In more than one sense, New Island has always been the Falklands ’ “Wild West.” Its rugged, precipitous headlands bursting with wildlife, including rockhopper penguins, black-browed albatrosses, and southern fur seals, it was also a lawless refuge for British and North American sealers and whalers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In one celebrated case, during the War of 1812, New England whaler Charles Barnard spent 18 months marooned here after being abandoned by British marines he had rescued from a shipwreck.
Remains of Barnard’s House (now a visitor center) still stand here, as do rusting ruins of an early-20th-century Norwegian Whaling Factory that folded for lack of whales. In all, New Island has 41 breeding bird species, including crested and striated caracaras, and the rare thin-billed prion.
Most New Island visitors come from cruise ships, as the airstrip no longer permits FIGAS to land here (though improvements work is underway). The owners manage the property as nature reserves, and only about 50 sheep remain, primarily for food. No smoking is permitted anywhere on the island.
Ian J. Strange established the New Island South Conservation Trust (tel. 42317, www.newislandtrust.com ) to protect wildlife colonies and historical constructions on the island.
For an account of Barnard’s New Island stranding, look for his memoir Marooned (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1979), edited and with an illuminating introduction by Bertha S. Dodge.