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The Falkland Islands ( ; ) are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Oceanmarker, located approximately from the coast of mainland South America, from mainland Antarctica, and from Africa. There are two main islands, East Falklandmarker and West Falklandmarker, as well as 776 smaller islands. The islands are a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom and Stanleymarker, on East Falkland, is the capital.

Ever since the re-establishment of British rule in 1833 Argentinamarker has claimed sovereigntymarker. In pursuit of this claim, which is rejected by the islanders, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982. This precipitated the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom and resulted in the defeat and withdrawal of the Argentine forces.

Since the war, there has been strong economic growth in both fisheries and tourism.


The English name of the islands is "[The] Falkland Islands". This name dates from 1690 when John Strong, who led an expedition to the islands, named the channel between the two main islands after his patron, Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland. The Spanish name for the islands, "Islas Malvinas", is derived from the French name "Îles Malouines", after the mariners and fishermen from the Breton port of Saint-Malomarker who were the island's first known settlers, and bestowed on the islands by Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1764. The ISO designation is "Falkland Islands (Malvinas)".

As a result of the continuing sovereignty dispute, the use of many Spanish names is considered offensive in the Falkland Islands, particularly those associated with the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands. General Sir Jeremy Moore would not allow the use of Islas Malvinas in the surrender document, dismissing it as a propaganda term.


The islands were uninhabited when they were first discovered by European explorers. There is disputed evidence of prior settlement such as the presence of the Falkland Island fox, or Warrah (now extinct). Humans may have brought them to the islands, but they may have reached the islands via a land bridge when the sea level was much lower during the last ice age. There is also a scattering of undated artifacts including arrowheads and the remains of a canoe.

The first European explorer to sight the islands is widely thought to be Sebald de Weert, a Dutch sailor, in 1600. Although several British and Spanish historians maintain their own explorers discovered the islands earlier, some older maps, particularly Dutch ones, used the name "Sebald Islands", after de Weert.

In January 1690, English sailor John Strong, captain of the Welfare, was heading for Puerto Deseado (now in Argentina); but driven off course by contrary winds, he reached the Sebald Islands instead and landed at Bold Cove. He sailed between the two principal islands and called the passage "Falkland Channel" (now Falkland Soundmarker), after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland, who as Commissioner of the Admiralty had financed the expedition (Cary later became First Lord of the Admiralty). The island group later took its English name from this body of water.

Since their discovery, the Falkland Islands have had a complex history. France, Britain, Spain, and Argentinamarker have all claimed possession at some time, and have established and abandoned settlements on the islands. The Falklands Crisis of 1770 was nearly the cause of a war between a Franco-Spanish Alliance and Britain. Argentina took over and continued the Spanish government's claim after its declaration of independence in 1816 and the independence war in 1817. The American sloop USS Lexington destroyed the Argentine settlement at Puerto Luis on 28 December 1831 and the United Kingdom returned to the islands in 1833. Argentina has continued to claim sovereignty over the islands, and the dispute was used by the military junta as a pretext to invade and briefly occupy the islands before being defeated in the two-month-long Falklands War in 1982, by a United Kingdom task force which returned the islands to British control.

The first settlement on the Falkland Islands was in 1764. It was called Port St. Louismarker and was founded by the French navigator and military commander Louis Antoine de Bougainville on Berkeley Sound, in present-day Port Louis, East Falklandmarker.

In January 1765, the British captain John Byron, unaware of the French presence, explored and claimed Saunders Islandmarker, at the western end of the group, where he named the harbour of Port Egmontmarker. He sailed near other islands, which he also claimed for King George III. A British settlement was built at Port Egmont in 1766. Also in 1766, Spain acquired the French colony, and after assuming effective control in 1767, placed the islands under a governor subordinate to the Buenos Aires colonial administration. Spain attacked Port Egmont, ending the British presence there in 1770. The expulsion of the British settlement brought the two countries to the brink of war, but a peace treaty allowed the British to return to Port Egmont in 1771 with neither side relinquishing sovereignty.

As a result of economic pressures resulting from the forthcoming American Revolutionary War, the United Kingdom decided to withdraw unilaterally from many of her overseas settlements, including Port Egmont, in 1774. Upon her withdrawal in 1776 the UK left behind a plaque asserting her claims. From 1776 until 1811 Spain maintained a settlement administered from Buenos Airesmarker as part of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata. On leaving in 1811, Spain also left behind a plaque asserting her claims.

On 6 November 1820, Colonel David Jewett raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate (Argentina) at Port Louis. Jewett was an American sailor and privateer in the employment of Buenos Aires businessman Patrick Lynch to captain his ship, the frigate Heroína (Lynch had obtained a corsair licence from the Buenos Aires Supreme Director Jose Rondeau). Jewett had put into the islands the previous month, following a disastrous eight month voyage with most of his crew disabled by scurvy and disease. After resting in the islands and repairing his ship he returned to Buenos Aires.

Occupation began in 1828 with the foundation of a settlement and a penal colony. United States warships destroyed this settlement in 1831 after the Argentine governor of the islands Luis Vernet seized US seal hunting ships during a dispute over fishing rights. Escaped prisoners and pirates were left behind. In November 1832, Argentina sent another governor who was killed in a mutiny.

In January 1833, British forces returned and informed the Argentine commander that they intended to reassert British sovereignty. The existing settlers were allowed to remain, with an Irish member of Vernet's settlement, William Dickson, appointed as the Islands' governor. Vernet's deputy, Matthew Brisbane, returned later that year and was informed that the British had no objections to the continuation of Vernet's business ventures provided there was no interference with British control.

The Royal Navy built a base at Stanleymarker, and the islands became a strategic point for navigation around Cape Hornmarker. A World War I naval battle, the Battle of Falkland Islands, took place in December 1914, with a British victory over the Germansmarker. During World War II, Stanley served as a Royal Navy station and serviced ships which took part in the Battle of the River Platemarker.

Sovereignty over the islands again became an issue in the latter half of the 20th century. Argentina, in the pursuit of its claim to the islands, saw the creation of the United Nations as an opportunity to present its case before the rest of the world. In 1945, upon signing the UN Charter, Argentina stated that it reserved its right to sovereignty of the islands, as well as its right to recover them. The United Kingdom responded in turn by stating that, as an essential precondition for the fulfilment of UN Resolution 1514 regarding the de-colonisation of all territories still under foreign occupation, the Falklanders first had to vote for the British withdrawal at a referendum to be held on the issue.

Talks between British and Argentine foreign missions took place in the 1960s, but failed to come to any meaningful conclusion. A major sticking point in all the negotiations was that the two thousand inhabitants of mainly British descent preferred that the islands remain British territory.

Former Argentine links

There were no air links to the islands until 1971, when the Argentine Air Force (FAA), which operates the state airline LADE, began amphibious flights between Comodoro Rivadavia and Stanley using Grumman HU-16 Albatross aircraft. Following a FAA request, the UK and Argentina reached an agreement for the FAA to construct the first runway. Flights began using Fokker F27 and continued with Fokker F28 aircraft twice a week until 1982. This was the only air link to the islands. YPF, the Argentine national oil and gas company, now part of Repsol YPF, supplied the islands' energy needs.

Falklands War

On 2 April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and other British territories in the South Atlantic (South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islandsmarker). The military junta which had ruled Argentina since 1976 sought to maintain power by diverting public attention from the nation's poor economic performance and exploiting the long-standing feelings of the Argentines towards the islands. Several British writers hold that the United Kingdom's reduction in military capacity in the South Atlantic also encouraged the invasion.

The United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 502, calling on Argentina to withdraw forces from the Islands and for both parties to seek a diplomatic solution. International reaction ranged from support for Argentina in Latin American countries (except Chilemarker and Colombiamarker), to opposition in the Commonwealth and Europe (apart from Spain), and eventually the United States.

The British sent an expeditionary force to retake the islands, leading to the Falklands War. After short but fierce naval and air battles, the British landed at San Carlos Water on 21 May, and a land campaign followed until the Argentine forces surrendered on 14 June.

Following the war, the British increased their military presence on the islands, constructing RAF Mount Pleasantmarker and increasing the military garrison. Although the United Kingdom and Argentina resumed diplomatic relations in 1992, no further negotiations on sovereignty have taken place.


Executive authority is vested in the Queen and is exercised by the Governor on her behalf. The Governor is also responsible for the administration of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islandsmarker, as these islands have no native inhabitants. Defence and Foreign Affairs are the responsibility of the United Kingdom. The current Governor is Alan Huckle, appointed July 2006.

Under the constitution, which came into force on 1 January 2009 (replacing a previous constitution dating from 1985), there is an Executive Council and a Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands. The Executive Council, which advises the Governor, is also chaired by the Governor. It consists of the Chief Executive, Financial Secretary and three Legislative Councillors, who are elected by the other Legislative Councillors.

The Legislative Council consists of the Chief Executive, Financial Secretary and the eight Legislative Councillors, of whom five are elected from Stanley and three from Camp, for four-year terms. It is presided over by the Speaker, currently Keith Biles. A new constitution came into force on 1 January, 2009.

Relations with Argentina

The dispute over control of the islands has continued since the war. Diplomatic relations between Argentina and the UK were resumed in 1992, and embassies were reopened in London and Buenos Aires. In 1994, Argentina added its claim to the islands to the Argentine constitution, stating that this claim must be pursued in a manner "respectful of the way of life of their inhabitants and according to the principles of international law" (see: 1994 reform of the Argentine Constitution).

Falkland Islanders were granted full British citizenship from 1 January 1983 under the British Nationality Act 1983. As Argentina considers the Falklands to be Argentine territory, they also consider the Falkland Islanders to be Argentine citizens through the system of jus soli operated under Argentine nationality law, though this is rejected by the islanders themselves.

In 1998, in retaliation for the arrest in London of the former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, the Chileanmarker government banned flights between Punta Arenasmarker and Port Stanleymarker, thus isolating the islands from the rest of the world. Uruguaymarker and Brazilmarker refused to authorise direct flights between their territories and Port Stanley, forcing the Islands' government to enter negotiations with the Argentine government which led to Argentina authorising direct flights between its territory and Stanley, on condition that Argentine citizens be allowed on the islands. One flight a month, operated by LAN Airlines, travels between RAF Mount Pleasantmarker on East Falkland and Río Gallegos in Santa Cruz Provincemarker, Argentina.

Since the war, successive Argentine governments have stated their intention to pursue their claim to the islands by peaceful means. On the 22nd anniversary of the war, Argentina's President Néstor Kirchner gave a speech insisting that the islands would become part of Argentina. Kirchner, campaigning for president in 2003, regarded the islands as a top priority. In June 2003 the issue was brought before a United Nations committee, and attempts have been made to open talks with the United Kingdom to resolve the issue of the islands.

In 2007 (exactly 25 years after the Argentine invasion), Argentina renewed its claim over the Falkland Islands, asking for the UK to resume talks on sovereignty. In March 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated in a meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernández that there would be no talks over the future sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. As far as the governments of the UK and of the Falkland Islands are concerned, there is no issue to resolve. The Falkland Islanders themselves are almost entirely British and maintain their allegiance to the United Kingdom.

On 22 September 2007, The Guardian reported the UK government was preparing to stake new claims on the sea floor around the Falklands and other UK remote island possessions, in order to exploit natural resources that may be present. In October 2007, a British spokeswoman confirmed that Britain intended to submit a claim to the UN to extend seabed territory around the Falklands and South Georgia, in advance of the expiry of the deadline for territorial claims following Britain's ratification of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. If the claim is disputed, the UN will suspend the claim until the dispute is settled. The claim is largely theoretical and does not affect the Antarctic Treaty or confer new rights upon Britain. Neither does it permit the exploitation of oil or gas reserves, since these are banned by a protocol to the treaty. It would enable Britain to police fishing within the zone to prevent over exploitation of natural resources by commercial fishing in line with Britain's obligations under the treaty. Nevertheless many commentators have criticised the move for going against the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty. Argentina has indicated it will challenge any British claim to Antarctic territory and the area around the Falkland Islands and South Georgiamarker. Argentina made a similar claim in 2009, and the United Kingdom quickly protested these claims.

Geography and ecology

Map of the Falkland Islands.

The Falkland Islands comprise two main islands, East Falklandmarker and West Falklandmarker (in Spanish Isla Gran Malvina and Isla Soledad respectively), and about 776 small islands. The islands are located from the Isla de los Estadosmarker in Argentina (and from the Argentine mainland); from Chilemarker; west of the Shag Rocksmarker (South Georgiamarker) and north of the British Antarctic Territory (which overlaps with the Argentine and Chilean claims to Antarctica in that region).

The total land area is 4,700 square miles (12,173 km2), slightly smaller than Connecticutmarker or Northern Irelandmarker, with a coastline estimated at 800 miles (1288 km).

The two main islands on either side of Falkland Soundmarker make up most of the land: East Falklandmarker, which contains the capital, Stanleymarker, and most of the population; and West Falklandmarker. Both islands have mountain ranges, the highest point being Mount Usbornemarker, 2312 feet (705 m) on East Falkland. There are also some boggy plains, most notably in Lafoniamarker, on the southern half of East Falkland. Virtually the entire area of the islands is used as pasture for sheep.

Smaller islands surround the main two. They include Barren Islandmarker, Beaver Islandmarker, Bleaker Islandmarker, Carcass Islandmarker, George Islandmarker, Keppel Islandmarker, Lively Islandmarker, New Islandmarker, Pebble Islandmarker, Saunders Islandmarker, Sealion Islandmarker, Speedwell Islandmarker, Staats Islandmarker, Weddell Islandmarker, and West Point Islandmarker. The Jason Islands lie to the north west of the main archipelago, and Beauchene Islandmarker some distance to its south. Speedwell Island and George Island are split from East Falkland by Eagle Passagemarker.

Numerous flora and fauna are found on the Falkland Islands. Notable fauna include colonies of the Magellanic Penguin.

The islands claim a territorial sea of and an exclusive fishing zone of , which has been a source of disagreement with Argentina.

Biogeographically, the Falkland Islands are classified as part of the Neotropical realm, together with South America. It is also classified as part of the Antarctic Floristic Kingdom.


Surrounded by cool South Atlanticmarker waters, the Falkland Islands have a climate very much influenced by the ocean with a narrow annual temperature range. January averages about 51°F (11°C), with average daily high of 58°F (14°C), while July averages about 37°F (3°C) with average daily high 40°F (4°C). Average annual rainfall is 22.58 in (573.6mm). Humidity and winds, however, are constantly high. Snow is rare, but can occur at almost any time of year.


One-pound coin of the Falkland Islands pound.

Sheep farming was formerly the main source of income for the islands and still plays an important part with high quality wool exports going to the UK: according to the Falklands Islands Meat Company there are more than 500,000 sheep on the islands. Since 1984, efforts to diversify the economy have made fishing the largest part of the economy and brought increasing income from tourism.

The government sale of fishing licences to foreign countries has brought in more than £40 million a year in revenues, and local fishing boats are also in operation. More than 75% of the fish taken are squid, and most exports are to Spain. Tourism has shown rapid growth, with more than 36,000 visitors in 2004. The islands have become a regular port of call for the growing market of cruise ships. Attractions include the scenery and wildlife conservation with penguins, seabirds, seals and sealions, as well as visits to battlefields, golf, fishing and wreck diving.

An agreement with Argentina had set the terms for exploitation of offshore resources including large oil reserves; however, in 2007 Argentina unilaterally withdrew from the agreement. In response, Falklands Oil and Gas Limited has signed an agreement with BHP Billiton to investigate the potential exploitation of oil reserves. Climatic conditions of the southern seas mean that exploitation will be a difficult task, though economically viable, and the continuing sovereignty dispute with Argentina is hampering progress.

Defence is provided by the UK, and British military expenditures make a significant contribution to the economy. The islands are self sufficient except for defence; exports account for more than $125 million a year.

The largest company in the islands used to be the Falkland Islands Company (FIC), a publicly quoted company on the London Stock Exchange. The company was responsible for the majority of the economic activity on the islands, though its farms were sold in 1991 to the Falkland Islands Government. The company now operates several retail outlets in Stanley and is involved in port services and shipping operation.

The local currency is the Falkland Islands pound, which is in parity with the pound sterling. Sterling notes and coins circulate interchangeably with the local currency. The Falkland Islands also mint their own coins, and issue stamps, which are a source of revenue from overseas collectors.


The population is 3,140 (July 2008 est.), about 70 per cent of whom are of British descent, primarily as a result of Scottish and Welsh immigration to the islands. The native-born inhabitants call themselves "Islanders"; "Kelpers", from the kelp which grows profusely around the islands, is no longer used in the Islands. Those people from the United Kingdom who have obtained Falkland Island status became what are known locally as 'belongers'.

A few Islanders are of French, Gibraltarian (such as the Pitaluga family), Portuguese and Scandinavian descent. Some are the descendants of whalers who reached the Islands during the last two centuries. There is also a small minority of South Americans, mainly Chileanmarker origin, and in more recent times many people from Saint Helena have also come to work and live in the Islands.

The main religion is Christianity. The main denominations are Church of England, Roman Catholic, United Free Church, and Lutheran. Smaller numbers are Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists and Greek Orthodox; with the latter being due to Greek fishermen passing through. There is also a Bahá'í presence. The Islands are the home of the Apostolic Prefecture of the Falkland Islands.

Since the British Nationality Act 1983 the islanders have been full British citizens. Under Argentine Law they are eligible for Argentine citizenship, but due to the Falkland Islands rejection of the Argentine claim to sovereignty this is dismissed by most Islanders.

Penguins at Gypsy Cove.

Medical care

The Falkland Islands Government Health and Social Services Department provides medical care for the islands. The King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) is Stanley's only hospital. It was partially military operated in the past but is now under complete civilian control. There are no ophthalmologists or opticians on the islands, although an optician from the United Kingdom visits about every six months and an ophthalmologist comes to do cataract surgery and eye examinations on irregular intervals (once every few years). There are two dentists on the islands.

Broadcasting and telecommunications


  • PAL television, using the UK UHF allocation is standard.
  • FM stereo broadcasting using the UK allocation is standard.
  • MW broadcasting using 10 kHz steps (standard in ITU Region II).


The Falkland Islands has a modern telecommunications network providing fixed line telephone, ADSL and dial-up internet services in Stanley. Telephone service is provided to outlying settlements using microwave radio. A GSM 900 mobile network was installed in 2005 which provided coverage of Stanley, Mount Pleasant and surrounding areas. It is operated under the Touch Mobile brand.

Cable and Wireless is the sole telecommunications provider in the Falkland Islands.


There are a number of sports clubs on the Falklands, including badminton, clay-pigeon shooting, cricket, football, golf, hockey, netball, rugby union, sailing, swimming, table tennis and volleyball. The Falklands compete in the biannual Island Games.


The Falkland Islands have two airports with paved runways. The main international airport is RAF Mount Pleasantmarker, 23 miles (37 km) west of Stanley. Weekly flights are available to and from Santiago, Chilemarker, via Punta Arenasmarker, operated by LAN Airlines. Once a month, this flight also stops in Río Gallegos, Argentina.

The Royal Air Force operates flights from RAF Mount Pleasantmarker to RAF Brize Nortonmarker in Oxfordshire, England with a refuelling stop at RAF Ascension Islandmarker. RAF flights are on TriStars although charter aircraft are often used if the TriStars are required for operational flights. At present Omni Air International operates the RAF air link, using DC-10s. British International also operate two Sikorsky S61N helicopters, based at RAF Mount Pleasant, under contract to the United Kingdom Ministry Of Defence, primarily for moving military personnel, equipment and supplies around the islands.

The British Antarctic Survey operates a transcontinental air link between the Falkland Islands and the Rothera Research Stationmarker on the Antarctic Peninsulamarker and servicing also other British bases in the British Antarctic Territory using a de Havilland Canada Dash 7.

The smaller Port Stanley Airportmarker, outside the city, is used for internal flights. The Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS) operates Islander aircraft that can use the grass airstrips that most settlements have. Flight schedules are decided a day in advance according to passenger needs. The night before, the arrival and departure times are announced on the radio.

The road network has been improved in recent years. However, not many paved roads exist outside Stanley and RAF Mount Pleasant.

Landmines and ordnance

Depending on the source, between 18,000 and 25,000 land mines remain from the 1982 war. One source says that Argentina placed 18,000 landmines, The British Government stated that all but one of their anti-personnel mine were accounted for. The land mines are located in either 101 or 117 mine fields, that are dispersed over an area of 8 sq mi (12 km2) in the areas of Port Stanley, Port Howard, Fox Bay and Goose Green (these areas are now well marked). Information is available from the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Operation Centre in Stanley.

Care should still be taken as some beaches were mined, and there have been concerns the tides could have moved some mines. The same applies where mine fields are close to rivers. Care should be taken in case mines have been washed out of the marked area by flooding. There is also ordnance left over from the war. Between 1997 and 2002, 248 antipersonnel mines were destroyed in the Falklands, 16 were destroyed in 2003, one in 2005 and six antipersonnel mines were destroyed in 2006.

In February 2005, the charity Landmine Action proposed a Kyoto-style credit scheme, which would see a commitment by the British government to clear an equivalent area of mined land to that currently existing in the Falklands in more seriously mine-affected countries by March 2009. This proposal was supported by Falkland Islanders, for whom landmines do not pose a serious threat in everyday life. The British government has yet to declare its support or opposition to the idea.

In November 2008, Landmine Action opposed Britain's request for a ten year extension on the deadline for clearing the landmines. It accused the British Government of not demonstrating "any evidence of serious plans to complete, or even begin, this work" and stated "Allowing a well-resourced, technically capable State such as the United Kingdom to effectively ignore its responsibilities would set a dangerous and ethically unacceptable precedent." However, in 2008, the UK Government argued that in stark contrast to minefields elsewhere, "There have never been any civilian injuries in almost 26 years" in the Falklands.


There is a British military garrison stationed on the Falkland Islands, but the islands also have their own Falkland Islands Defence Force. This company sized force is completely funded by the Falklands government. It uses vehicles such as: quad bikes, inflatable boats and Land Rovers to traverse the islands terrain. The Falkland Islands Defence Force uses the Steyr AUG as its main assault rifle.

Britain's Royal Air Force has announced that HRH Prince William of Wales will serve a 3-month tour of duty on the Falkland Islands, following completion of the Prince's 18-month training with the RAF Search and Rescue Force.

See also


  • L.L. Ivanov et al., The Future of the Falkland Islands and Its People, Double T Publishers, Sofia, 2003, 96 pp. ( Complete text) ISBN 954-91503-1-3
  • Carlos Escudé and Andrés Cisneros, eds., Historia de las Relaciones Exteriores Argentinas, Work developed and published under the auspices of the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI), GEL/Nuevohacer (Buenos Aires), 2000.
( Complete text in Spanish) ISBN 950-694-546-2

Other Publications

Tim Simpson, Cooking the Falkland Island Way, Peregrine Publishing, 1994, 123 pp. Some domestic history notes, many recipes, and over 40 photos from the 19th century onward.ISBN 1 873406 02 9

External links

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