The Falkland Islands are as far south of the Equator as London is north, and is over 300 miles from the mainland of South America. The first recorded sighting of the islands was by an English Sea Captain named John Davis in 1592 but it took a further 98 years before John Strong, another English Sea Captain, landed and named the channel between the two main islands ‘Falkland Sound’ after Viscount Falkland.
In 1764, a French explorer established a settlement on East Falkland. A year later a British Commodore landed on West Falkland to claim the islands for the British Crown, unaware of the French presence. The British, French and Spanish periodically garrisoned the islands until 1811 when they were all withdrawn and in 1832 the newly formed Argentine Republic decided to garrison the islands. This was quickly removed by the Royal Navy when British rule was re-established a year later.
Argentina invaded the Falklands on April 1, 1982. A British task force was sent to the South Atlantic and liberated the islanders on June 14, 1982. RAF Mount Pleasant, a military base on the island, was established over the next three years to strengthen local defences following the Argentine invasion.
The Falkland Islands is one of the most self-sufficient British Overseas Territories with an annual GDP of over 100 million pounds sterling. The economy was historically based almost entirely reliant on wool production but in the mid-1980s fishing and tourism began to substantial local employment. Exploration for hydrocarbons in the surrounding waters presents further potential for economic growth but has fuelled the continuing sovereignty dispute between Great Britain and Argentina.
Farming on the Falklands was traditionally based around a feudal system in which islanders worked for wealthy landowners living in the UK. In the 1980s, the 36 farms on the islands were sold off to the local inhabitants. These plots were divides into over 100 smaller farms, which gave families the opportunity to purchase land and take control of their own future.
The archipelago consists of 780 islands. Stanley is the capital city and is home to 2,115 people. The rest of the islanders are considered locally as living in ‘Camp’ – 194 people live on East Island, 127 people live on West Falkland and the remaining 42 live on the surrounding islands. There are also approximately 500 military personnel based at RAF Mount Pleasant.
To reach the Falkland Islands you can fly via Punta Arenas in Southern Chile or from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire via Ascension Island.