Falkland Islands

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The Falkland Islands
Flag of the Falkland Islands Falkland Islands coat of arms
(In Detail) (In Detail)
Motto: Desire the right
Official language English
Capital Stanley
Governor Howard Pearce
Chief Executive Chris Simpkins
 - Total
 - % water
not ranked
12,173 km²
 - Total (2003 E)
 - Density
not ranked
Currency Falkland pound (FKP; fixed to GBP)
Time zone UTC -4 (DST -3)
National anthem God Save the Queen
Internet TLD .fk
Calling code 500

The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic continental shelf consisting of two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, and a number of smaller islands. The Falkland Islands are located at 51° 45′ 00″ S, 059° 10′ 00″ W. The Falkland Islands are a largely self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom but are claimed by Argentina to be part of its national territory. Stanley, is the capital and largest city, on East Falkland.

The sovereignty of the Falkland Islands has been disputed since their discovery, with France, Spain, Argentina and the United Kingdom all claiming possession after establishing settlements on the islands. The French and Spanish claims have long been abandoned, but Argentina maintains a claim over the islands, which they call Islas Malvinas, and other territories in the South Atlantic currently under British dominion. The sovereignty dispute was the source of the 1982 Falklands War, in which the islands were invaded and briefly occupied by Argentina. The sovereignty of the islands remains disputed, but the islanders themselves wish to remain British.



Main article: History of the Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands were uninhabited when they were first discovered by European explorers. Disputed evidence exists of prior settlement by humans based on the existence of the Falkland Island fox, or Warrah on the islands. It is thought this fox was brought to the island by humans, although it may have reached the islands itself via a land bridge during the last ice age.

The first European explorer credited with sighting the islands is Sebald de Weert, a Dutch sailor in 1600. Although several English and Spanish historians maintain their own explorers discovered the islands earlier, some older maps, particularly Dutch ones, used the name 'Sebald Islands' after the first credited explorer. However, the islands appear on numerous Spanish and other maps beginning in the 1520s. A British sailor sailed between the two principal islands in 1690, and called the passage "Falkland Channel" (now Falkland Sound), after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland (1659-1694), who as Commissioner of the Admiralty had financed the expedition, and who later became First Lord of the Admiralty. From this body of water the island group later took its collective name.

The first settlement on the Falkland Islands was founded by France in 1764 at Port Louis, on Berkeley Sound. The French name Îles Malouines was given to the islands by early 18th century French mariners from the Breton port of Saint-Malo, "malouin" being the adjective derived from "Malo". The Spanish name Islas Malvinas is derived from the French name.

In 1766 Britain settled West Falkland. Also in 1766 Spain acquired the French colony. Spain assumed effective control in 1767, and placed the islands under a governor subordinate to Buenos Aires. Spain ended the British presence on West Falkland in 1770, but Britain returned in 1771, remaining until 1774. Upon her withdrawal Britain left behind a plaque asserting her claims, but from then on Spain ruled unchallenged, maintaining a settlement until 1811.

Argentina declared independence in 1816 and laid claim to the Islands, which were then uninhabited. Actual occupation began in 1820, with the foundation of a settlement and a penal colony. The settlement was destroyed by the United States in 1831 following a dispute over fishing rights. Britain returned to the islands in 1833, removed the remainder of the Argentine settlement, and began to populate the islands with its own citizens.

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

Sovereignty over the islands became an issue again in the latter half of the 20th century. Argentina, which had never renounced its claim to the islands, used the newly formed United Nations as an avenue for pursuing its claims, and talks between the British and Argentine foreign missions took place in the 1960s. However the talks never came to any meaningful conclusion, and a major sticking point in any negotiations was the 2,000 inhabitants of mainly British descent who prefer that the islands remain British territory.

On April 2, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and other British territories in the South Atlantic (South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands), encouraged in part by the United Kingdom's reduction in military capacity in the South Atlantic, and as a diversion from poor economic performance at home. World reaction to the invasion ranged from support in the Latin American countries, to opposition in Europe, the Commonwealth, and eventually the United States. The British sent a large expedition force to retake the islands leading to the Falklands War. After a short but fierce naval and air war, the British landed at San Carlos Water on May 21 and a land war followed until the Argentinean forces surrendered on June 14.

Following the war, the British increased their military presence on the islands, constructing RAF Mount Pleasant and increasing the military garrison. Falkland Islanders were also granted full British citizenship. Although the UK and Argentina since resumed diplomatic relations in 1989, no further negotiations on sovereignty have taken place.


Main article: Politics of the Falkland Islands

Executive authority comes from 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 Islands, as these islands have no native inhabitants. Defence and Foreign Affairs are the responsibility of the United Kingdom.

Under the constitution, the latest version of which came into force in 1985, there is an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. 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 Mr L.G. Blake.

The loss of the war against Britain over control of the islands led to the collapse of the Argentine military dictatorship in 1983. Disputes over control of the islands continue. In 2001, British Prime Minister Tony Blair became the first to visit Argentina since the war. On the 22nd anniversary of the war, Argentina's President Néstor Kirchner gave a speech insisting that the islands would once again be part of Argentina. Kirchner, campaigning for president in 2003, regarded the islands a top priority. In June 2003 the issue was brought before a United Nations committee, and attempts have been made to open talks with Britain to resolve the issue of the islands. As far as the Falkland Islands Government and people are concerned there is no issue to resolve. The Falkland Islanders themselves are almost entirely British and maintain their allegiance to the United Kingdom. (See also Sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.)

Falkland Islanders were granted full British citizenship from 1 January 1983 under the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983.


Map of the Falkland Islands
Map of the Falkland Islands

The islands are 300 miles (483 km) from the South American mainland. There are two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland and about 700 small islands. The total land area is 12,173 km², approximately the same area as Connecticut or Northern Ireland, and a coastline estimated at 1,288 km.

Much of the land is part of the two main islands separated by the Falkland Sound: East Falkland, home to the capital of Stanley and the majority of the population, and West Falkland. Both islands have mountain ranges, rises to 705 m at Mount Usborne on East Falkland. There are also some boggy plains, most notably Lafonia, 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 Island, Beaver Island, Bleaker Island, Carcass Island, George Island, Keppel Island, Lively Island, New Island, Pebble Island, Saunders Island, Sealion Island, Speedwell Island, Staats Island, Weddell Island, West Point Island. The Jason Islands lie to the north west of the main archipelago, and Beauchene Island some distance to its south.

The islands claim a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (22 km) and an exclusive fishing zone of 200 nautical miles (370 km), which has been a source of conflict with Argentina.

The Falkland Islands have a cold marine climate with strong westerly winds. It is generally cloudy and humid; rain occurs on more than half the days in a typical year. Snow is rare, but can occur at almost any time of year Islanders themselves talk about two main areas of the islands, namely Stanley and the rest, which they call "the Camp", from the Spanish campo ("countryside").


A Falkland Pound Note
A Falkland Pound Note

Main article: Economy of the Falkland Islands

The largest industries are fishing and agriculture. The islands have oil reserves that are believed to be quite substantial, but have yet to be exploited. The climatic conditions of the southern seas mean that the economic viability of any exploitation is poor. The continuing sovereignty dispute with Argentina also hampers exploration possibilities. Since the 1982 war, expenditure by the British military forms a major part of the island's economy.

The largest company in the islands is the Falkland Islands Company, a publicly quoted company on the London Stock Exchange and responsible for the majority of the economic activity on the islands.

The currency in use is the Falkland Pound, which remains in parity with Pounds Sterling. The Falkland Islands also mint their own coins, and issue stamps which forms a source of revenue from overseas collectors.


The population is 2,967 (July 2003 estimate), the majority of which are of British descent (approximately 70%). Those people from the United Kingdom who have obtained Falkland Island status, became what are known locally as 'belongers'. However a few are of Scandinavian descent. Some are the descendants of whalers who reached the Islands during the last two centuries. Furthermore there is a small minority of South American, mainly Chilean origin, and in more recent times many people from St Helena have also come to work in the Islands. The Falkland Islands have been a centre of English language learning for South Americans.

Islanders call themselves "Islanders". Outsiders often call Islanders "Kelpers", from the kelp which grows profusely around the islands, but the name is no longer used in the Islands.

The main religion is Christianity. The main denominations are Church of England, Roman Catholicism, United Free Church, Evangelist Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, Lutheranism and Seventh-day Adventism. The extra-provincial Anglican parish of the Falkland Islands is under the direct jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury.


The Falkland Islands has two airports with paved runways. RAF Mount Pleasant, 30 miles west of Stanley acts as the main international airport, with flights operated by the Royal Air Force to RAF Northolt in the United Kingdom and RAF Ascension Island. Flights are also available to Chile operated by LAN. Port Stanley Airport is a smaller airport outside the city, and is used for internal flights. There are 3 airports with grass runways at Goose Green, West Falkland and San Carlos Bay. Some flights also operate to British bases in the British Antarctic Territory.

The road network has been improved by the British military since 1982, however, few paved roads exist outside Stanley and the RAF base. Thousands of land mines remain from the 1982 war which also hamper transport.

See also


External links

Countries in South America
Argentina · Bolivia · Brazil · Chile · Colombia · Ecuador · Guyana · Panama · Paraguay · Peru · Suriname · Trinidad and Tobago · Uruguay · Venezuela

Dependencies: Falkland Islands (UK) · French Guiana · South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (UK)

edit British dependencies Flag of the United Kingdom
Overseas territories: Anguilla | Bermuda | British Antarctic Territory | British Indian Ocean Territory | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Falkland Islands | Gibraltar | Montserrat | Pitcairn Islands | Saint Helena (Ascension, Tristan da Cunha) | South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Crown dependencies: Guernsey | Jersey | Isle of Man
UK Sovereign Base Areas: Akrotiri and Dhekelia (in Cyprus)
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