West Point Island
Latitude51° 19' S
Longitude60° 35' W
West Point Island is separated from the most north-westerly point of West Falkland by the narrow channel known as Woolly Gut. The island is about 6 km long and 4 km at its widest. The dramatic west-facing cliffs have gullies or sheer rock faces rising from the open South Atlantic to a height of around 350 m. The southern third of the island has impressive rock faces below Cliff Mountain (381 m) and further south, Mount Misery (337 m) forms one side of Woolly Gut. The settlement is located at the north-western edge of a large, sheltered harbor which opens into Woolly Gut. The vegetation is mostly short turf, upland heath or feldmark with several large Tussac paddocks, some with Cinnamon Grass Hierochloe redolens, replanted more than a century ago. The valley across the island from the settlement leads to the Devil’s Nose, a sheer sided promontory with accessible colonies of black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguin, which attract many tourists from cruise ships. The island is owned privately by R. B. Napier, but has been run by caretakers Kicki Ericson and Thies Matzen since 2012.
West Point Island was used as a base for sealing vessels from the late 18th to the early nineteenth centuries. The sealers’ activities and wild cattle largely destroyed the native tussac (Poa Flabellata). This was replanted in fenced paddocks in the late nineteenth century, to provide good-quality managed grazing and shelter for livestock. The island has been managed as a working sheep and dairy farm since about 1879 and is owned by the original family.
The plants on West Point have been fairly well surveyed and 123 species were identified between 1995 and 1998. Of these, only four were endemic and 52 (42%) were introduced, including several grasses sown to improve pastures and others that have naturalized from garden plantings.
A total of 50 species was recorded on or near West Point Island during the Breeding Birds Survey 1983–93, of which 30 were breeding or probably breeding. Seven of the native songbirds were present but in low numbers, due to the presence of rats.
Confirmed breeders include: black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys), rockhopper penguin, (Melanodera melanodera), ruddy-headed goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps), dark-faced ground tyrant (Muscisaxicola maclovianus maclovianus), Falkland thrush (Turdus falklandii falklandii), long-tailed meadowlark (Sturnella loyca falklandica), and striated caracara (Phalocoboenus australis).
Confirmed breeders: house mice (Mus musculus), brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) are controlled by an annual poison bait proram. There were feral cats on the island until about 1984.
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