Bleaker Island : : History
Bleaker Island was originally named Long Island and then Breaker Island on early maps and charts, but a map of 1859 mysteriously changed it to Bleaker Island! At that time it was uninhabited, tussac fringed and was visited by sealers, who introduced pigs to the island. In 1851 The Falkland Islands Company (FIC) acquired Bleaker Island by Royal Charter when granted the large tract of nearby land known as Lafonia. Apart from occasional culling of the feral pigs, Bleaker Island was largely left undisturbed until 1879, when William Fell, previously a head shepherd at Darwin, leased the island from the FIC. He set about building a house for his family and accommodation for workers, and introduced sheep to the island. In 1880 he exported 5 bales of wool and by 1895 there were over 3,000 sheep on the farm.
In 1888 it was reported that ‘the remains of a sealers settlement consisting of five small vaults were uncovered in the sand bay to the south east of North Point on Bleaker Island.’ In all likelihood these vaults were used to preserve penguin eggs whilst the sealers were at sea, going about their business.
MEMBERS OF THE OVER-SEAS CLUB
A number of sailing ships were wrecked on the island, including the Hattie L.M. (1911), and the Gleam (1922), but the most noteworthy was the French barque, Cassard that struck a reef at the southern end of the island in 1906. All 30 crew were rescued but the cargo of wheat from Australia was lost.
Arthur Cobb took over the lease in 1910, and lived here with his wife until 1923, continuing to lease the island with a manager in place until 1931. The farm then reverted to the FIC and was managed from Goose Green and later North Arm. Post WW11, Archie Short, Ronny Morrison and Arthur McBain were all resident managers, and in the 1980’s Finlay Ferguson, an accomplished seaman, share-farmed the island for some years. It was bought by Mike and Phyl Rendell in 1999 and continues to operate as a farm, now managed by Robert Short (nephew of Finlay) and his wife Elaine.