concern, the RSPB admits. For example, on St Helena introduced plants such as bilberry and furze have pushed many native plants to the edge of extinction with the St Helena olive tree being declared extinct in 2004. “It is unthinkable that this would have been allowed to drop off into extinction if the last species had been found in Britain, but all too often the overseas territories are out of sight and out of mind,” added Glenn-Hall.

Other threatened species include the blue iguana on the Cayman Islands and turtles in the Caribbean which will lose many nesting sites as global warming melts ice caps and causes sea levels to rise. However, it is the importance of the bird populations of the overseas territories that is stressed by Madge, and in particular seabirds. When it comes to these, Britain is in second place among countries with the most threatened populations, he says. Only New Zealand has more endangered seabirds. “Thanks to our overseas territories, we outrank the US, Mexico, South Africa and other large nations when it comes to being responsible for saving endangered birds.”

Apart from feral invaders, ecologists have highlighted three other main dangers facing birds in overseas territories: climate change, poor planning controls and weak management of local fisheries. A typical victim of climate change is the Northern Rockhopper penguin, also found on Gough Island and suffering, not from mice, but from disruptions to its food chain brought about by global warming. Populations have declined by more than 90% in the last 50 years.

By contrast, the white-chinned petrel – which breeds on several South Atlantic islands including South Georgia and the Falklands – is suffering major population reductions because birds are getting caught in longlines towed by fishing vessels and being dragged underwater.

And in the Cayman Islands, uncontrolled development is destroying the habitats in which the Grand Cayman parrot and the Cayman Brac parrot breed, again with disastrous consequences for populations. “Many of these places rely on money brought by tourists who visit to see the exotic wildlife,” added Madge. “We have a responsibility to make sure that wildlife survives.”

Scientists have released footage of a newly discovered seamount in the Chagos Archipelago, which was established two years ago as the world’s largest no-take marine protected area: here.

UK’s most exotic natural treasures under threat from ‘legal neglect’: here.

Falkland skuas decline

This video is called Penguins of the Falkland Islands I: Mostly Gentoos.

This video is called Penguins of the Falkland Islands II: King Penguins.

From the BBC:

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Bird colony survey reveals decline of Falkland skuas

By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

The number of Falkland skuas has declined by almost half in just five years, a survey of the bird’s largest breeding ground reveals.

It is unclear why the population has crashed on New Island, on the west of the Falkland Islands.

Something appears to be limiting the birds’ ability to reproduce, say scientists.

That raises questions over the health of the wider marine environment in the south-west Atlantic Ocean.

Skuas are gull-like birds that nest on the ground, with species living from the Arctic to Antarctica.

The Falkland skua is a subspecies of the brown skua.

“Although brown skuas have been the subject of many studies, virtually nothing has been done on the Falklands subspecies,” Dr Paulo Catry of the Museum of Natural History in Lisbon, Portugal, told BBC News.

So he and colleagues from Portugal and the UK conducted two surveys, five years apart, of the largest population of Falkland skuas, which nest on New Island.

The results have been published in the journal Polar Biology.

“Falkland skuas are really tame and do not hide their nests, which are placed in the open ground, which made the censuses quite easy, even if labour intensive for the amount of ground that needed to be covered.

“Birds are so tame that many individuals will remain sitting on the eggs even if you approach and touch them,” he said.

Overall, the number of Falkland skua territories on New Island suffered a reduction of 47.5% in the five years between the two surveys, conducted in 2004 and 2009, which equates to a decline of 12.1% per year.

The Falkland skua situation is “abnormal”

“In fact, long-lived seabirds like skuas usually change their numbers slowly and this situation cannot be considered as ‘normal’.”

The reason for the crash is not clear, and just a few thousand pairs of Falkland skuas now remain worldwide, living on the Islands and a few along the coast of Argentina.

“We were very surprised that the decline in numbers was so fast, particularly considering that other seabirds on New Island seem to have been doing quite well over the same past five to six years,” he told the BBC.

Brown skuas generally enjoy a high breeding success, with each pair raising a chick a year on average.

But Falkland skuas are today producing just 0.28 chicks on average per pair each year.

Large skuas, and Falkland skuas in particular, rarely start nesting before they are six years old.

Usually, immature skuas gather at specific sites, known as “clubs”, on the nesting islands in the years before they start breeding.

In large colonies, hundreds of birds gather in these clubs.

But Dr Catry’s team has never managed to locate any club site at New Island.

The odds are against successfully raising a chick

“This decline seems to be linked to an abnormally low reproductive output, the causes of which are still to be identified,” said Dr Catry.

“We are currently working on these questions. They are important not only for the sake of Falkland skuas, but more generally, for the marine environment of the Falkland Islands.”

One possibility is that the Falkland skua is suffering at the hands of a competitor.

Falkland skuas prey on a smaller bird, the thin-billed prion, and its eggs.

But so too does another prion predator, the striated caracara, a falcon-like bird of prey.

The caracara’s population has grown 15% a year in recent years, producing 2.5 chicks per nest per year, on average.

However, the Falkland skua’s demise may be linked to wider problems.

“Falkland skuas are top predators of marine ecosystems. They will take fish, squid, crustaceans, and they are also important predators of other seabirds,” said Dr Catry.

“If something is not well with them, it may mean that something is not well with the rich Patagonian shelf ecosystem.

“Many Falkland Island seabirds have known important declines over the past decades. We need to learn more about what is driving these changes, and skuas may help us with that.”

Antarctic penguins in trouble due to climate change: here.

Penguin-cam from the Antarctic: here.

Penguin declines may come down to krill: Lack of food appears to be hurting birds on the Antarctic Peninsula: here.

British corporate grab at Falklands oil

This music video by the British punk band Crass is called Sheep farming in the Falklands. It is a protest against the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war. The lyrics are here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

British eye up Malvinas oil

Tuesday 22 March 2011

British transnational Rockhopper announced on Monday that it has discovered a commercially viable deposit of crude oil in the Malvinas, or Falkland Islands.

Rockhopper Exploration PLC reported a “significant reservoir package” at its Sea Lion prospect.

But exploration of the waters around the islands remains controversial amid a long-running dispute between Britain and Argentina over sovereignty.

When the company first reported its oil find at Sea Lion last May, Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner’s administration warned that the oil-drilling operation violated international laws and treaties as well as UN resolutions urging neither side to take unilateral actions that could aggravate the situation.

The Argentinian Foreign Ministry responded to Rockhopper’s announcement by stating that the government would “continue condemning this British illegal action before the international courts.”

Argentina has issued a decree obliging ships using Argentinian ports to seek a permit if they enter or leave British-controlled waters. Britain has told ship captains to ignore the restrictions.

What a shame that this corporation that will now maybe cause pollution, like BP, and maybe another oil war, is called after rockhopper penguins, a threatened species. Right now, those birds are threatened by an oil spill near the Tristan da Cunha archipelago.

Peru turned away a Royal Navy frigate on Tuesday in solidarity with Argentina over the escalating Falklands row.

Hundreds of oil-soaked rockhopper penguins have now been put into ‘rehab’ by Tristan Islanders facing a race against the clock to help save the endangered species: here.

Nightingale Island emergency appeal: here.

Shocking pictures of Tristan oil spill: here.

USA: Federal probe discovers why key device failed to stop BP oil spill: here.

BP Sustainability Report Withholds Spill Data: here.

Whale and dolphin deaths 50 times worse than admitted after Deepwater oil spill: here.

There now appear to be THREE separate incidents in the Gulf: here.

Extinct Falkland wolves and Charles Darwin

Falkland Islands wolf, by John Gerrard Keulemans (1842-1912)

From ScienceDaily:

New Clues To Extinct Falklands Wolf Mystery

(Nov. 2, 2009) — Ever since the Falklands wolf was described by Darwin himself, the origin of this now-extinct canid found only on the Falkland Islands far off the east coast of Argentina has remained a mystery. Now, researchers reporting in the November 3rd issue of Current Biology who have compared DNA from four of the world’s dozen or so known Falklands wolf museum specimens to that of living canids offer new insight into the evolutionary ancestry of these enigmatic carnivores.

“One of the big draws for an evolutionary biologist is that this species had a big influence on Darwin‘s ideas about how species evolve,” said Graham Slater of the University of California, Los Angeles, noting that Darwin recognized differences between the East Falkland and West Falkland wolves as evidence that species are not fixed entities. But the wolves’ circumstances were also just downright puzzling.

“It’s really strange that the only native mammal on an island would be a large canid,” Slater explained. “There are no other native terrestrial mammals — not even a mouse. It’s even stranger when you consider that the Falklands are some 480 kilometers from the South American mainland. The question is, how did they get there?”

Possible explanations for the wolves’ presence on the islands, which have never been connected to the South American mainland, range from dispersal by ice or logs to domestication and subsequent transport by Native Americans. Ultimately, the Falklands wolf died out because it was perceived as a threat to settlers and their sheep, although fur traders took out a lot of the population as well.

Biologists have also puzzled over the Falklands wolf’s ancestry. It had been suggested that they were related to domestic dogs, North American coyotes, or South American foxes. Slater said the wolves were the size of a coyote, but much stockier, with fur the color of a red fox. They had short muzzles, just like gray wolves, and thick, wooly fur.

Slater’s team now reports that the Falklands wolf’s closest living relative is actually the maned wolf — an unusually long-legged, fox-like South American canid. The researchers also found that the four Falklands wolf samples that they examined shared a common ancestor at least 70,000 years ago, which suggests that they arrived on the islands before the end of the last ice age and before humans ever made it into the New World. That rules out the prevailing theory that Native Americans had anything to do with their presence on the islands.

“The biggest surprise was that the divergence of the Falklands wolf from its closest living relative, the maned wolf, occurred over 6 million years ago,” Slater said. “Canids don’t show up in the South American fossil record until 2.5 million years ago, which means these lineages must have evolved in North America. The problem is that there are no good fossils that can be assigned to the Falklands wolf lineage in North America.”

Given that maned and Falklands wolves split so long ago, there should be fossils of their close relatives in South America, Slater said. And in fact, the researchers may have a candidate: a species from Patagonia called Dusicyon avus, which went extinct 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Slater says that’s a possibility that study co-author Alan Cooper at the University of Adelaide in Australia is further investigating now.

Ever since the Falklands wolf was described by Darwin himself, the origin of this now-extinct canid found only on the Falkland Islands far off the east coast of Argentina has remained a mystery. Now researchers have compared DNA from four of the world’s dozen or so known Falklands wolf museum specimens to that of living canids offer new insight into the evolutionary ancestry of these enigmatic carnivores: here.

According to Cope’s rule, lineages tend to evolve towards larger body size, possibly because of selective advantages of being large. The status of Cope’s ‘rule’ remains controversial as it is supported in some but not all large-scale fossil studies. Here, we test for Cope’s rule by Bayesian analyses of average body masses of 3253 extant mammal species on a dated phylogenetic tree. The data favour a model that does not assume Cope’s rule. When Cope’s rule is assumed, the best estimate of its strength is an average ancestor-descendant increase in body size of only 0.4%, which sharply contrasts with the 9% bias estimated from fossil mammals. Thus, we find no evidence for Cope’s rule from extant mammals, in agreement with earlier analyses of existing species, which also did not find support for Cope’s rule: here.

German scientists have identified the world’s oldest dog bone, proving that humans kept dogs more than 14,000 years ago, Tuebingen University said on Tuesday: here.

Early dog skull unearthed in Siberia, 33,000-yr old find is early evidence of canine domestication: here.

Falkland (Malvinas) islands: rare subantarctic birds

Striated caracaras

From BirdLife:

The Falkland Islands are a remote sub-Antarctic archipelago in the South Atlantic particularly significant for their bird life.

They are home to vast colonies of breeding seabirds, including albatross and penguins.

They contain two endemic birds, found nowhere else in the world—Cobb’s Wren Troglodytes cobbi (Vulnerable) and the Falkland Steamerduck Tachyeres brachypterus.

There are 13 Falkland races, or sub-species, and a number of other birds with their stronghold in the Islands—in particular the Striated Caracara Phalcoboenus australis (Near Threatened).

Patagonian toothfish fishery: here.

First nest of Red-throated Caracara in Central America for 50 years: here.