The Falkland Islands are an archipelago of 778 islands, situated in the South Atlantic Ocean some 462 km from the Argentine coast and 489 km from the southern tip of Chile.
The Falkland islands have been a self governing British Overseas Territory since 1833.
Of the 778 islands there are only two inhabited islands, East and West Falkland Islands, which are seperated by a stretch of water called the Falkland Sound.
The islands cover an area of 12,173 sq km and has a population of around 4,000 people, half of which is made up of Royal Airforce personell, who are permanently based at the Mount Pleasant Airforce Base, which was inaugerated after the British / Argentine war of 1982, which saw the deaths of 655 Argentine soldiers and 255 British soldiers, after Argentina invaded the islands on the 2nd of April 1982.
The two countries have had a territorial dispute over the islands for centuries.
70 % of the local population are of British descent, whose ancestors came to the islands when they were a large and prosperous whaling and sealing base, during the 1800's, resulting in the island people preferring to remain a British Overseas Territory.
The islands have a climate and landscape similar to that of the Scottish Shetland Islands, with a sub - Arctic climate that ranges from 11c in the winter months to 14c in the Summer months.
The islands have a high humidity rate, and suffer from permanent high winds, keeping the islands relatively frost free and with little or no snow.
The islands coastline is jagged and rocky made up of hundreds of small fjords.
Inland the islands are made up of grass pasture lands and central mountain ranges of 700 metres high.
West Falkland Island is 130 km long by 70 km wide with a total land area of 4,532 sq km.
It is the least populated of the two main islands, with a population of just under 200 people, who live mainly in the picturesque settlement of Port Howard.
The island is seperated from it's neighbour by the 80 km long Falkland Sound, which is anything from a few kilometres to over 35 km wide.
The Falkland islands highest point is Mount Adam at just over 700 metres high.
East Falkland has a total land area of 2,550 sq km .
This is the most populated of the two islands, which consists of the islands capital city, Stanley and Royal Airforce Base Mount Pleasant.
Most of the populace is concentrated in the north of this island, in around the capital of Stanley, which has city status due to it's Anglican Cathedral, which was built in 1892 on the site of a previous church that was destroyed by a massive peat slide, a common occurence on the islands some hundred or so years ago.
The Cathedral is famous for it's large whalebone arch, situated at the entrance to the Cathedral,which was made from the jaws of two blue whales in 1933.
Stanley grew up around it's port, Port Stanley, during the hey day of the great whaling and sealing industry.
The islanders at this time were known as Kelpers owing to the large amount of kelp washed up on the islands shores. Today this term is considered derogatory and local people call themselves Belongers.
The port is a deep water port, which specialised in the repair of great ships, becoming a large and very busy whaling base.
During W.W.II the port became a naval base during the Battle of River Plate, and before the opening of the Panama Canal was a supply port, for ships travelling through the Magellan Straits and Drakes Passage, on their way to Asia.
With the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the decline of the whaling industry, the islands turned to sheep farming and fishing, exporting mainly to the U.K, which is still a thriving industry to this day.
Aeriel view of Stanley.
The city of Stanley was named after Lord Stanley, who was Secretary of State for the British Colonies in 1845.
Today the tiny city consists of Government House, home and office of the governor of the islands, a Town Hall, which is post office and law court, a museum, 3 restaurants, 3 churches, 4 public houses, 11 hotels and the most important of British requirements, a fish and chip shop.
The city is also serviced by a large community centre with a myriad of sporting facilities, including a large swimming pool, a golf course,and a Horse Racing Course.
The people are catered for by means of 13 cell prison, their own school and a modern civilian run hospital with two dental surgeries, although there is no optical care on the islands, this is catered for by means of a visiting British optician twice a year.
Media on the islands consists of the islands own radio station, a weekly island newspaper whch is called the Penguin News, owing to the large colonies of these birds that congregate on the islands, cable T.V and wireless internet.
Falkland Islands landscape.
The islanders food and supplies are delivered by boat from the neighbouring country of Chile, although there is a large garden centre and greenhouse area that caters to the islanders fruit and vegetable needs
The airforce base also serves as the islands international airport, which is serviced by twice weekly flights to the U.K, a weekly flight to Punta Arenas in Chile and a monthly flight to Rio Gallegos in Argentina , all courtesy of Air Tahiti.
The discovery of oil 100 miles off the coast of the Falkland Islands,which has resulted in the erection of a small oil platform and the arrival of an oil rig workforce, has resulted in Argentina trying to gain U.N sanctions over the islands, claiming once more that the islands are officially Argentine territory. This has resulted in the airforce base stationed there, being on red alert for the first time in nearly thirty years.
The revenue from the oil find would not profit the British government in any way, as it would all go to a much needed new road network, more improved school services and better hospital facilities on the islands.
The Falkland Islands have recently begun catering to a tourism industry, mainly from visiting cruise ships and along with it's already thriving meat and fish industry, they are unfortunatey still not sufficient to sustain this tiny, isolated island community trying to keep financially afloat in today's unstable economic climate.
Currency; Falkland Island Pound.
Language; Standard English.
Calling code; 500.
Internet TLD; .fk.
U.T.C - 4 hours.
VISIT THE FALKLAND ISLANDS WEBSITES.
OTHER ATLANTIC ISLANDS ARTICLES BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
Images courtesy of wikimedia commons.