Two hundred and fifty years on, the story of a bold Falklands naval adventure has been purchased for the local museum in Stanley. Friends of the Falkland Islands Museum and Jane Cameron National Archives (FIMA Friends) executive committee member Alexandra ‘Zaz’ Shackleton was browsing at the regular antiquarian travel book fair at the Royal Geographical Society in London, when she came across a volume that she immediately knew belonged in the Falklands.
The slim and well preserved book, of which few copies were printed and even fewer survive, is a first edition of a journal written by naval officer Bernard Penrose, who was surgeon’s mate aboard His Majesty’s Shallop Penguin, which was based at Port Egmont on Saunders Islands just over 250 years ago.
With the wordy title ‘An Account of the Late Expedition to Port Egmont in the Falkland Islands in the Year 1772’, Penrose gives a fascinating description of the Islands during one of the most volatile periods in the Islands’ history.
Penguin was a small prefabricated armed sailing vessel which was carried to Port Egmont aboard the much larger and much more famous ship HMS Endeavour. Endeavour had carried Captain James Cook on his famous voyage of discovery to Australia and the South Pacific, but by 1772 she was shuttling to and from the Falklands, supporting the garrison at Pt Egmont.
Once assembled and armed with cannon, HMS Penguin patrolled and explored the Islands, under the command of Lieutenant SW Clayton.
Just three years earlier in 1769, British and Spanish ships had unexpectedly encountered each other while both forces were surveying the Islands. Each force formally accused the other of having no right to be there before going on their way.
The next year, five Spanish ships arrived off Pt Egmont, and the British were forced to briefly abandon their base. As a result, war seemed likely until the two countries hammered out an agreement effectively allowing the Spanish to remain at what is now Port Louis, while the British maintained their colony at Saunders Island.
The little warship Penguin patrolled and explored the British held territory for two years until she was again dissembled and shipped back to Britain aboard HMS Endeavour. Port Egmont was abandoned in 1774, as London committed itself fully to the American War of Independence, and ended as many other military operations as possible.
Notified of the find by Zaz Shackleton, the Friends Committee contacted Andrea Barlow at the Falklands' Museum, who said the museum would be delighted to add the book to its collection. Penrose’s account of early seafaring in the Falklands was bought by FIMA for approximately £1,000 and will be taken to Stanley soon. (Penguin News)
By Graham Bound - London