Falkland Islands

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Falkland Islands

(fôk`lənd), Span. Islas Malvinas, group of islands (2012 pop. 2,563), 4,618 sq mi (11,961 sq km), S Atlantic, c.300 mi (480 km) E of the Strait of Magellan. The islands are a British overseas territory; the capital is StanleyStanley,
town (1991 pop. 1,557), capital of the Falkland Islands, S Atlantic Ocean, on East Falkland island. It is the main port and trading center of the islands. The name is sometimes written as Port Stanley.
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. There are two large islands (East Falkland and West Falkland) and some 200 small ones. From 1908 to 1985 South GeorgiaSouth Georgia,
island, c.1,450 sq mi (3,760 sq km), S Atlantic Ocean, c.1,200 mi (1,930 km) E of Cape Horn. A dependency of the Falkland Islands from 1908 to 1985 (along with the South Sandwich Islands, a group of nine small, volcanic islets c.
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 and the South Sandwich Islands were dependencies of the colony. The Falklands are rather bleak, rocky moorlands, swept by wind and drenched by chill rain. The population is almost entirely British, Christian, and English-speaking.

The islands are flourishing sheep-raising centers, and the economy was long dependent on the export of wool and the sale of Falkland Islands postage stamps and coins. Since the late 1980s, however, the rich fishing grounds surrounding the islands have become the economic mainstay, as a result of the sale of licenses to foreign commercial fishing operations. Squid is the most important catch. Whales and seals also abound in the littoral waters and formerly were heavily hunted. Tourism also contributes to the economy. Oil exploration around the islands began in the early 1990s, but no commercially significant deposits were found until 2010. Fuel, food and drink, building materials, and clothing must be imported.

The Falklands are governed under the constitution of 2009. There is a unicameral Legislative Assembly with 8 elected and 2 nonvoting ex officio members, all of whom serve four-year terms. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by a governor, is the head of state.

The British have long claimed the islands, based on probable discovery by the navigator John DavisDavis or Davys, John,
1550?–1605, English navigator. He made his first voyage in search of the Northwest Passage in 1585, continuing the work of Martin Frobisher.
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 in 1592, but they were first settled in 1764 by France. Spain, Britain, and Argentina subsequently had colonies on the islands. When the seizure of an American sealing vessel in 1832 led to a U.S. punitive expedition, the British, claiming sovereignty, occupied the islands in 1832–33 and expelled the Argentinian colonists. Near the Falklands, in one of the most stirring naval engagements of World War I, the British under Sir Frederick Sturdee destroyed (Dec. 8, 1914) a German squadron under Graf von SpeeSpee, Maximilian, Graf von
, 1861–1914, German admiral. At the start of World War I he commanded a squadron in East Asia. In Nov., 1914, he met and defeated the English commander Admiral Cradock off Coronel; however, he was defeated by Sir Frederick Sturdee near the
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.

Argentina invaded the islands in 1982 over a sovereignty dispute with Great Britain, but British forces responded quickly, forcing a surrender by the Argentines within six weeks. Since the invasion Falkland Islanders have opposed negotiations with Argentina concerning the islands' sovereignty. In Feb., 2010, the start of exploratory offshore oil drilling increased tensions with Argentina, which restricted ship traffic through its waters to the islands; in 2011, Falklands-flagged vessels were barred from the ports of Mercosur nations. In a 2013 referendum more than 90% of the eligible voters voted in favor of remaining British.

Falkland Islands

 

(also Islas Malvinas), an archipelago in the southwestern Atlantic Ocean. The Falkland Islands, which cover an area of 12,000 sq km, consist of two large islands, West Falkland and East Falkland, and approximately 200 small islands and rocks. They belong to Great Britain, although Argentina disputes its right to possession. Population, 1,900 (1973).

The Falkland Islands are composed primarily of metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Elevations reach 706 m. The coasts are sharply indented. The climate is oceanic and cool, with an average monthly temperature that varies from 2.5° to 10°C. Precipitation falls evenly throughout the year, averaging between 600 and 700 mm annually; the islands are subject to strong winds and frequent fogs. The islands are covered by oceanic meadows of tussock and pampas grasses, heaths of the red crowberry Empetrum rubrum and Ericaceae, pulvinate plants, and peat bogs. There is abundant seabird life. The economy is devoted to sheep raising and the hunting of marine mammals. The capital is Stanley.

The islands were discovered in 1592 by the English navigator J. Davis. During World War I, the battle of the Falkland Islands, involving German and British naval squadrons, took place near the islands on Dec. 8, 1914.