Official 1924 British Empire Exhibition

Guide to the Exhibits at the Falkland Islands Court.


            The term Falkland Islands and Dependencies comprehends more than one-and-a-half per cent, of the whole surface of the globe. Within this little Court will be found some of the strangest, most wonderful birds, and the products of whales which, of all animals, have come to take the most important place in the history of the world. Here, too, are models of exploring ships more truly treasure ships than gold-laden galleons of old.

The Charts.

            On the wall-to the left is the South Polar Chart with a triangular space coloured off to show the Falkland Islands and Dependencies. This apparently small space consists of a total area of over 3,000,000 square miles, including about 1.000.000 square miles of sea, and a whaling field of more importance than all others in the world combined. It reaches from the Falkland Islands, ice-free and temperate, right down to the fastnesses of the unknown South, and includes part of the Weddell Sea, where are the thickest floes and greatest icebergs ever seen.

            Next, on the south wall, is a chart of the Falkland Islands, the total area of which is 4,618 square miles. Their mean daily maximum temperature varies from 40" F. to 55 F. Known under various names, for the last three and a half centuries, the first British settlement was made on Saunders Island, in 1766. Far as they are from any mainland (being 480 miles N.E. of Cape Horn and about 1,000 miles due south of Monte Video), they have been the scene of events that need a book to do them justice. The population is almost entirely of British descent, and the one industry sheep farming; the divisional lines on the chart showing the various sheep-farming stations. Although in 1886 the Falklands sent over to England three times as much frozen mutton as did New South Wales, the chief consideration is now the production of wool, of which, according to the latest report, nearly 5.000,000 lbs. were exported, 1/- to 1/5 per lb. being obtained for fine-grade produce.

            Among the exhibits in the Eastern Court, see specimens of Sheep Skins, Fleeces (of hogget, wether, and ewe), and articles made of locally spun wool.

            Among the as yet undeveloped products of the islands are the deposits of fine peat, unlike any other in the world (note photographs on wall at the back of the court); workable accumu­lations of fish are known to exist which might supply the South American market; exploratory boring may bring to light oil-bearing rocks: while the white beach sand, which contains aluminium, may some day be used for making glass.

            The only town is Port Stanley, which dates from 1842, and boasts of a cathedral and town hall. Outside Stanley there are no roads, and traveling is done on horseback. In early days, when wild horses and cattle roamed the islands, the capturing and slaughtering was done by Gauchos from Argentina. Hence to-day most terms connected with horses and cattle are Spanish. Note the two sets of riding harness, hand-made from the raw hide at the Falklands. One set is on the model of the horse. Each piece will be found labeled with the Spanish name in use to-day.

            In the Eastern Court will also be found illustrations of some of the shy-blossoming, sweet-scented flowers of the Falkland, painted by Mrs. E. F. Vallentin. They include Oxalis enneaphylla (wood sorrel), its pale flowers being found near the sea; Veronica eliiptica, the tallest plant in the islands, with a small white flower, sweet as orange blossom: and Empetrum rubrum (diddle-dee), which covers miles of country like the heather on English moorlands.

N.B.—A copy of the book may be seen on application to the Attendant of the Court.

            The most notable day for Port Stanley was the day 8th December, 1914 when the British warships, under Admiral Sturdee, went forth from Port William to defeat the German squadron under Admiral von Spee. In the foreground of the Court is a model of Stanley Harbour and Port William, showing the position of the warships, with the British ships leaving the harbour to meet the Germans.

The Canopus is seen in the inner harbour embedded in the mud as she had been since the middle of November, preparing to defend the colony. Midway in Stanley Harbour is the hulk of the old Great Britain, which, in 1842, was the wonder of the shipping world.

            Admiral Sturdee reached Port William on the 7th December with the battle cruisers Invincible, Inflexible, the light cruisers Carnarvon, Cornwall and Kent: the Glasgow, Bristol, and an armed liner. When the German ships, under Admiral von Spee, were sighted, at 7.56 on the morning of the 8th December, the British ships were coaling. the four-funneled Gneisenau and three-funneled Nürnberg approached the nearest, when the Canopus fired at them. They then caught sight of the two battle cruisers and turned away to join the Scharnhorst, the Leipzig and the Dresden being farther away to the southward. The Kent, Glasgow, Invincible, Inflexible, Carnarvon and Cornwall are shown steaming out of the harbour in pursuit.

            Off Port Pleasant were the enemy colliers, which were afterwards captured by the Bristol and Macedonia. The signal to engage the enemy was not given until 12.47 the actual engagement took place some miles off Stanley and was over by nightfall. Of the enemy ships, only the Dresden escaped.

Model of the Falkland Islands Battle Memorial.

            This is designed and being executed by Mr. Frank Ransom, Carried out in grey granite and bronze, it is to be about 32ft. high, the pedestal will be surmounted by a bronze globe with ship symbolical of the birth of the Navy. In the front will be a bronze figure of Victory, at the back a trophy of flags in bronze,

Charts of the Dependencies.

            The whaling field within the Dependencies is of greater importance than all the others in the world combined. Of the population of the Dependencies the greater number are Norwegians, engaged in the whaling industry. The principal islands are,

SOUTH GEORGIA, about 100 miles long with a maximum breadth of 20 miles. It is an alpland with many mountains. The harbours are all on the east coast. At Grytviken is stationed a Resident Magistrate. Five land factories have been set up for treating the whale carcasses brought in.

THE SOUTH SHETLAND ISLANDS lie about 400 miles S.E. of Cape Horn. There are several good harbours open dur­ing the summer, notably that of Port Foster in Deception Island, with its hot springs. Much whaling is carried on, but there is only one shore station; the whale catchers are accompanied by vessels known as floating factories, which provide accommoda­tion for the factory hands and have on board large boilers for boiling down the oil. Tank steamers going south, laden with coal and returning with oil, may supersede shore stations in the future. One of the mountains of the group is supposed to be a copper mountain.

Whaling is also carried on about the coasts of Graham Land and the Islands of

THE SOUTH ORKNEY ISLANDS, which lie about 200 miles east of the South Shetlands, and

THE SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS, a volcanic group about 250 miles south-east of South Georgia.

Scene in the Antarctic.

            The diorama shows a scene outside the harbour of Melchion Island a little island in Dallmann Bay, one of the Palmer Archipelago to the west of Graham Land. It is an attempt to show something of the beauty of Antarctic colouring, with the cold violet-white of icebergs, the delicate gradation of soft blues, lit up at times by a flash of sunlight into flame and gold and dazzling emerald green.

            The photographs for this scene were lent by the Southern Whaling and Sealing Company. In the foreground is a whale catcher towing dead whales.



            Patient, persevering, lovable, laughable, with moments of deep dignity on land, penguins in the water are like fish, like anything but birds. Here and there in the East Court the follow­ing Penguins will be found represented. First and foremost in size and dignity is the

Emperor Penguin (A ptenodytes forsteri). Found only in the far south, these penguins have the peculiarity of nesting during the winter. They lay but one egg, and carry it resting on a small depression of the foot, wedged in between the legs and the lower abdomen, and over it falls a fold of heavily feathered skin, which is very loose and can cover first the egg and then the chick. This fold of skin looks like a pouch: out of it peeps at times a small downy head. The Emperor's voice is loud and trumpet-like; he approaches a stranger with a deep bow. He only loses his dignity when he is in a hurry and sledges himself forward on the ice, using both feet and flippers. He weighs upwards of 80 - 901bs.

King Penguin (Aptenodytes paiagonica). Although not so large as the great Antarctic Emperor, the King is more beautifully marked, with his orange-yellow bands which run below his black throat and widen on the upper breast. They carry their egg as do the Emperor Penguins. They are rarely seen in the Falkland Islands now, only farther south. Note egg in show case.

Jackass Penguin (Sphiniscus magellanicus). The bill is rather long and stout, with forehead, crown, and nape, black shading into slate grey; chin, throat and cheeks black, with broad white stripes enclosing the last and a broad black band across the white breast. They bray like a jackass and make their nests by burrowing in the sand and tussac grass in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis taeniata). This penguin's white patch over each eye gives it a somewhat blank expression. Its rookeries are sometimes a mile from the sea. A Gentoo will fight to the death in defense of its young. (See Gentoo egg in show case.) South of 63° S. latitude, its place is taken by the

Adelie Land Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) has been described as “the most excellent company possible in such a desolate region as the Antarctic.” It makes love in a most ecstatic manner.

The Macaroni Penguin (Catarrhactes chrysolophus) is, as its name denotes, one of the crested penguins, and has a golden yellow eyebrow with stripes of similar feathers joining on the forehead.

Ringed Antarctic (Pygoscelis antarctica). These ringed. or bridled penguins make their rookeries on steep rock-faces close to the sea. They spend many patient hours in climbing up and down from their positions, hopping carefully from ledge to ledge.

Wilson's Storm Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus). This little bird is not much larger than Mother Carey’s chickens, from which, as from any other of the small blackish Petrels, it can be distinguished by its unusually long legs and the bright yellow colour of the webs between the toes; the single egg is of a dull white colour, with minute purplish-red spots at the broader end. After the breeding season the Stormy Petrel wanders widely.

Contents of Show Case.

From right to left (upper shelf)

Necklace and Bracelet of Falkland Islands pebbles, set in gold.    (Lent by Mrs. Pole-Evans.)

Belt of Pebbles, set in silver.    (Lent by Mrs. Vere Pack.)

Skin of Blue Petrel (Heteroprion desolatus called by sailors “Whale Bird,” and found only in the Ross Sea and round South Georgia. (Lent by Mr. Percy Stammwitz.)

Specimens of bone work Walking Stick (lent by Mr. ]. Miller), Riding Whips (lent by Mr. Vere Packe).

(Lower shelf)

Nine Sperm Whale Teeth.

Five Eggs of the Wandering Albatross (Diomedea Exulans), the largest and strongest of all sea birds it sometimes measures 17 feet between the tips of the extended wings. The main colour of the bird is white (see its skull).

Four Molly Mawk Eggs. The Molly Mawk (Diomedea melanophrys) is the small black-browed albatross found in numbers on the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. With the exception of back, wings, and tail which are a blackish grey, and a dusky superciliary streak, the bird is white.

Two Sea Gull Eggs. The sea gull (Larus Dominicanus) nests in great rookeries, the nests very close together. Three eggs are generally laid about 12th December.

Three Eggs Of the Giant Petrel (Ossifraga gigantea), commonly known as “Nelly”, the vulture of the sea. It is a large ungainly bird on land, but most graceful on the wing, with a powerful yellow beak. It is said it will attack a drowning man.

One King Penguin Egg. One Gentoo Penguin Egg.



            Sea Lion (Otaria byronia). This is the male of this hair seal, the female being much smaller. Sea lions may be seen in great numbers on the rocks and islets round the Falklands and farther south. The old bulls live to a great age and size, and may be heard roaring out a challenge to a rival to come and fight. They can waddle on their long flapping flippers over greater distances than might be expected.

            Under the west wall is the beautiful little Fur Seal (Arctocephalus australis) with its large dark eyes. Ruthless slaughter in the past almost exterminated this species, which is now slowly returning to the Falklands and Dependencies under the protective measures adopted by the Colonial Government. The skins on the wall above show the various stages of development from the time they were received by Messrs. George Rice in a raw, salted state, to the time, from two to three months later, when the skin is ready to be made up by the furrier. As is briefly explained on the labels, the skins pass through many and complicated processes unhairing especially requiring highly skilled work. From seven to nine skins are needed to make up a three-quarter length coat.

            Leopard Seal (leptonyx). The skin and skull of this seal is on view in the West Court. It derives its name from the spots on its skin. It is found in the seas round the Falklands and on the pack ice of the south. Note the length of the skull and the large powerful teeth with the peculiar arrangement of the cusps. It is a carnivore, and its maximum length is about 13 feet.

            Weddell Seal (Leptonychotes weddelli). (The head may be seen on the wall.) It measures upwards of 9—10 feet, with the enormous girth of 6—7 feet. The coat is richly marked with black and grey and silvery white. It spends much of its time asleep.

            Crab-eater Seal (Lobodon carctnophagus). (Head on the same wall.) It is about 8 feet in length and very active. In an old seal the coat sometimes becomes white.

            Sea Elephant (Mirounga leonina). In the West Court is a skull of the great sea elephant, the male of which is sometimes 20 feet long. The female is only 8 to 9 feet, and is without the inflatable proboscis from which her mate gets his name. Terrible encounters take place sometimes between the bulls. The body of the sea elephant is covered with a mass of blubber as thick as in a whale. Sealing in the Dependencies now yields annually about 2,509 barrels of oil.

            Commerson’s Dolphin. (Cephalorhynchus Commersonii) Hanging from the centre of the East Court is a cast (by Mr. Percy Stammwitz, of the Natural History Museum) of the beautiful Dolphin, known as Commerson's Dolphin after its French discoverer. Its body is a shining, silvery white, only the head, tail and fins being a deep black. It is found in the seas about Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego.


Whales and Whaling.


            The southern whales, the products of which will be found in the West Court, are :

The Right Whale  (Balaena australis).

The Blue Whale (Balasnoptera musculus).

The Fin Whale (B. physalus)

The Sei Whale (B. borealis)

The Humpback (Megaptera nodosa). (All whalebone whales).

Sperm or Cachalot Whale (Physeter catodon) (a toothed whale).

(Note ear drum of Firmer Whale, and barnacles from off a whale.)

Whalebone more properly Baleen is a horny substance found in the roof of the whale's mouth. The plates of baleen are triangular in shape, the base of attachment being broader than the lower free extremity. The inner edges are frayed out into hair-like bristles, which serve as a kind of sieve to retain the shrimps and other small organisms on which these whales feed and filter the water through. To prepare baleen for economic use (it is now used principally in the brush trade) it is boiled for about 12 hours until it is soft and is then cut into narrow strips or filaments.

Note on the walls specimens of baleen.

The Right Whale is distinguished by its lack of dorsal fins and the remarkable size, and excellent quality, of its baleen. Its entire length averages 54 feet, the great head being about one-fourth of its total length.

The Blue Whale (so-called because of the bluish tinge of its body) is the largest animal in the world, and has been known to measure 100 feet in length. The baleen is black. (Note sections of vertebra.)

The Fin Whale averages about 65 feet in length, its com­paratively slender body is grey. Fin whale baleen is grey, striped with yellowish white.

The Sei Whale is smaller, with a large, truncated dorsal fin. The baleen is bluish black with white bristles.

The Humpback is from 45 to 55 feet long, with a massive form and a flat blunt head. It is of a playful disposition and shows great affection for its young. The baleen is dull black, with brownish black bristles.

The Sperm Whale's greatest length is 70 feet. It has from 18 to 25 teeth on each side of the lower jaw, which fit into sockets in the upper jaw and assist in holding its food (see teeth in show case). It has a catholic appetite, but its favourite food is the giant squid. Its great blunt head contains a cell filled with the spermaceti, from which comes the fluid known as sperm oil (see specimen in Western Court with other whale oil). Refined sperm oil is a most valuable lubricant for all delicate machinery, from large calibre guns to the smallest watches.

Whale Oil.

            The oil of other whales is obtained chiefly from the blubber, the whole of the carcass now being in various ways. The demand for whale oil is practically unlimited; during the war the development of its use was phenomenal, since its use in the production of glycerin freed other fats for edible purposes. The average quantity of oil yielded by each whale is about 65 barrels, the highest average known being 86¾ barrels. A barrel contains 40 gallons, and about 6 barrels go to a ton. Whale oil is now about £30 a ton, and the yearly value of the industry is now over £2,000,000. Whale oil is classified into five grades, 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. (See specimens against the wall.) 0 and 1 are made entirely from the blubber, are of a pale yellow colour and contain a very small quantity of free fatty acids.

            The mass in the boiling pans, with the flesh of the whale, is “tried down” under pressure, and 2 is produced. It is brown, with a strong fishy smell, and a higher proportion of fatty acids than in 1.

The bones are then worked up, and yield No. 3. This is bone oil. No. 4 is made from the refuse. It is darker than the above and has a more objectionable smell, with a higher proportion of free fatty acids. The lower grades of whale oil are used for making lubricating greases.

            Hardened Whale Oil. The result of hydrogenation is a hard fat, white, odourless and tasteless; a substitute for tallow. 0 and 1 oils, if carefully treated, are edible. So far it has not been much used for making margarine.

Other products shown are,

Bone Meal, made from the bones of the whale; it contains about 4% ammonia and 50% phosphates.

Whale Guano, made from whale flesh, with about one-third of bones. It contains about 8.50% ammonia and about 2I%, tribasic phosphates.

Whale Hunting.

            A century ago whales were hunted from the ship s boats, and were harpooned with a hand lance. As an improvement on the hand-lance a bomb-lance was introduced, which was fired from a shoulder gun. Note in the West Court old whaling weapons Hand Harpoon. Bomb Lances. Shoulder Gun. It is during the last thirty years or so that whaling has developed on modern scientific lines, and it is now the sole industry of the Dependencies.

            Note the model of the Modern Whaling Gun in the Western Court. It is a glycerin recoil muzzle-loading cannon. The harpoon, which is of steel, and about 6 feet long, has four prongs which spring out to an angle of about 45 degrees on tightening the line after the harpoon is lodged in the whale's body. At the point of the harpoon is a shell charged with gunpowder, which is fired by a time-fuse about three seconds after the harpoon has been shot from the cannon. To a ring in the shank of the harpoon is attached a very strong pliable line, some 60 fathoms long and about 4½ inches in circumference, which is called the forerunner, to which is spliced on another thicker whale line. If a whale be struck in a vulnerable part death is usually instantaneous, and the whale will sink, drawing with it the whale line. The steamer is then brought to a stand still and the rope is passed over the snatch block at the shrouds, from whence it goes to the winch, which raises the whale to the surface. A chain is then passed round the tail and made fast at the bow of the ship, and, after the carcase has been inflated with air, the dead whale is towed at the side of the vessel, tail foremost.

Note the photographs showing various stages of whale hunting in Western Court.

Note also modern whaling implements in the same Court Flensing knife and hook. Forerunner. Tail spade (for cutting off tail flukes) Whale line.

            An examination of the fine models of Whale Catchers, exhibited by Messrs. Chr. Salvesen and the Southern Whaling and Sealing Company will illustrate the development of the modern steam whale catcher during the last 20 years. Note the dimensions first of the Busta and her sister ship Foula of 1906. Then turn to the half model of the sister ships Scapa, Silva and Sonja of 1910, the first whale-catchers to be built in Great Britain. They returned to Leith last year after an absence of 13 years spent whaling, chiefly in the South Shetlands, all repairs, etc., being carried out at Leith Harbour, South Georgia. The Subra, built in 1916, has since been whaling from Leith Harbour, South Georgia. (The above are owned by Messrs. Salveson.)

The Southern Maid is the latest model in the Court, and was built by Smiths Dock Co., Ltd., at South Bank, on Tees. She is entirely British. Her dimensions, etc., are Length 110ft., breadth 23ft., moulded depth 13ft. 6in. Indicated h.p. 630. Speed 10 knots. (Owned by the Southern Whaling and Sealing Co.) During the season 1921-22 she fished at South Georgia, for the next two seasons she fished at the South Shetlands.

            S-S. DISCOVERY. A model of the first vessel ever built in Great Britain for scientific exploration. Built in Dundee, in 1900-1, for the British Antarctic Expedition of 1901-4, she sailed for the Ross Sea under the leadership of Captain R. F. Scott. Although the model shows her solid hull, short masts, square spars and heavy rigging, it is difficult to realize the strength of her sides, to bore a hole through which would mean getting through 26 inches of solid wood of various kinds, the outer skin being English elm, or green heart. Her stern was an enormous mass of solid wood. Both stern and bow were protected on either side with steel plates. Note also her lifting propeller and rudder.

            Twenty years after her return from her battle with Antarctic ice she is to return thither as H.M.C.S. Discovery to study the whaling industry with its attendant questions of hydrography, meteorology, magnetism and tidal work. She is now at Portsmouth, in dry dock under cover, being reconditioned by Messrs. Vosper. It is hoped she will start on her expedition the end of 1924. She will do much of her work under sail only, and possibly she may carry an aeroplane.

            Her commanding officer will be Lieutenant J. R. Stenhouse, D.S.O., O.B.E., D.S.C., R.N.R., already well known for his work in Antarctic seas. In the Shackleton Expedition of 1914-17 he brought the Aurora from the Ross Sea safely through drifting ice to New Zealand, thus successfully accomplishing one of the most difficult voyages on record. The Director of Research will be Dr. Stanley W. Kemp, Superintendent of the Zoological Survey of India, in addition to whom four other scientists will be appointed.

V. F. Boyson.


© Exhibition Study Group 2009