The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the Southern Atlantic Ocean about 300 miles (480 km) east of South America and 700 miles (1,100 km) north of Antarctica. The two main islands making up the Falkland Islands are East and West Falkland and the rest of the archipelago is made up of around 200 small islands. The Falkland Islands are considered a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom but Argentina also has claims on the islands. The Falkland Islands have recently been in the news due to disputes over these claims between the U.K. and Argentina.
Population: 3,440 (July 2012 estimate)
Area: 4,700 square miles (12,173 square km)
Coastline: 800 miles (1,288 km)
Highest Point: Mount Usborne at 2,313 feet (705 m)
History of the Falkland Islands
It is believed that Ferdinand Magellan's expeditions of the 1500s may have been the first to sight the Falkland Islands because shortly after his journey, the islands began appearing on European maps. There is dispute however, as to who was the first European explorer to reach the Falkland Islands but in January 1690, the English captain John Strong sailed between the two largest islands and named the area the Falkland Channel (now called the Falkland Sound) after Anthony Cary, the 5th Viscount of Falkland who had paid for his expedition.
The first permanent settlement on the Falkland Islands was called Port St. Louis and was founded by the French navigator, Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1764. Shortly thereafter in 1765, British captain John Byron claimed Saunders Islands and a British settlement called Port Egmont was established there in 1766. In that same year, Spain took over the French colony and in 1770, attacked Port Egmont.
In 1774 the U.K. withdrew from Port Egmont (after being allowed back in 1771) because of the American Revolution but left a plaque in 1776 claiming the islands. In 1820, Argentina claimed the Falkland Islands and in 1828, Argentina established a permanent colony on the islands.
In 1833, British forces returned to the Falkland Islands and reasserted their control by building a Navy base at Stanley. During World War II, Stanley was the main naval base for the British during the Battle of the River Plate.
In the later parts of the 20th century control of the Falkland Islands again became a serious issue as Argentina sought to reclaim its control of the islands. In April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands which began the Falklands War after the British sent a their military in to retake the islands in May of that year. In June 1982, Argentine forces surrendered.
Since then, the U.K. has controlled the Falkland Islands, but recently, Argentina has again asserted its claims on the islands and on February 24, 2010, 32 Latin American and Caribbean nations formed a regional organization called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that may possibly pressure the U.K. over its control of the Falkland Islands.
Government of the Falkland Islands
Today the Falkland Islands are run under the English Common Law legal system and as an Overseas Territory of the U.K. The Falkland Islands' Chief of State is Queen Elizabeth II but it is also run locally by a governor chosen as the queen's representative. The Falkland Islands have a unicameral legislative council consisting of ten seats which is presided by the governor as well as a judicial branch with a Supreme Court, a Magistrates Court and a Court of Summary Jurisdiction.
Economy and Land Use of the Falkland Islands
Although formerly based on agriculture, the economy of the Falkland Islands today is primarily based on fishing. In 1987, the islands began selling licenses for foreign fishers to fish in their maritime exclusive economic zone which extends 200 nautical miles from its islands. Today the islands receive around $40 million per year from those licenses. Agriculture also still plays a role in the Falkland Islands' economy as does tourism and wool processing.
Geography and Climate of the Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are located in the South Atlantic Ocean and are made up of about 200 small islands and two large islands (East and West Falkland). The capital of the Falkland Islands, Stanley, is the largest city on the islands and is located on East Falkland. Depending on which islands one is located on the terrain can be rocky, hilly or mountainous. The two main islands however are mountainous and some of the islands also have rolling boggy plains.
The climate of the Falkland Islands is considered cold marine or Maritime subarctic. The islands are strongly impacted by westerly winds and rain is very common for most of the year. Snow is also possible year round but it rarely accumulates. The average January high is 58°F (14°C) and the average July high is 40°F (4°C).
The Falkland Islands are also considered highly biodiverse as various species of flora and fauna live on them. The Magellanic Penguin for example is one species with a large population on the Falkland Islands. The Falkland Islands are also a part of the Antarctic Floristic Kingdom.
More Facts about the Falkland Islands
• Sheep grazing is common in the boggy plains found on East and West Falkland
• 92% of the population lives in the few urban areas on the Falkland Islands
• 70% of the population of the Falkland Islands is of British descent