Introducing Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are a popular addition to many Antarctic voyages – usually in conjunction with a visit to South Georgia – but they’re well worth seeing on their own for their spectacular populations of penguins, seals and albatrosses. Surrounded by the South Atlantic and by centuries of controversy, the islands lie 490km east of Patagonia. Two main islands, East and West Falkland, and more than 700 smaller ones cover 12, 173 sq km, about the same area as Northern Ireland or Connecticut.
Until Argentina’s military dictatorship made an ill-advised decision to invade the Falklands in 1982, few people could even pinpoint the location of this remote archipelago. Visiting was difficult until the Argentines built an airport in 1977. The 11-week Falklands War suddenly put the islands on the front page, at the cost of 900 Argentine and British military deaths – one for every three islanders.
Today more than four-fifths of the 3140 Falklanders (sometimes called ‘Kelpers’) live in Stanley. There are also more than 1200 British military personnel, nearly all at the Mt Pleasant base. The rest of the islanders live in ‘Camp, ’ the name given to all of the Falklands outside Stanley. Few of the numerous smaller offshore islands are inhabited. About 60% of Falklanders are native born, some tracing their ancestry back six or more generations. Most of the remainder are immigrants or temporary residents from the UK.
Since the advent of large sheep stations in the late 19th century, rural settlement in the Falklands has consisted of tiny hamlets built near sheltered harbors where coastal shipping could collect the wool clip. Shepherds usually lived in ‘outside houses, ’ which still dot the countryside, as do 700, 000 sheep, which outnumber Falklanders by 200 to one.
The Falklands retain their rural character: the islands are laced with 400km of roads, but there’s not one traffic light..
Last updated: Apr 17, 2012
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