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West Falkland is the second largest of the Falkland Islandsmarker in the South Atlanticmarker. It is a hilly island, separated from East Falklandmarker by Falkland Soundmarker. Its area is approximately . Including the adjacent small islands the land area is ( ).

Population

The island has fewer than 200 people, scattered around the coastline. The largest settlement is Port Howardmarker on the east coast, which has an airstrip. Other settlements include Albemarle, Chartresmarker, Dunnose Headmarker, Fox Bay, Fox Bay West, Hill Covemarker, Port Stephensmarker, and Roy Covemarker, most of which are linked by road and also have airstrips and harbours. In 1986, the population was 265, in 2001, it had fallen to 144.

Because West Falkland is outside Stanleymarker or RAF Mount Pleasantmarker on East Falklandmarker it is considered part of the "camp", a Falklander term for the area outside the main settlement.

Geography and wildlife

West Falkland from near Keppel Island
West Falkland is more hilly near the east islandmarker; the principal mountain range, the Hornby Hills, runs north and south parallel with Falkland Soundmarker. Mount Adammarker, the highest hill in the islands, is above sea level. Formerly it was thought that Mount Robinson was the highest point. However, a later survey found that Mount Adam was marginally higher. At this, the Argentines transferred the name Monte Independencia from Mount Robinson to Mount Adam. .

The major industry on the island is sheep farming, while it is also known for its penguin and cormorant colonies. Fishing is also popular in the two main rivers, the Warrahmarker and the Chartresmarker.

In the 19th century as today, indigenous land fauna was very scanty. A small wolf, the warrah, the loup-renard of Louis Antoine de Bougainville, is extinct, the last having been seen about 1875 on West Falkland. It is commemorated in the name of one of the island's rivers, the "Warrah". Some herds of cattle and horses ran wild; but these were, of course, introduced, as were also the wild hogs, the numerous rabbits and the less common hares. All these have greatly declined in numbers, being profitably replaced by sheep.

The southernmost point of West Falkland is Cape Meredithmarker, and the most south-westerly Calm Headmarker. On the southerly side lie high cliffs with an abundance of seabirds. To the west are some white sandy beaches with beautiful clean water and rolling sand dunes with tall grass. Set just back from the top of the cliffs is a single wooden hut locally referred to as Uncle Tom's Cabin. The beaches are a habitat for elephant seals and are unpolluted save for the occasional piece of wreckage and the odd washed-up tree trunk.

Geology

Most of the layers of West Falkland and its surrounding islands are slightly inclined from the horizontal. This inclination shows different types from rocks in different places. The quartzites of Port Stephensmarker and Stanleymarker are more resistant than the arenaceous sediments of the formation at Fox Bay. The Hornby Mountainsmarker, near Falkland Soundmarker have experienced tectonic forces of uplift and folding by which the quartzite beds of Stanley are inclined to the vertical.

In West Falkland there are several dykes that cut the rocks of the western islands, but these dykes, unlike the previous ones, are chemically more unstable and have been eroded and the only indication of their existence is the aligned linear depressions. In the margins of these depressions there is evidence of contact baking or hornfels formation adjacent to the once molten basalt dyke.

History

Map of the Falkland Islands


Early explorers reported the remains of canoes on West Falkland, and while the warrah provides compelling evidence of a native American presence it is unclear whether it was a one way trip, or indeed if the canoes were not swept in from Patagonia.

Captain John Strong of the Welfare made the first recorded landing on either of the main islands (West and East Falkland) on 29 January 1690 at Bold Covemarker on the other side of the headland from Port Howardmarker. He said:

"Wednesday this morning we weighed and stood unto an harbour on ye west side and there came to ane anchor and sent our boat on shoar for fresh water and did kill abundance of geese and ducks but as far as wood there is none."


The lack of wood is somewhat surprising, since while there were no trees growing there, driftwood frequently washes up on Falkland beaches, although this may be accounted for by the sheltered nature of Bold Cove. Strong ended up giving his name to the islands, by naming Falkland Soundmarker which gave its name to all the islands.

While the first recorded landing on the main islands of the Falklands was on West Falkland, it was settled remarkably late. In 1867 there were no settlers on West Falkland. The government issued a proclamation offering leases of grazing stations on very moderate terms and in 1868 all the available land was occupied.

These days West Falkland is also home to two RAF Reporting Posts: Mount Alice, which is near Port Albermarle in the south of the island, and Mount Byron in the north. These military units are openly listed in the RAF document "RAF Today" (see below).

In early 2007 the Falkland Islands Government awarded a contract to supply an East-West ferry to Workboat Services Ltd . The service runs between Port Howardmarker and New Haven.

Falklands War

West Falkland saw some activity during the Falklands War in 1982; Fox Bay, Port Howardmarker and Pebble Islandmarker were all occupied by Argentine troops during the hosilities and were subjected to occasional British naval bombardment and air attacks.

The most significant skirmish on West Falkland was perhaps the skirmish at Many Branch Pointmarker, near Port Howard.

Shag Cove saw several Argentine helicopters downed after British Harrier jump jets attacked them. The raid on Pebble Islandmarker has gone down in British Special Forces history.

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