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History of the Falkland Islands

The history of the Falkland Islands goes back at least five hundred years, with active exploration and colonisation only taking place in the 18th century. Nonetheless, the islands have been a matter of controversy, as they have been claimed by the French, Spaniards, British and Argentines at various points.

Pre-European discovery

The Falkland Islands were uninhabited when discovered by Europeans, but recent discoveries of arrowheads in Lafonia (on the southern half of East Falkland) as well as the remains of a wooden canoe provide strong evidence that they had been visited previously, most likely by the Yaghan people of Tierra del Fuego. It has also been suggested that the Falkland Island foxes, or warrahs, found on the islands were introduced by the Yaghans or another Amerindian tribe, bearing as they did a resemblance to the culpeo or Fuegian fox. What is undisputed however, is that a number of Yahgans were transported to Keppel Island as part of a missionary settlement in the 19th century. It is not known if these are evidence of one-way journeys, but there is no known evidence of pre-Columbian buildings or structures.

The islands had no native trees when discovered but there is some ambiguous evidence of past forestation, that may be due to wood being transported by oceanic currents from Patagonia. All modern trees have been introduced by Europeans.

European discovery

An archipelago in the region of the Falkland Islands appeared on maps from the early 16th century, suggesting they may have been sighted by Ferdinand Magellan's or another expedition of the 1500s. Amerigo Vespucci is believed to have sighted the islands in 1502, but did not name them. In 1519 or 1520, Esteban Gómez of the San Antonio, one of the captains in the expedition of Magellan, deserted this enterprise and encountered several islands, which members of his crew called "Islas de Sansón y de los Patos" ("Islands of Samson and the Ducks"). Although these islands were probably the Jason Islands, a group northwest of West Falkland, the names "Islas de Sansón" (or "San Antón", "San Son", and "Ascensión") were used for the Falklands on Spanish maps during this period.

Islands that may well have been the Falkland Islands are also shown on the maps of Piri Reis, a Turkish admiral of the period who drew remarkably accurate maps.

When English explorer John Davis, commander of the Desire, one of the ships belonging to Thomas Cavendish's second expedition to the New World, separated from Cavendish off the coast of what is now southern Argentina, he decided to make for the Strait of Magellan in order to find Cavendish. On 9 August 1592 a severe storm battered his ship, and Davis drifted under bare masts, taking refuge "among certain Isles never before discovered." Consequently, for a time the Falklands were known as "Davis Land" or "Davis' Land."

In 1594, they were visited by English commander Richard Hawkins, who, combining his own name with that of Queen Elizabeth I, the "Virgin Queen", gave the islands the name of "Hawkins' Maidenland."

In 1600, Sebald de Weert, a Dutchman, visited them and called them the Sebald Islands (in Spanish, "Islas Sebaldinas" or "Sebaldes"), a name which they bore on some Dutch maps into the 19th century.

English Captain John Strong sailed between the two principal islands in 1690 and called the passage "Falkland Channel" (now Falkland Sound), after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland (1659-1694), who as Commissioner of the Admiralty had financed the expedition and later became First Lord of the Admiralty. From this body of water the island group later took its collective name.

Early colonisation

France established a colony at Port St. Louis, on East Falkland's Berkeley Sound coast in 1764. The French name Îles Malouines was given to the islands – malouin being the adjective for the Breton port of Saint-Malo. The Spanish name Islas Malvinas is a translation of the French denomination.

In 1765, Capt. John Byron, who was unaware of the French presence in the east, explored Saunders Island, in the west, named the harbour Port Egmont, and claimed this and other islands for Britain on the grounds of prior discovery. The next year Captain John McBride established a British settlement at Port Egmont. These events were nearly the cause of a war between Britain and Spain, both countries having sent armed fleets to contest the barren but strategically important sovereignty of the islands. In 1766, France agreed to leave, and Spain agreed to reimburse Louis de Bougainville, who had established a settlement at his own expense. The Spaniards assumed control in 1767 and re-named Port St. Louis as Puerto Soledad.

Meanwhile, the British presence in the west continued, until interrupted by Spain during the Falkland Crisis from July, 1770 to 22 January 1771. As a result of economic pressures stemming from the upcoming American War of Independence, Britain unilaterally chose to withdraw from many overseas settlements in 1774. On 20 May 1776 the British forces under the command of Lt. Clayton formally took their leave of Port Egmont, while leaving a plaque asserting Britain's continuing sovereignty over the islands.

Spain ruled the Islands from Buenos Aires until 1811, withdrawing due to the pressures of war with Britain and the move toward independence in her South American colonies. Like Britain earlier, Spain left behind a plaque claiming her sovereignty.

Inter-colonial period

Following the departure of the Spanish settlers, the Falkland Islands became the domain of whalers and sealers who used the islands to shelter from the worst of the South Atlantic weather. By merit of their location, the Falkland Islands have often been the last refuge for ships damaged at sea. Most numerous among those using the islands were British and American sealers, where typically between 40 and 50 ships were engaged in exploiting fur seals. This represents an itinerant population of up to 1000 sailors, which outnumbered any permanent population by an order of magnitude.

The Isabella incident

On 8 February 1813 the British ship Isabella, a ship of 193 tons and a crew of fourteen, was wrecked of the coast of Eagle Island (now known as Speedwell Island). Captain George Higton and five other men volunteered to make the hazardous voyage to the River Plate in one of the ship's longboats. Braving the South Atlantic in a boat little more than 18 ft long, they made landfall a month later. The British gun brig Nancy was sent to rescue the survivors.

On 5 April Captain Charles Barnard of the American sealer Nanina was sailing off the shore of Eagle Island, with a discovery boat deployed looking for seals. Having seen smoke and heard gunshots the previous day, he was alert to the possibility of survivors of a ship wreck. This suspicion was heightened, when the crew of the discovery boat came aboard and informed the captain they had come across a new moccasin as well as the partially butchered remains of a seal. At dinner that evening, the crew observed a man approaching the ship who was shortly joined by eight to ten others. Both Barnard and the survivors from the Isabella had harboured concern the other party was Spanish and were relieved to discover their respective nationalities.

Barnard dined with the Isabella survivors that evening and finding that the British party were unaware of the War of 1812 informed the survivors that technically they were at war with each other. Nevertheless Barnard promised to rescue the British party and set about preparations for the voyage to the River Plate. Realising that they had insufficient stores for the voyage he set about acquiring additional food including the killing wild pigs on the island. However, while Barnard was gathering supplies, the British took the opportunity to seize the Nanina and departed leaving Barnard and three of his crew marooned. Shortly thereafter the Nanina encountered the British ship Nancy under Lt D'Aranda who had sailed from the River Plate in order to rescue the survivors of the Isabella. Lt D'Aranda took the Nanina as a prize.

Barnard and his party survived for eighteen months marooned on the islands until rescued by the British ships Indispensible and Asp in November 1814. The British admiral in Rio de Janeiro had requested their masters to divert to the area to look for him. In 1829, Barnard published an account of his survival entitled A Narrative of the Sufferings and Adventures of Capt Charles H. Barnard.

Argentinian colonial aspirations

In October of 1820, the Frigate Heroína under the command of American privateer Colonel David Jewett arrived in Puerto Soledad following an 8 month voyage and with most of her crew incapacitated by scurvy and disease. A storm had resulted in severe damage to the Heroína and had sunk the prize Carlota forcing Jewett to put into Puerto Soledad for repairs.

Captain Jewett chose to rest and recover in the islands seeking assistance from the British explorer James Weddell. Weddell reports only 30 seamen and 40 soldiers out of a crew of 200 fit for duty, and how Jewett slept with pistols over his head following an attempted mutiny. On 6 November 1820, Col Jewett raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate and claimed possession of the islands. Weddell reports the letter he received from Jewett as:

Sir, I have the honor of informing you that I have arrived in this port with a commission from the Supreme Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata to take possession of these islands on behalf of the country to which they belong by Natural Law. While carrying out this mission I want to do so with all the courtesy and respect all friendly nations; one of the objectives of my mission is to prevent the destruction of resources necessary for all ships passing by and forced to cast anchor here, as well as to help them to obtain the necessary supplies, with minimum expenses and inconvenience. Since your presence here is not in competition with these purposes and in the belief that a personal meeting will be fruitful for both of us, I invite you to come aboard, where you'll be welcomed to stay as long as you wish; I would also greatly appreciate your extending this invitation to any other British subject found in the vicinity; I am, respectfully yours. Signed, Jewett, Colonel of the Navy of the United Provinces of South America and commander of the frigate Heroína.

Many modern authors report this letter as the declaration issued by Jewett. Weddell did not believe that Jewett was acting with the interests of the United Provinces of the River Plate in mind, rather Jewett had merely put into the harbour in order to obtain refreshments for his crew, and that the assumption of possession was chiefly intended for the purpose of securing an exclusive claim to the wreck of the French ship Uranie that had a few months previously foundered at the entrance of Berkeley Sound. Weddell left the islands on 20 November 1820 noting that Jewett had not completed repairs to the Heroína.

Luis Vernet's enterprise

In 1823, the United Provinces of the River Plate granted fishing rights to Jorge Pacheco and Luis Vernet. Traveling to the islands in 1824, the first expedition failed almost as soon as it landed, and Pacheco chose not to continue with the venture. Vernet persisted but the second attempt delayed until Winter 1826 by a Brazilian blockade was also unsuccessful. The expedition intended to exploit the feral cattle on the islands but the boggy conditions meant the Gauchos could not catch cattle in their traditional way. Vernet was by now aware of conflicting British claims to the Islands and sought permission from the British consulate before departing for the islands.

In 1828, Vernet was granted all of East Falkland including all its resources, and exempted him from taxation if a colony could be established within three years. He took settlers, including British Captain Matthew Brisbane (who had sailed to the islands earlier with Weddell), and before leaving once again sought permission from the British Consulate in Buenos Aires. The British asked for a report for the British government on the islands, and Vernet asked for British protection should they return.

On 10 June 1829, Luis Vernet was formally designated as governor of the islands and granted a monopoly on seal hunting rights. A protest was lodged by the British Consulate in Buenos Aires. By 1831, the colony was successful enough to be advertising for new colonists, although, the Lexington's report suggests that the conditions on the islands were quite miserable. Darwin's visit in 1833 confirmed the squalid conditions in the settlement, although Captain Matthew Brisbane (Vernet's deputy) later claimed that this was the result of the Lexington raid.

USS Lexington raid

In 1831, Vernet attempted to assert a monopoly on seal hunting rights. This led him to capture the American ships Harriet, Superior and Breakwater. As a reprisal, the United States sent Captain Silas Duncan of the USS Lexington to recover the confiscated property. After finding what he considered proof that at least four American fishing ships had been captured, plundered, and even outfitted for war, Duncan took seven prisoners aboard the Lexington and charged them with piracy.

Also taken on board, Duncan reported, "were the whole of the (Falklands') population consisting of about forty persons, with the exception of some 'gauchos', or cowboys who were encamped in the interior." The group, principally German citizens from Buenos Aires, "appeared greatly rejoiced at the opportunity thus presented of removing with their families from a desolate region where the climate is always cold and cheerless and the soil extremely unproductive".

Brisbane's capture and the destruction of the settlement caused quite a stir among government officials in Buenos Aires, and a long dispute between U.S. and Argentine diplomats followed.

Attempted establishment of a penal colony

Afterwards, Major Esteban Mestivier was commissioned by the Buenos Aires government, as the new governor of the islands, to set up a penal colony. He arrived at his destination on 15 November 1832 but his soldiers mutinied and killed him. Lt. Col. José María Pinedo quelled the rebellion and took charge as governor.

British return

The Argentinian assertions of sovereignty provided the spur for Britain to send a naval task force in order to finally and permanently return to the islands.

On 2 January 1833, Captain James Onslow, of the brig-sloop HMS Clio, arrived at Vernet's settlement at Port Louis to request that the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate be replaced with the British one, and for the administration to leave the islands. While Lt. Col. José María Pinedo, commander of the schooner Sarandí, wanted to resist, his numerical disadvantage was obvious, particularly as a large number of his crew were British mercenaries who were unwilling to fight their own countrymen. Such a situation was not unusual in the newly independent states in Latin America, where land forces were strong, but navies were frequently quite undermanned. As such he protested verbally, but departed without a fight on 5 January. Argentina claims that Vernet's colony was also expelled at this time, though sources from time appear to dispute this, suggesting that the colonists were encouraged to remain initially under the authority of Vernet's storekeeper, William Dixon and later his deputy, Matthew Brisbane.

Initial British plans for the Islands were based upon the continuation of Vernet's settlement at Port Louis. An Argentine immigrant of Irish origin, William Dixon, was appointed as the British representative and provided with a flagpole and flag to be flow whenever ships were in harbour. In March 1833, Vernet's Deputy, Matthew Brisbane returned and presented his papers to Captain Fitzroy of HMS Beagle, which coincidentally happened to be in harbour at the time. Fitzroy encouraged Brisbane to continue with Vernet's enterprise with the proviso that whilst private enterprise was encouraged, Argentine assertions of sovereignty would not be welcome.

Brisbane re-asserted his authority over Vernet's settlement and recommenced the practise of paying employees in promissory notes. Due to Vernet's reduced status, the promissory notes were devalued, which meant that the employees received fewer goods at Vernet's stores for their wages. After months of freedom following the Lexington raid this accentuated dissatisfaction with the leadership of the settlement. In August 1833, under the leadership of Antonio Rivero, a gang of Creole and Indian gauchos ran amok in the settlement. Armed with muskets obtained from American sealers, the gang killed five members of Vernet's settlement including both Dickson and Brisbane. Shortly afterward the survivors fled Port Louis, seeking refuge on Turf Island in Berkeley Sound until rescued by the British sealer 'Hopeful' in October 1833.

Lt Henry Smith was installed as the first British resident in January 1834. One of his first actions was to pursue and arrest Rivero's gang for the murders committed the previous August. The gang was sent for trial in London but due to a quirk of the British Legal system could not be tried as the Crown Court did not have jurisdiction over the Falkland Islands. In the British colonial system, colonies had their own, distinct governments, finances, and judicial systems. Rivero was not tried and sentenced because the British local government and local judiciary had not yet been installed in 1834; these were created later, by the 1841 British Letters Patent. Subsequently, Rivero has acquired the status of a folk hero in Argentina, where he is portrayed as leading a rebellion against British rule. Ironically it was the actions of Rivero that were responsible for the ultimate demise of Vernet's enterprise on the Falklands.

Charles Darwin revisited the Falklands in 1834, Darwin and Fitzroy both take their names from this visit.

After the arrest of Rivero, Smith set about restoring the settlement at Port Louis, repairing the damage done by the Lexington raid and renaming it 'Anson's Harbour'. Lt Lowcay succeeded Smith in April 1838, followed by Lt Robinson in September 1839 and Lt Tyssen in December 1839.

Vernet later attempted to return to the Islands but was refused permission to return. The British Crown reneged on promises and refused to recognise rights granted by Captain Onslow at the time of the reoccupation. Eventually, after traveling to London, Vernet received paltry compensation for horses shipped to Port Louis many years before. G.T. Whittington obtained a concession of from Vernet that he later exploited with the formation of the Falkland Islands Commercial Fishery and Agricultural Association.

British colonisation

Following the British occupation of the Falkland Islands and the failure of Vernet's settlement, the British had largely maintained Port Louis as a military outpost. Pressure to develop the islands as a colony began to mount as the result of a campaign mounted by British merchant G.T. Whittington. Whittington formed the Falkland Islands Commercial Fishery and Agricultural Association and (based on information indirectly obtained from Vernet) published a pamphlet entitled "The Falkland Islands". Later a petition signed by London merchants was presented to the British Government demanding the convening of a public meeting to discuss the future development of the Falkland Islands. Whittington petitioned the Colonial Secretary, Lord Russell, proposing that his association be allowed to colonise the islands. In May 1840, the British Government made the decision to colonise the Falkland Islands.

Unaware of the decision by the British Government to colonise the islands, Whittington grew impatient and decided to take action of his own initiative. Obtaining two ships, he sent his brother, J. B. Whittington, on a mission to land stores and settlers at Port Louis. On arrival he presented his claim to land that his brother had bought from Vernet. Lt. Tyssen was taken aback by Whittington's arrival, indicating that he had no authority to allow this; however, he was unable to prevent the party from landing. Whittington constructed a large house for his party, and using a salting house built by Vernet established a fish-salting business.

In 1836, East Falkland was surveyed by Admiral George Grey, and further in 1837 by Lowcay. Admiral George Grey, conducting the geographic survey in November 1836 had the following to say about their first view of East Falkland -

We anchored a little after sunset off a creek called 'Johnson's Harbour'. The day having been cloudy with occasional showers, these islands at all times dreary enough, looked particularly so on our first view of them, the shores of sound, steep, with bare hills intersected with ravines rising from them, these hills without a tree and the clouds hanging low, gave them exactly the appearance of the Cheviots or a Scotch moor on a winter's day and considering we were in the May of these latitudes, the first impression of the climate was not favourable, the weather however, was not called, the thermometer was 63 degrees [i.e. Fahrenheit] which is Howick mid-summer temperature.

Establishment of Port Stanley

The British Government continued with its plans to colonise the Falkland Islands, appointing Lt Richard Moody as the first Lieutenant Governor of the Islands. He was transported to the Falkland Islands aboard the ship Hebe, arriving in Anson's Harbour in October 1841. He was accompanied by twelve sappers and miners and their families, together with Whittington's colonists this brought the population of Anson's Harbour to approximately 50.

In 1842, Lieutenant Governor Moody was instructed by Lord Stanley the British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies to report on the potential of the Port William area as the site of the new capital. Moody assigned the task of surveying the area to Captain Ross, leader of the Antarctic Expedition. Captain Ross delivered his report in 1843, concluding that Port William afforded a good deep-water anchorage for naval vessels, and that the southern shores of Port Jackson was a suitable location for the proposed settlement. Not everyone was enthused with the selection of the location of the new capital, J. B. Whittington famously remarked that "Of all the miserable bog holes, I believe that Mr Moody has selected one of the worst for the site of his town."

Construction of the new settlement started in July 1843, and in July 1845 (at Governor Moody's) suggestion the new capital of the islands was officially named Port Stanley after Lord Stanley. The structure of the Colonial Government was established in 1845 with the formation of the Legislative Council and Executive Council and work on the construction of Government House commenced.. The following year, the first officers appointed to the Colonial Government took their posts, by this time a number of residences, a large storage shed, carpenter's shop and blacksmiths shop had been completed and the Government Dockyard laid-out.

With the establishment of the deep-water anchorage and improvements in port facilities, Stanley saw a dramatic increase in the number of visiting ships in the 1840s in part due to the California Gold Rush. A boom in ship provisioning and ship-repair resulted, aided by the notoriously bad weather in the South Atlantic and around Cape Horn. Stanley and the Falkland Islands are famous as the repository of many wrecks of nineteenth century ships that reached the islands to be condemned as unseaworthy and were often employed as floating warehouses by local merchants.

At one point in the nineteenth century, Stanley became one of the world's busiest ports. However, the ship-repair trade began to slacken off in 1876 with the establishment of the Plimsoll line, which saw the elimination of the so-called coffin ships and unseaworthy vessels that might otherwise have ended up in Stanley for repair. With the introduction of increasingly reliable iron steamships in the 1890s the trade declined further and was no longer viable following the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Port Stanley continued to be a busy port supporting whaling and sealing activities in the early part of the twentieth century, British warships (and garrisons) in the First and Second World War and the fishing and cruise ship industries in the latter half of the century.

Government House opened as the offices of the Lieutenant Governor in 1847. Government House continued to develop with various additions, formally becoming the Governor's residence in 1859 when Governor Moore took residence. Government House remains the residence of the Governor.

Many of the colonists begin to move from Ansons' Harbour to Port Stanley. As the new town expanded the population grew rapidly reaching 200 by 1849. The population was further expanded by the arrival of 30 married Chelsea Pensioners and their families. The Chelsea Pensioners were to form the permanent garrison and police force taking over from the Royal Sappers and Miners Regiment who had garrisoned the early colony.

The Exchange Building opened in 1854, part of the building was later used as a church. 1854 also saw the establishment of Marmont Row, including the Eagle Inn now known as the Upland Goose Hotel. In 1887 Jubilee Villas were built to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Jubilee Villas are a row of brick built houses that follow a traditional British pattern, positioned on Ross road near the waterfront they became an iconic image during the Falklands War.

Peat is common on the islands and has traditionally been exploited as a fuel. Uncontrolled exploitation of this natural resource lead to peat slips in 1878 and 1886. The 1878 peat slip resulted in the destruction of several houses, whilst the 1886 peat slip resulted in the deaths of two women and the destruction of the Exchange Building.

Christ Church Cathedral was consecrated in 1892 and completed in 1903. It received its famous whalebone arch, constructed from the jaws of two Blue Whales in 1933 to commemorate the centenary of continuous British administration. Also consecrated in 1892 was the Tabernacle United Free Church, constructed from an imported timber kit.

Development of agriculture and the Camp

A few years after the British had established themselves in the islands, a number of new British settlements were started. Initially many of these settlements were established in order to exploit the feral cattle on the islands. Following the introduction of the Cheviot breed of sheep to the islands in 1852, sheep farming became the dominant form of agriculture on the Islands.

Salvador Settlement was one of the earliest, being started in the 1830s, by a Gibraltarian immigrant (hence its other name of "Gibraltar Settlement"), and it is still run by his descendants, the Pitalugas.

Vernet furnished Samuel Fisher Lafone, a British merchant operating from Montevideo, with details of the Falklands Islands including a map. Sensing that the exploitation of feral cattle on the islands would be a lucrative venture, in 1846 he negotiated a contract with the British Government that gave him exclusive rights to this resource. Until 1846 Moody had allotted feral cattle to new settlers and the new agreement not only prevented this but made Stanley dependent upon Lafone for supplies of Beef.

Cattle were concentrated in the southern part of East Falkland, an area that became known as Lafonia. Lafone was an absentee landlord and never actually set foot on the islands. His activities were not monitored by the British and rather than introducing more British settlers as he promised, he brought large numbers of Spanish and Indian Gauchos to hunt cattle. In 1846, they established Hope Place on the south shores of Brenton Loch and in 1849 a sod wall (the Boca wall) was built across the isthmus at Darwin to control the movement of cattle.

Lafone continued to develop his business interests and in 1849 looked to establish a joint stock company with his London creditors. The company was launched as the The Royal Falkland Land, Cattle, Seal and Fishery Company in 1850 but soon thereafter was incorporated under Royal Charter as the The Falkland Islands Company Limited. Lafone became a director and his brother-in-law J.P.Dale the company's first manager in the Islands. By 1852, the feral cattle had been hunted virtually to extinction by Gauchos and the company switched to sheep farming with the introduction of the Cheviot breed of sheep. Hope Place proved to be an unsuitable location and the operation moved to Darwin. In 1860, the Lafone Beef contract was terminated but the Falkland Islands Company was given a grant to Lafonia. Ownership of the remaining cattle outside of Lafonia reverted to the Government and hunting cattle without permission was banned.

In the second half of the 19th century, Darwin, Goose Green, Fox Bay and Port Howard were established. Port Howard was founded by James Lovegrove Waldron, and his brother in 1866; the Waldron brothers later left for Patagonia, but left the farm under local management.

Darwin was initially the haunt of gauchos, and cattle farmers, but sheep farming came to dominate the area, and Scottish shepherds were brought in. A few years later, the first large tallow works in the islands (though not the first) was set up by the FIC in 1874. It handled 15,891 sheep in 1880.

From the 1880s, until 1972, Darwin and Fox Bay had their own separate medical officers. Nowadays, most medical care is based in Stanley.

Exploitation of maritime resources

The Falkland Islands were used as a base for whaling ships hunting the Southern Right Whale and Sperm Whale from the 1770s until British authority was established over the islands and surrounding seas. Whaling was briefly revived with the establishment of a whaling station on New Island from 1909 to 1917 until whaling operations moved to South Georgia.

Fur seals had long been exploited for their pelts but numbers entered a drastic decline in the early 1800s. As a result seal hunting died off, although continuing at a low level. In order to conserve stocks, a ban on the hunting of fur seals during summers months was enacted in 1881 but it was not until 1921 that hunting was banned entirely.

Elephant seals were exploited for oil but like the fur seals their numbers declined drastically in the mid-1850s. Sealers instead turned their attention to the South American Sea Lion resulting in a dramatic decline in their numbers that made sealing uneconomic. Attempts to revive the trade, including a sealing station at Albermarle, were unsuccessful.

Even penguins were exploited for oil. Rockhopper and Gentoo penguins were rendered down in trypots from 1860 until the 1880s.

Twentieth century

Establishment of communications

Although the first telephone lines were installed by the Falkland Islands Company in the 1880s, the Falkland Islands Government was slow to embrace telephony. It was not until 1897 that a telephone line was installed between Cape Pembroke lighthouse and the police station. The islands isolation was broken in 1911 when Marconi installed a wireless telegraphy station that enabled telegrams to be sent to mainland Uruguay.

A line was laid between Darwin and Stanley, with the ship Consort landing poles on the coast. Construction commenced in 1906 and was finished in 1907 (a length of nearly 50 miles). The line was initially only for business but the public could make calls occasionally. Lines continued to be laid to most of the major settlements in the islands, with the Falkland Islands police responsible for their maintenance till 1927. Communications among the settlements relied on the telephone network until radio telephones were introduced in the 1950s, although the telephone network continued until 1982. Telecommunications improved dramatically after the Falklands War, when an earth station was installed to allow direct dialling for the first time. In 1997, an Internet service was launched and by 2002 nearly 90% of Falkland homes had Internet access.

Economic development

A canning factory was opened in 1911 at Goose Green and was initially extremely successful. It absorbed a large proportion of surplus sheep but during the postwar slump suffered a serious loss and closed down in 1921.

Despite this setback, a mere year later, the settlement grew after it became the base for the Falkland Islands Company's sheep farm in Lafonia in 1922, with improved sheep handling and wool shed being built. In 1927, the settlement's huge sheep shearing shed was built, which is claimed to be the world's largest, with a capacity of five thousand sheep. In 1979, 100,598 sheep were shorn at Goose Green

The mid twentieth century saw a number of abortive attempts to diversify the islands' economy away from large scale sheep ranching.

In the period just after the Second World War, Port Albemarle in the south west of West Falkland, was enlarged during the post-WWII period by the Colonial Development Company and included its own power station, jetty, Nissen huts etc - this was an attempt to revive the old sealing industry which had flourished during the 19th century. However, the project proved to be a "white elephant", not least because seal numbers had declined massively.

Similarly, Ajax Bay on Falkland Sound, was developed by the Colonial Development Corporation in the 1950s, which was also responsible for developing Port Albemarle. It was mainly a refrigeration plant, and was supposed to freeze Falkland mutton, but this was found to be economically unviable, despite the huge expense incurred. Many of the pre-fabricated houses here were moved to Stanley. The site later became a British field hospital during the landings of Operation Sutton.

The seas around the Falkland Islands were not well policed prior to the Falklands War, and many foreign boats fished off the islands, despite protests that potential revenue was being lost. Fishing licences were only later to be introduced.

Education

In 1956, J.L. Waldron Ltd built a school at Port Howard, possibly inspired by the "gift" of the FIC at Darwin, a few years earlier.

Up until the 1970s, Goose Green was the site of a boarding school, run by the state. "Camp" children boarded here, and there were 40 spaces. The boarding school was later transferred to Stanley, although the recent emphasis has been on locally based education. The school itself became an Argentine HQ, and was burnt down. A new (day) school has been built for local children.

First World War

Port Stanley became an important coaling station for the Royal Navy. This led to ships based here being involved in the major naval engagements in both the First and Second World Wars.

Their strategic significance of the Falkland Islands was confirmed by the second major naval engagement of the First World War. Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee's East Asia Cruiser Squadron called at the islands on their trip from the Pacific Ocean back to Germany intending to destroy the Royal Navy radio relay station and coaling depot there. Unknown to Spee, a British squadron, including two battlecruisers considerably more powerful than his forces had been sent to hunt down his squadron and happened to be in the harbour coaling. In the one-sided battle which followed, most of Spee's squadron was sunk. In commemoration of the events, Canopus Hill, south of Stanley received its name.

Second World War

In December, 1939 a British naval squadron comprising HMS Ajax, HMNZS Achilles and HMS Exeter engaged the German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee. Despite being outgunned by the guns of the Graf Spee, the British squadron aggressively engaged Graf Spee inflicting major damage. The guns of Exeter were a more significant threat than the guns of Ajax and Achilles and inflicted more serious damage to the Graf Spee. As a result the Graf Spee concentrated fire upon the Exeter inflicting some 40 direct hits and causing major damage. On the 16 December, Exeter limped into Stanley Harbour, with 60 of the 600 crew dead and 49 wounded. The crew had to be boarded out in Stanley as Exeter was too badly damaged. The County class heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland, which had been self-refitting in the Falkland Islands at the time of the battle, steamed to join Ajax and Achilles at the mouth of the River Plate. Convinced by British propaganda and false intelligence that a major naval task force awaited his ship and short of ammunition, Captain Langsdorf of the Graf Spee chose instead to scuttle the ship rather than face the Royal Navy.

Argentine incursions

A series of incidents in the 1960s marked the intensification of Argentine sovereignty claims.

The first of these took place in 1964, when a light plane piloted by Miguel Fitzgerald touched down on the racecourse at Stanley. Leaping from the aircraft he handed a letter claiming sovereignty to a bemused islander before flying off again. The stunt was timed to coincide with Argentine diplomatic efforts at the UN Decolonisation Committee.

The more serious incident took place in 1966. An Aerolíneas Argentinas DC-4 on an internal flight was hijacked. A group of ardent Argentine nationalists, styling themselves as 'Condors', forced the pilot to fly to Stanley. On arrival they attempted to land at the racecourse but hit telegraph poles and the undercarriage sank into the mud. The islanders assuming the plane was in trouble rushed to assist but found themselves taken hostage by the terrorists (included in the group was a young Terry Peck who became a local hero in the Falklands War). In response to declarations of no surrender, the Falkland Islands police used sleep deprivation techniques playing Country and Western music at full volume. After 24 hrs the terrorists surrendered and were detained in an annex to St Mary's Church. Wishing to avoid a prolonged incident the British Government chose to repatriate the terrorists to Argentina where they received only nominal prison sentences and were treated as heroes (a plaque was later unveiled in Buenos Aires honouring their escapade). Again the incident was timed to coincide with diplomatic efforts at the UN.

On October of the same year a group of Argentine naval special forces conducted covert landings from the submarine ARA Santiago del Estero. The group, which landed some from Stanley, was led by Juan Jose Lombardo who later as Chief of Naval Operations planned the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands.

In November 1968, Miguel Fitzgerald was hired by the Argentine press to attempt a reprise of his 1964 landing. Accompanied by one of the 1966 hijackers he flew to Stanley but on arrival found he could not land at the racecourse due to obstacles placed following the hijacking. The plane was forced to crash land on Eliza Cove road but the two occupants were unharmed. The stunt was intended to coincide with the visit of Lord Chalfont to the islands.

The latter incident proved counter-productive to the Argentine sovereignty push as Lord Chalfont had been talking to a public meeting at the time of the plane's arrival. The Islanders made it plain to Lord Chalfont that they rejected a Memorandum of Agreement negotiated between Britain and Argentina that August that stated Britain was prepared to discuss sovereignty provided the islanders' wishes were respected. This spurred the formation of the Falkland Islands Committee by London Barrister Bill Hunter-Christie and others. The Emergency Committee as it became known proved to be an effective lobbying organisation, constantly undermining Foreign Office initiatives on sovereignty negotiations. In December 1968, the lobbying effort managed to force the British Government to state that the islanders' wishes would be paramount.

Growing links with Argentina

Partly as the result of diplomatic pressure, economic and political links with Argentina increased in the 1960s and 70s. These became severed after the end of the Falklands War, but before the War they were not entirely negative, and some islanders sent their children to boarding schools in Argentina.

Realising that any talks on the sovereignty issue would be derailed if it did not meet with the islander's wishes, the British and Argentine Governments enacted a series of measures designed to encourage dependence on Argentina. In 1971, following secret talks between the two Governments (and without consulting the islanders), the communications agreement was signed. The thrust of the agreement was the establishment of direct air and sea links between the islands and Argentina, together with agreements on postal and telephony services. Following the agreement the subsidised shipping link with Montevideo ended, a passenger and cargo ship service to the mainland (that would ameliorate any dependence on Argentina) was promised by the British but never provided.

Lineas Aereas del Estado (LADE), the airline operated by the Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Argentina or FAA), began an air link to the islands. Initially this service operated amphibious aircraft between Comodoro Rivadavia and Stanley using Grumman HU-16 Albatross aircraft. The inauguration of the service was commemorated by a series of stamps issued by both the Argentine and Falkland Island postal services. In 1972, a temporary airstrip was constructed by Argentina near Stanley. Britain constructed a small permanent airstrip in 1976 suitable only for short haul flights.

As part of the agreement, islanders had to travel via Argentina and were forced to carry Argentine Identity Cards issued in Buenos Aires. The Tarjeta Provisoria or "white card" as they were known were hated by the islanders, who felt they were a de facto Argentine passport, since only islanders were required to use them and not other temporary residents of the islands. Tensions were raised further with the agreement that male Falkland Islanders would not have to undertake conscription into the Argentine Army, since this carried the implication that Falkland Islanders were Argentine citizens.

LADE set up an office in Stanley and mail was routed through Argentina. Medical treatments unavailable in the islands were provided in Argentina and scholarships were made available for study in Buenos Aires, Córdoba and other Argentine cities. Spanish language teachers were provided by Argentina. Foreign Office officials in Stanley were instructed to do everything possible to foster good relations between the Islands and Argentina.

The islands became more dependent upon Argentina, when the British and Argentine governments agreed that the islands would be supplied with petrol, diesel and oil by YPF, the Argentine national oil and gas company (now part of Repsol YPF).

Despite these tensions relationships between the islanders and the Argentines operating the new services in the islands were cordial. Although there was apprehension, politics were generally avoided and on a one-to-one basis there was never any real hostility.

On the international level, relations began to sour in 1975 when Argentine delegates at the London meeting of the International Parliamentary Union condemned Britain's "act of international piracy" in establishing a colony in the Falkland Islands. Diplomatic relations between Britain and Argentina were broken but resumed in 1976.

In October 1975, the British Government tasked Lord Shackleton (son of the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton with an economic survey of the Falkland Islands. The Argentine Government reacted furiously and refused permission for Lord Shackleton to travel via Argentina. Later the ship transporting Shackleton to the islands, the RRS Shackleton, was fired upon by the Argentine destroyer ARA Almirante Storni.

In 1976, Argentina covertly established a military base on Southern Thule. It was discovered by the British Antarctic Survey ship Bransfield in 1977. The British protested but restricted their response to a diplomatic protest. Backing up the diplomatic efforts, the British Prime Minister Jim Callaghan sent a naval task force consisting of surface ships and a nuclear submarine. Nevertheless Argentine aircraft and warships harassed ships fishing in Falkland waters.

Lord Shackletons report was delivered in 1977 and documented the economic stagnation in the islands. It nevertheless concluded that the islands made a net contribution to the British economy and had economic potential for development. Recommendations included oil exploation, exploitation of the fisheries, extension of the Stanley runway, the creation of a development agency, the expansion of the road network, expansion of the facilities at Stanley harbour and the breakdown of absentee landlord owned farms into family units. The report was largely ignored at the time, as it was felt that acting upon it would sour relations with Argentina. A reprise of the report by Lord Shackleton in 1982 following the Falklands War became the blueprint for subsequent economic development of the islands.

Falklands War

Argentina invaded the islands on 2 April 1982, using special forces, which landed at Mullet Creek and advanced on Government House in Stanley, with a secondary force coming in from Yorke Bay. They encountered little opposition, there being only a small force of fifty seven British marines and eleven sailors, in addition to the Falkland Islands Defence Force (who were later sent to Fox Bay). There was only one Argentine fatality. The event garnered international attention at a level which the islands had never experienced before, and made them a household name in the UK.

For a brief period, the Falkland Islands found themselves under Argentine control. This included Spanish language signage, and attempts to make the islanders drive on the right (although few roads in the Falklands at the time actually had two lanes). In many parts of the Camp, such as Goose Green and Pebble Island, the islanders found themselves under house arrest.

The British responded with an expeditionary force that landed seven weeks later and after fierce fighting forced the Argentine garrison to surrender on 14 June 1982. The war proved to be an anomaly in a number of different respects, not least that it proved that small arms still had a role to play. It also had major consequences for the Junta, which was toppled soon afterwards.

While Margaret Thatcher's general political legacy remains controversial and divisive within the UK, within the Falklands, she is considered a heroine. The islands celebrate "Margaret Thatcher Day" on every 10 January, and named a street, Thatcher Drive, after her, in Stanley.

Post-war

Following the war, Britain increased its military presence on the islands, building the huge base at RAF Mount Pleasant and its port at Mare Harbour.

It also invested heavily in improving facilities in Stanley and transportation/infrastructure around the islands, tarmacking many roads. The population has risen, due to the growth of Stanley, but has declined in Camp (the countryside). It has been proposed to set up a ferry service between the East and West (Port Howard) islands, but the falling population of West Falkland makes this difficult to justify.

A major change to the way the Islands are governed was introduced by the 1985 constitution. Under the 1985 constitution the Falkland Islands Government became a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, with the governor as head of government and representative of the Queen. Members of the FIG are democratically elected, the Governor is purely a figurehead with no executive powers. Effectively under this constitution, the Falkland Islands are self-governing with the exception of foreign policy, although the FIG represents itself at the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation as the British Government no longer attends.

Unsurprisingly, links with Argentina became severed during the post-war period, with laws being introduced to forbid Argentine citizens from buying land. An alternative was found in Chile, and over the years, the islands found themselves with closer links to that country instead, with flights being introduced to Punta Arenas, in the far south of Patagonian Chile, near Tierra del Fuego. In recent years, Argentines have been allowed to visit the islands again, often to visit the military cemeteries where their friends and loved ones are buried.

Mines continue to be a persistent problem, and though some areas have been cleared, massive minefields are still to be found on both the main islands, and elsewhere, particularly in the areas immediately around Stanley. Because peat moves over time, the mines themselves have shifted location.

As well as the military build-up, the UK also passed the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983 which granted full British citizenship to the islanders. High profile British dignitaries also visited the islands to show British commitment to the islands, including Margaret Thatcher, the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra.

In 1985, the Falkland Islands Dependency was split into the Falkland Islands proper and a new separate territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Relations between the UK and Argentina remained hostile following 1982, and diplomatic relations were not restored until 1989. Although the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the UK and Argentina to return to negotiations over the Islands' future, the UK ruled out any further talks over the Islands' sovereignty. The UK also maintained an arms embargo against Argentina that was initiated during the 1982 war, which forced Argentine armed forces, a traditionally UK buyer, switch to other markets.

Relations improved further in the 1990s between the UK and Argentina. In 1998, Carlos Menem, the President of Argentina visited London, where he reaffirmed his country's claims to the Islands, although he stated that Argentina would use only peaceful means for their recovery. In 2001, Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom visited Argentina where he stated that he hoped the UK and Argentina could resolve their differences that led to the 1982 war. However, no talks on sovereignty took place during the visit. His reception in Argentina was more welcoming than that of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1995, who was heckled by the mother of an Argentine soldier killed in the war.

Increased British military presence and new bases

After the war ended, the British still faced the problem of potential Argentine aggression in the future, so an aircraft carrier had to remain on station to guard the islands with its squadron of Sea Harriers until the local airfield was prepared for jet aircraft. HMS Hermes was the first to take guard duty, whilst HMS Invincible went north to change a gearbox that had broken while departing the mainland UK, the Argentines claimed the aircraft carrier was hit on 30 May, and needed repairs. Invincible then returned to relieve Hermes which urgently needed to return to the UK to have its boilers cleaned. Invincible returned until the ship was relieved by HMS Illustrious, which was quickly rushed south and commissioned during the journey. Once the Port Stanley runway was available for jets, Illustrious was relieved by several RAF Phantoms.

The British government later decided to construct a new RAF base as the centrepiece of plans to considerably strengthen the island's defences. This was intended to deter any future Argentine attempts to take the islands by force again. It was a massive undertaking, requiring the construction of the world's longest corridor, a half-mile long, linking barracks, messes and recreational and the welfare areas of the base. The base is occasionally referred to by its residents as the Death Star because of its vast size, and sometimes confusing layout.

Mount Pleasant, to the west of Stanley, was chosen as the site for the new base. The airfield was opened by The Duke of York in 1985, and became fully operational in 1986.

Using the IATA airport code MPN, RAF Mount Pleasant also acts as the Falkland Islands' only international airport, along with its military role. Flights open to civilian passengers are operated six times each month. These flights are currently operated by a civilian airline, XL Airways, on behalf of the Royal Air Force, they fly to and from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom with a refuelling stop at RAF Ascension Island in the south-central Atlantic Ocean. These flights currently use Boeing 747 aircraft.

In May 2005, some English tabloid newspapers reported that Argentina might be considering another invasion of the Islands. The Sunday Express carried the frontpage headline, "Falklands Invasion Alert" on its 22 May edition, citing an increase in Argentine military activity near the Islands, as well as a reported increase in the British garrison, including a Royal Navy ship carrying tactical nuclear weapons (the last Royal Navy tactical nuclear weapons were withdrawn in the late 1990s). The only nuclear armed RN vessels currently in service are the four Vanguard class submarines, which are armed with Trident. Two days later, India Daily published speculation that the islands could be a nuclear flashpoint in the future if Argentina were to gain a nuclear arsenal, citing the findings of an unnamed international thinktank.. There was no official comment on the stories by the British or Argentine governments, and other writers have denounced the stories as "nonsense - any such invasion would meet with a considerably larger Falklands based British force than in 1982.

Attempts at diversifying the economy

There have been small scale attempts to diversify the economy since the war, but many of these have failed, instead the island's economy is moving into fishing licences various foreign interests., which have generated the so called "Squidocracy". Gold, oil and diamonds have all been found on, or near the islands, but have not begun to be exploited. Oil extraction has been considered an environmental risk. Some of the small businesses attempted at Fox Bay have included a market garden, a fish farm (salmon) and a knitting mill, with "Warrah Knitwear".

One of the biggest growth industries has been tourism. The War had brought the islands new fame, and tourists came both to see the islands' wildlife, and go on war tours. Medium sized cruise ships have started to visit Stanley on a fairly regular basis, frequently as a tie-in to cruises of Antarctica. Nonetheless, the remoteness of the archipelago, and the lack of direct flights to major cities, have made the islands' an expensive holiday destination, and this has meant that mass tourism has not really begun.

Conservation

In line with the increasing global interest in environmental issues, some nature reserves have been set up around the islands, although no national parks. In the 1990s, two of the Jason Islands, Steeple Jason Island and Grand Jason Island, were bought by New York philanthropist Michael Steinhardt in the 1990s, who later donated them to the Bronx Zoo based Wildlife Conservation Society. He also gave them $ 425,000 to build a conservation station named after himself and his wife Judy.

Likewise in Sea Lion Island, in 1990, the Clifton family who had owned the island, sold it to the Falkland Island Development Company. They had planted 60,000 stands of tussac grass - this was considered important as much of the tussac grass on the two main islands had been depredated by grazing. A similar trend may be seen on Bleaker Island, where the farm "went organic" in 1999.

See also

References


External links

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