Falkland Islands

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Central & South American Countries; Countries

Falkland Islands
Flag of Falkland Islands Coat of arms of Falkland Islands
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Desire the right
Anthem: God Save the Queen
Location of Falkland Islands
Capital Stanley
51°42′S 57°51′W
Largest city Stanley
Official languages English
Government Overseas territory of the UK
 - Head of state Queen Elizabeth II
 - Governor Alan Huckle
Independence Overseas territory of the UK 
 - Liberation Day 14 June 1982 
 - Total 12,173 km² ( 162nd)
4,700 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 0
 - July 2005 estimate 3,060 ( 226th)
 - Density 0.25/km² ( 229th)
0.65/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $75 million ( 223th)
 - Per capita $25,000 (2002 est.) ( not ranked)
HDI  (n/a) n/a (n/a) ( n/a)
Currency Falkland pound1 ( FKP)
Time zone ( UTC-4)
 - Summer ( DST) ( UTC-3)
Internet TLD .fk
Calling code +500
1Fixed to GBP
Camp settlement
Camp settlement

The Falkland Islands, also called The Malvinas, are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located 300 miles (483 kilometres) from the coast of South America, 671 miles (1080 km) west of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Shag Rocks), and 584 miles (940 km) north of Antarctica (Elephant Island). They consist of two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, together with about 700 smaller islands. Stanley, on East Falkland, is the capital and largest city. The islands are a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, but have been the subject of a claim to sovereignty by Argentina since the early years of Argentina's independence from Spain.

In 1982 the islands were invaded by Argentina, precipitating the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom, which resulted in the defeat and withdrawal of Argentine forces. Since the war there has been strong economic growth in both fisheries and tourism. The inhabitants of the islands, who are of mainly Scottish descent, are British citizens, and support British sovereignty.


The islands are referred to in the English language as "[The] Falkland Islands". This name dates from an expedition led by John Strong in 1690, who named the 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", bestowed in 1764 by Louis Antoine de Bougainville, after the mariners and fishermen from the Breton port of Saint-Malo who became the island's first known human settlers.

The Falkland Islanders, as well as many others, tend to consider as offensive the use of the name Malvinas, as for them it has an association with Argentina's military invasion of the islands in 1982. Some English-language media sources use the ISO designation of "Falkland Islands (Malvinas)".


The Falkland Islands have had a complex history since their discovery, with France, Britain, Spain and Argentina all claiming possession and establishing as well as abandoning settlements on the islands. The Spanish government's claim was continued by Argentina after the latter's independence in 1816 and the independence war in 1817, until 1833 when the United Kingdom took by force control of the islands, following the destruction of the Argentine settlement at Puerto Soledad by the American sloop USS Lexington ( December 28, 1831). Argentina has continued to claim sovereignty over the islands, and the dispute was used by the military junta dictatorship as an excuse to invade and briefly occupy the islands before being defeated in the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War in 1982 by a United Kingdom task force which returned the islands to British control.

The islands were uninhabited when they were first discovered by European explorers. There is disputed evidence of prior settlement by humans, based on the existence of the Falkland Island fox, or Warrah, on the islands, as well as a scattering of undated artifacts including arrowheads and the remains of a canoe. It is thought this canid was brought to the island by humans, although it may have reached the islands by itself via a land bridge during the last ice age.

The first European explorer widely 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 de Weert. However, the islands appear on numerous Spanish and other maps beginning in the 1520s.

In January 1690, English sailor John Strong, captain of the Welfare, was heading for Puerto Deseado (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 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 English name.

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

Unaware of the French presence, in January 1765, English captain John Byron explored and claimed Saunders Island, at the western end of the group, where he named the harbour of Port Egmont, and sailed near other islands, which he also claimed for King George III of Great Britain. 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 Buenos Aires. Spain attacked Port Egmont, ending the British presence there in 1770, but Britain returned in 1771 and remained until 1774. Upon her withdrawal in 1774 Britain left behind a plaque asserting her claims, and in 1790, Britain officially ceded control of the islands to Spain, and renounced any and all colonial ambitions in South America, and its adjacent islands, as part of the Nootka Convention. In addition, the Nootka Convention provided for equal British, Spanish, and US rights to fish the surrounding waters of, as well as land on and erect temporary buildings to aid in such fishing operations, in any territory south of parts already occupied by Spain - the Falkland Islands being one of them since 1770 . From then on Spain ruled the islands unchallenged under the name "Islas Malvinas", maintaining a settlement ruled from Buenos Aires under the control of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata until 1811. On leaving in 1811, Spain, too, left behind a plaque asserting her claims.


When Argentina declared its independence from Spain in 1816, it laid claim to the islands according to the uti possidetis principle, as they had been under the administrative jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata. Following a proclamation of annexation in 1820, actual occupation began in 1826 with the foundation of a settlement and a penal colony. The settlement was destroyed by United States warship in 1831 after the Argentinian governor of the islands Luis Vernet seized U.S. seal hunting ships during a dispute over fishing rights. They left behind escaped prisoners and pirates. In November 1832, Argentina sent another governor who was killed in a mutiny. In January 1833, British forces returned, took control, repatriated the remainder of the Argentine settlement, and began to repopulate the islands with British citizens.

Roadsign to the capital
Roadsign to the capital

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 which 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, 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-colonization 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 the 2,000 inhabitants of mainly British descent who preferred that the islands remained 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. The invasion was condemned by the United Nations Security Council, although world reaction ranged from support in the Latin American countries (with the exception of Chile), to opposition in Europe, the Commonwealth, and eventually the United States. The British sent a large expeditionary 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.


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 Islands, 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, 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 Darwin Lewis Clifton.

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 Falkland Islands comprise two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland and about 700 small islands. The total land area is 4,700 square miles (12 173 km²), approximately the same area as Connecticut or Northern Ireland, and a coastline estimated at 800 miles (1288 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, rising to 2,313 feet (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. Speedwell Island and George Island are split from East Falkland by Engle Passage.

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 disagreement 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").


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, but efforts to diversify introduced in 1984 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 30,000 visitors in 2001. 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, and visits to battlefields, golf, fishing and wreck diving.

An agreement with Argentina has set the terms for exploitation of offshore resources including large oil reserves, but climatic conditions of the southern seas mean that exploitation will be difficult task, though economically viable, and the continuing sovereignty dispute with Argentina is hampering progress. Defence is provided by the UK and British military expenditure makes 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 and 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 FIC now operates several retail outlets in Stanley and is involved in port services and shipping operation.

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


Christ Church Cathedral with whale bone arch, Stanley.
Christ Church Cathedral with whale bone arch, Stanley.

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 Saint 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 Falklands Islands form an Apostolic Prefecture of the Catholic Church.

Broadcasting & Telecommunicatons


  • PAL television, using the UK VHF and UHF allocations is standard.
  • FM stereo broadcasting using the UK allocation is standard.
  • MW broadcasting using 10 khz steps (standard in ITU Zone I).


  • Fibre Optic Communications, not yet present.
  • Telephony, mostly by microwave relay.
  • Telephony, via shortwave ( SSB mode) is used for outlying settlements.


The Dash-7 of the British Antarctic Survey at Stanley.
The Dash-7 of the British Antarctic Survey at Stanley.

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 Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, England with a refueling stop at RAF Ascension Island. RAF flights are on Tri-Stars although it is common for charter aircraft to be used if the Tri-Stars are required for operational flights. At present (October 2006) the RAF air link is operated by Air Atlanta Icelandic, using 747s. 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. Most settlements have grass air strips which are served by Islander aircraft of the Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS). The internal flight schedule is decided a day in advance according to passenger needs and an announcement made on the radio detailing arrival and departure times the night before. The British International (BRINTEL) company also operate two Sikorsky S61N helicopters for passenger flights between the islands. The British Antarctic Survey operates a transcontinental air link between the Falkland Islands and the Rothera base airfield servicing also other British bases in the British Antarctic Territory.

The road network has been improved in recent years, however, few paved roads exist outside Stanley and the RAF base.

Mines and Ordnance

Thousands of land mines remain from the 1982 war which are securely and clearly fenced off with free maps available from the EOD ( Explosive Ordnance Disposal) office 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, although finds of this type are becoming rarer with the passage of time.

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