|THE FALKLAND ISLANDS COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Falkland Islands within the continent of South America
Map of Falkland Islands
Flag Description of Falkland Islands:The Falkland Islands are an overseas territory of Britain, and their flag, first hoisted in 1948, symbolizes that association. The coat of arms features a ram symbolic of the sheep industry on the islands. It also includes a ship (the Desire), one used by John Davies, whose crew discovered the islands in 1592. The Falkland's motto is scrolled at the bottom of the arms.
- 1 About Falksland Islands
- 2 Geography of Falkland Islands
- 3 Demography of Falkland Islands
- 4 Economy of Falkland Islands
- 5 Government and Society of Falkland Islands
- 6 Culture Life of Falkland Islands
- 7 History of Falkland Islands
- 8 Falkland Islands War
- 9 East Falkland
- 10 West Falkland
- 11 Disclaimer
About Falksland Islands
Although first sighted by an English navigator in 1592, the first landing (English) did not occur until almost a century later in 1690, and the first settlement (French) was not established until 1764. The colony was turned over to Spain two years later and the islands have since been the subject of a territorial dispute, first between Britain and Spain, then between Britain and Argentina. The UK asserted its claim to the islands by establishing a naval garrison there in 1833. Argentina invaded the islands on 2 April 1982. The British responded with an expeditionary force that landed seven weeks later and after fierce fighting forced an Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982. With hostilities ended and Argentine forces withdrawn, UK administration resumed. In response to renewed calls from Argentina for Britain to relinquish control of the islands, a referendum was held in March 2013, which resulted in 99.8% of the population voting to remain a part of the UK.
Falkland Islands, also called Malvinas Islands, Spanish Islas Malvinas, internally self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the South Atlantic Ocean. It lies about 300 miles (480 km) northeast of the southern tip of South America and a similar distance east of the Strait of Magellan. The capital and major town is Stanley, on East Falkland; there are also several scattered small settlements as well as a Royal Air Force base that is located at Mount Pleasant, some 35 miles (56 km) southwest of Stanley. In South America the islands are generally known as Islas Malvinas, because early French settlers had named them Malouines, or Malovines, in 1764, after their home port of Saint-Malo, France. Area 4,700 square miles (12,200 square km). Pop. (2012, excluding British military personnel stationed on the islands) 2,563.
Geography of Falkland Islands
The two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, and about 200 smaller islands form a total land area nearly as extensive as the U.S. state of Connecticut. The government of the Falkland Islands also administers the British overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, including the Shag and Clerke rocks, lying from 700 to 2,000 miles (1,100 to 3,200 km) to the east and southeast of the Falklands.
Ranges of hills run east-west across the northern parts of the two main islands, reaching 2,312 feet (705 metres) at Mount Usborne in East Falkland. The coastal topography features many drowned river valleys that form protected harbours. The small rivers occupy broad, peat-covered valleys. The islands’ cool and windy climate offers few temperature extremes and only minor seasonal variability. Consistently high west winds average 19 miles (31 km) per hour, while the mean annual average temperature is about 42 °F (5 °C), with an average maximum of 49 °F (9 °C) and an average minimum of 37 °F (3 °C). Precipitation averages 25 inches (635 mm) annually.
The islands’ vegetation is low and dense in a landscape with no natural tree growth. White grass (Cortaderia pilosa) and diddle-dee (Empetrum rubrum) dominate the grasslands. Where livestock grazing has been controlled, coastal tussock grass (Parodiochloa flabellata) still covers offshore islands. The chilly, damp climate inhibits the complete decomposition of plant matter and permits the accumulation of deep peat deposits.
There are no longer any land mammals indigenous to the Falklands, the wild fox being extinct. About 65 species of birds, including black-browed albatrosses, Falkland pipits, peregrine falcons, and striated caracaras, are found on the islands. The Falklands are breeding grounds for several million penguins—mostly rockhopper, magellanic, and gentoo penguins with smaller numbers of king and macaroni penguins. Dolphins and porpoises are common, and southern sea lions and elephant seals are also numerous. Fur seals are found at a few isolated sites. Squid are abundant in the waters surrounding the islands, but overfishing became an issue in the 1990s, and measures were taken to correct the problem.
Demography of Falkland Islands
The population of the Falkland Islands is English-speaking and consists primarily of Falklanders of British descent. The pattern of living on the islands is sharply differentiated between Stanley and the small, isolated sheep-farming communities. Four-fifths of the population lives in Stanley.
Economy of Falkland Islands
Almost the whole area of the two main islands, outside of Stanley, is devoted to sheep farming. The islands’ sheep stations (ranches) vary in size and may be owned by individual families or by companies based in Britain. Several hundred thousand sheep are kept on the islands, producing several thousand tons of wool annually as well as some mutton. The wool is sold in Great Britain and is the Falklands’ leading land-based export. The Falkland Islands Company, incorporated in 1852 and granted a Royal Charter in 1851, played a notable part in the economic development of the islands and was for many years the single largest sheep rancher there.
In the late 20th century the government instituted policies to encourage an increase in the number of smaller, locally operated farms rather than corporate-owned farms. Attempts were also undertaken at that time to diversify the islands’ economy. The government began selling fishing licenses to foreigners in 1987, and the revenue generated from such sales became a major contributor to the economy. In 2002 a slaughter facility was built, and the following year sheep and lamb meat began being exported to the United Kingdom. In the early 1990s, seismic studies suggested the presence of offshore oil reserves, and licenses were granted to foreign companies for exploration. Tourism, especially ecotourism, grew rapidly beginning in the early 21st century to become another leading sector of the economy. Such efforts have enabled the islands’ economy to enjoy sustained growth since the late 20th century.
Stanley Harbour is the islands’ main port; it has a commercial wharf and receives cruise ships. Some cruise ships also call at the outer islands. The main settlements are linked by roads and a government-operated air service, which also provides interisland passenger service. There is a ferry link between East and West Falkland. A coastal freighter travels around the two main islands to deliver supplies and collect the wool clip for transshipment to the United Kingdom. An international airport is located at the Mount Pleasant Military Complex.
Government and Society of Falkland Islands
Executive authority is vested in the British crown, and the islands’ government is headed by a governor appointed by the crown. As outlined in the Falkland Islands constitution (2009), the governor is advised by an Executive Council consisting of three of the elected members of the Legislative Assembly and two ex officio, nonvoting members (the chief executive and the director of finance). The governor presides over the Executive Council and must consult with it in the discharge of most of his or her duties but may, in certain circumstances, act against the advice of the council. The Legislative Assembly has 10 members, eight of whom are elected to four-year terms from two constituencies, while the other two, the same nonvoting members as on the Executive Council, are ex officio. Both the chief executive and the director of finance are appointed by the governor. There are no political parties, and all members of the legislature are elected as independents. The voting age is 18. The 2009 constitution provides the islands’ government with a greater degree of autonomy than the previous (1985) constitution, but the governor must consult with the regional commander of the British military on issues concerning defense and internal security.
The official currency is the Falkland pound, which is on par with the British pound. Standard Chartered Bank, headquartered in London, is the only bank. There is little unemployment in the Falklands, but a shortage of housing has discouraged immigration. The islands’ social welfare system is adequate, and primary education is free. There are a primary and a secondary school at Stanley and several smaller schools in rural areas. Free medical service is provided by a hospital in Stanley.
Culture Life of Falkland Islands
Cultural life As the islands’ main town, Stanley is the cultural centre. It is home to the Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust, a museum devoted to the islands’ history. The town also features the Falkland Islands Philatelic Bureau; the Falklands have been issuing stamps that reflect the area’s history and wildlife since the late 1800s. The islands’ British heritage is apparent in Stanley, where pubs, bright red mailboxes, and well-kept gardens are numerous. Sporting activities are popular on the islands and include bird-watching, fishing, and horseback riding. The Stanley Marathon has been run annually (March) since 2005.
History of Falkland Islands
The English navigator John Davis in the Desire may have been the first person to sight the Falklands, in 1592, but it was the Dutchman Sebald de Weerdt who made the first undisputed sighting of them about 1600. The English captain John Strong made the first recorded landing in the Falklands, in 1690, and named the sound between the two main islands after Viscount Falkland, a British naval official. The name was later applied to the whole island group. The French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville founded the islands’ first settlement, on East Falkland, in 1764, and he named the islands the Malovines. The British, in 1765, were the first to settle West Falkland, but they were driven off in 1770 by the Spanish, who had bought out the French settlement about 1767. The British outpost on West Falkland was restored in 1771 after threat of war, but then the British withdrew from the island in 1774 for reasons of economy, without renouncing their claim to the Falklands. Spain maintained a settlement on East Falkland (which it called Soledad Island) until 1811.
In 1820 the Buenos Aires government, which had declared its independence from Spain in 1816, proclaimed its sovereignty over the Falklands. In 1831 the U.S. warship Lexington destroyed the Argentine settlement on East Falkland in reprisal for the arrest of three U.S. ships that had been hunting seals in the area. In early 1833 a British force expelled the few remaining Argentine officials from the island without firing a shot. In 1841 a British civilian lieutenant governor was appointed for the Falklands, and by 1885 a British community of some 1,800 people on the islands was self-supporting. Argentina regularly protested Britain’s occupation of the islands.
After World War II the issue of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands shifted to the United Nations when, in 1964, the islands’ status was debated by the UN committee on decolonization. Argentina based its claim to the Falklands on papal bulls of 1493 modified by the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), by which Spain and Portugal had divided the New World between themselves; on succession from Spain; on the islands’ proximity to South America; and on the need to end a colonial situation. Britain based its claim on its “open, continuous, effective possession, occupation, and administration” of the islands since 1833 and its determination to apply to the Falklanders the principle of self-determination as recognized in the United Nations Charter. Britain asserted that, far from ending a colonial situation, Argentine rule and control of the lives of the Falklanders against their wishes would in fact create one.
In 1965 the UN General Assembly approved a resolution inviting Britain and Argentina to hold discussions to find a peaceful solution to the dispute. These protracted discussions were still proceeding in February 1982, but on April 2 Argentina’s military government invaded the Falklands. This act started the Falkland Islands War, which ended 10 weeks later with the surrender of the Argentine forces at Stanley to British troops who had forcibly reoccupied the islands. Although Britain and Argentina reestablished full diplomatic relations in 1990, the issue of sovereignty remained a point of contention. In the early 21st century Britain continued to maintain some 2,000 troops on the islands. In January 2009 a new constitution came into effect that strengthened the Falklands’ local democratic government and reserved for the islanders their right to determine the territory’s political status. In a referendum held in March 2013, islanders voted nearly unanimously to remain a British overseas territory.
Falkland Islands War
lkland Islands War, also called Falklands War, Malvinas War, or South Atlantic War, a brief undeclared war fought between Argentina and Great Britain in 1982 over control of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and associated island dependencies.
The outbreak of conflict
Argentina had claimed sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, which lie 300 miles (480 km) east of its coast, since the early 19th century, but Britain seized the islands in 1833, expelling the few remaining Argentine occupants, and since then consistently rejected Argentina’s claims. In early 1982 the Argentine military junta led by Lieut. Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri gave up on long-running negotiations with Britain and instead launched an invasion of the islands. The decision to invade was chiefly political: the junta, which was being criticized for economic mismanagement and human rights abuses, believed that the “recovery” of the islands would unite Argentines behind the government in a patriotic fervour. An elite invasion force trained in secrecy, but its timetable was shortened on March 19 when a dispute erupted on British-controlled South Georgia island, where Argentine salvage workers had raised the Argentine flag, 800 miles (1,300 km) east of the Falklands. Naval forces were quickly mobilized.
Argentine troops invaded the Falklands on April 2, rapidly overcoming the small garrison of British marines at the capital Stanley (Port Stanley); they obeyed orders not to inflict any British casualties, despite losses to their own units. The next day Argentine marines seized the associated island of South Georgia. By late April Argentina had stationed more than 10,000 troops on the Falklands, although the vast majority of these were poorly trained conscripts, and they were not supplied with proper food, clothing, and shelter for the approaching winter.
As expected, the Argentine populace reacted favourably, with large crowds gathering at the Plaza de Mayo (in front of the presidential palace) to demonstrate support for the military initiative. In response to the invasion, the British government under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared a war zone for 200 miles (320 km) around the Falklands. The government quickly assembled a naval task force built around two aircraft carriers, the 30-year-old HMS Hermes and the new HMS Invincible light carrier, and two cruise ships pressed into service as troop carriers, the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the Canberra. The carriers sailed from Portsmouth on April 5 and were reinforced en route. Most European powers voiced support for Great Britain, and European military advisers were withdrawn from Argentine bases. However, most Latin American governments sympathized with Argentina. A notable exception was Chile, which maintained a state of alert against its neighbour because of a dispute over islands in the Beagle Channel. The perceived threat from Chile prompted Argentina to keep most of its elite troops on the mainland, distant from the Falklands theatre. In addition, Argentine military planners had trusted that the United States would remain neutral in the conflict, but, following unsuccessful mediation attempts, the United States offered full support to Great Britain, allowing its NATO ally to use its air-to-air missiles, communications equipment, aviation fuel, and other military stockpiles on British-held Ascension Island, as well as cooperating with military intelligence.
The course of the conflict
On April 25, while the British task force was steaming 8,000 miles (13,000 km) to the war zone via Ascension Island, a smaller British force retook South Georgia island, in the process capturing one of Argentina’s vintage U.S.-made diesel-electric submarines. On May 2 the obsolete Argentine cruiser General Belgrano (purchased from the United States after World War II) was sunk outside the war zone by a British nuclear-powered submarine. Following this controversial event, most other Argentine ships were kept in port, and the Argentine navy’s contribution was limited to its naval air force and one of its newer German-made diesel-electric submarines. The latter posed more of a threat to the British fleet than was expected, launching torpedo attacks that narrowly failed.
Meanwhile, the British naval force and the land-based Argentine air forces fought pitched battles. Argentine aircraft consisted mainly of several dozen old U.S. and French fighter-bombers armed only with conventional high-explosive bombs and lacking electronic countermeasures or radar for acquiring targets. That they proved as effective as they did was a testimony to the skill and motivation of their pilots. In addition, the Argentine navy had recently taken delivery of a few new French-made Super Etendard attack aircraft armed with the newest Exocet antiship missiles; though only a handful in number, these proved particularly deadly. Because the Falklands were at the extreme edge of the Argentine aircraft’s combat radius, the planes could take only one pass at the task force. British ships therefore remained out of range except when closing in to attack Argentine positions.
For the British, the problem was their dependence on two aircraft carriers, as the loss of one would almost certainly have forced withdrawal. Air cover was limited to perhaps 20 short-range Sea Harrier naval jets armed with air-to-air missiles. To make up for the lack of long-range air cover, a screening force of destroyers and frigates was stationed ahead of the fleet to serve as radar pickets. However, not all of them were armed with full antiaircraft systems or close-in weapons for shooting down incoming missiles. This left the British ships vulnerable to attack, and on May 4 the Argentines sank the destroyer HMS Sheffield with an Exocet missile. The Argentines, meanwhile, lost some 20–30 percent of their planes.
Thus weakened, the Argentines were unable to prevent the British from making an amphibious landing on the islands. Apparently expecting a direct British assault, the Argentine ground-forces commander, Gen. Mario Menéndez, centralized his forces around the capital of Stanley to protect its vital airstrip. Instead, the British navy task-force commander, Rear Adm. John Woodward, and the land-force commander, Maj. Gen. Jeremy Moore, decided to make their initial landing near Port San Carlos, on the northern coast of East Falkland, and then mount an overland attack on Stanley. They calculated that this would avoid casualties to the British civilian population and to the British forces.
The British landed unopposed on May 21, but the Argentine defenders, some 5,000 strong, quickly organized an effective resistance, and heavy fighting was required to wear it down. The Argentine air forces, meanwhile, kept up their attacks on the British fleet, sinking two frigates, a destroyer, a container ship carrying transport helicopters, and a landing ship disembarking troops. In addition, they damaged several other frigates and destroyers. Nevertheless, they were not able to damage either aircraft carrier or sink enough ships to jeopardize British land operations. They also lost a considerable portion of their remaining jets as well as their Falklands-based helicopters and light ground-attack planes.
From the beachhead at Port San Carlos, the British infantry advanced rapidly southward, through forced marches under extremely adverse weather conditions, to capture the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green. After several days of hard fighting, some of it hand-to-hand, against determined Argentine troops dug in along several ridgelines, the British succeeded in taking and occupying the high ground west of Stanley. With British forces surrounding and blockading the capital and main port, it was clear that the large Argentine garrison there was cut off and could be starved out. Menéndez therefore surrendered on June 14, effectively ending the conflict. British forces removed a small Argentine garrison from one of the South Sandwich Islands, some 500 miles (800 km) southeast of South Georgia, on June 20.
Costs and consequences
The British captured some 11,400 Argentine prisoners during the war, all of whom were released afterward. Argentina announced that about 650 lives had been lost—about half of them in the sinking of the General Belgrano—while Britain lost 255. Military strategists have debated key aspects of the conflict but have generally underscored the roles of submarines (both Britain’s nuclear-powered vessels and Argentina’s older, diesel-electric craft) and antiship missiles (both air-to-sea and land-to-sea types). The war also illustrated the importance of air superiority—which the British had been unable to establish—and of advanced surveillance. Logistic support was vital as well, because the armed forces of both countries had operated at their maximum ranges. (See also naval warfare: The age of the guided missile.)
Argentina’s military government was severely discredited by its failure to prepare and support its own military forces in the invasion that it had ordered, and civilian rule was restored to Argentina in 1983. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher converted widespread patriotic support into a landslide victory for her Conservative Party in the parliamentary election of 1983.
Island, Atlantic Ocean
East Falkland, one of the two major islands of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is 90 miles (140 km) long and 55 miles (88 km) wide and rises to 2,312 feet (705 metres) at Mount Usborne. The coastline is deeply indented, particularly at the midsection, where only a narrow bridge of land connects the island’s northern and southern regions. The town of Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, is on the northeast shore. The small settlements of Darwin and Goose Green lie on the narrow land bridge. Port San Carlos and Port Salvador are in the northwest and north, respectively. The total area of East Falkland is 2,550 square miles (6,605 square km), excluding adjacent small islands. Pop. (1996) 2,352; (2001) 2,197.
Island, Atlantic Ocean
West Falkland, one of the two major islands of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is 80 miles (130 km) long and 45 miles (70 km) wide and rises to 2,297 feet (700 metres) at Mount Adam. The coastline is deeply indented, and the settlement of Port Stephens is located in the southwest. The total area of West Falkland is 1,750 square miles (4,532 square km), excluding adjacent small islands. Pop. (1996) 174; (2001) 208.
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