The Timeline of Weddell Island.
One of the first remaining records of people on Weddell was when Charles Barnard of the ‘Nanina’ was marooned in The Falklands in 1813 with four sailors. They spent some time on Weddell and built several shelters on the Island which at the time was frequented by many other sealers and whalers. The New York Public Library holds an original copy of Barnard’s manuscript “A Narrative of the Sufferings and Adventures of C.H.B.: In a Recent Voyage Round the World” – a copy of which resides in The Lodge.
John Hamilton purchased Weddell Island. He set about making improvements to overgrazed Weddell, including stock reductions, replanting of tussac grass, and importing coniferous trees from Punta Arenas as ornamentals and windbreaks. He also attempted to diversify the farm economy through minor industries such as seal oiling (soon abandoned) and the introduction of exotic mammals such as foxes, skunks and guanacos from the South American continent. The only definite remnant of this experiment on Weddell Island are the Patagonian Grey foxes. Some people believe that Fuegian otters may also have survived in small numbers and there is still colony of guanaco on Staats Island.
Hamilton Estates sold the island to Falkland Islander Bob Ferguson and his son John. Bob was actually born on Weddell and had been the farm manager since 1966. John had returned to the islands after service in the Royal Navy, including time spent as a clearance diver on HMS Endurance during the 1982 Conflict in South Georgia and the Falklands. John and his wife Stephanie from Swansea in South Wales lived on the island with their young children, Robert and Sian. The Ferguson’s worked hard at improving sheep genetics and numbers. The flock was increased to about 9,000. Sadly the old managers house was destroyed in a fire in 1989.
Martin Beaton, jumped at the chance to be the Island Manager and was initially joined and mentored by Denzil Clausen, who spent virtually his entire life living and working on remote farms in the Falklands. Martin was joined by his wife, Jane, also an ex-RAF squadron leader. Together they have worked hard to continue to improve the island.
The island was purchased by local company, Byron Holdings Ltd. Stephen Clifton, one of the shareholders, used to call at Weddell Island when he was the captain of the local shipping vessel, the MV Tamar F.I., which carried supplies to the remote Falklands island communities and picked up wool and livestock. Stephen’s brother, Lewis who is also a shareholder said “We are delighted to return Weddell to local Falkland Islander ownership; it is a very special place.”
Extensive period of major refurbishment and improvement commences. The focus is to put the island onto a sustainable footing for the long-term future. This is to include moving power generation to include wind and solar with a new distribution infrastructure. Historic Mountain View Cottage undergoes a major complete internal and external refurbishment, including major structural enhancements. The water distribution system, across the Settlement is replaced improving reliability and quality. Work commences on The Lodge, which includes two new extensions, which will provide large, comfortable en-suite bedroom accommodation.
The sheep flock on Weddell is a traditional hardy Falkland Island mix that includes elements of corriedale and merino sheep and the flock has numbered 600 to 700. In the last two years has seen a focus on increasing sheep numbers and genetics, which combined with fencing improvements for grazing management, have produced visible benefits.
Returning the island to working sheep farm has been a top priority as environmentally sustainable activity. the genetics of the flock have been manged and improved. Many miles of fencing has been repaired and entirely new fencing erected. This is an on-going process that improves grazing management and also enables important and sensitive habitats to be protected. The coastal tussac habitats a very important for a number of birds and marine mammals and have declined. Significant tussac areas on the important the important Loop Head where replanted with thousands of tussac tillers. Hamilton Cottage, effectively completely rebuilt to provide new two bedroom accommodation for four people.