Falkland Islands

John Byron, by Joshua Reynolds, 1759.

The Falkland Islands (/ˈfɒlklənd/ or /ˈfɔːlklənd/; Spanish: Islas Malvinas) are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located more than 250 nautical miles (460 kilometres; 290 miles) east of the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago which has an area of 4,700 square miles (12,173 km2) comprises East Falkland, West Falkland, and 776 smaller islands. Stanley, the capital and only city, is on East Falkland. The islands, a British Overseas Territory, enjoy a large degree of internal self-government with the United Kingdom guaranteeing good government and taking responsibility for their defence and foreign affairs.

Controversy exists over the Falklands' original discovery and subsequent colonisation by Europeans. At various times there have been French, British, Spanish, and Argentine settlements. Britain re-established its rule in 1833, though the islands continue to be claimed by Argentina. In 1982, following Argentina's invasion of the islands, the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War between both countries resulted in the surrender of all Argentine forces and the return of the islands to British administration.

The population, estimated at 3,140, primarily consists of native Falkland Islanders, the majority being of British descent. Other ethnicities include French, Gibraltarian, and Scandinavian. Immigration from the United Kingdom, Saint Helena, and Chile has reversed a former population decline. The predominant and official language is English. Under the British Nationality Act of 1983, Falkland Islanders are legally British citizens.

The islands lie on the boundary of the Subarctic maritime climate and Temperate maritime climate zones with both major islands having mountain ranges reaching to 700 metres (2,300 ft). The islands are home to large bird populations, although many no longer breed on the main islands due to introduced species. Major economic activities include fishing, tourism, sheep farming with an emphasis on high-quality wool exports, and oil exploration. Oil exploration, licensed by the Falkland Islands Government, remains controversial as a result of maritime disputes with Argentina.

Falkland Islands
12,173 km²
2,638 hab.

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