East Falkland (Isla Soledad) the largest of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, has an area of 6,605 square kilometres (2,550 sq mi) Its population represents a large majority of the population of the Falklands. Almost all of this is in the northern half. The southern half, joined by a narrow isthmus, is known as Lafonia.
The island's highest point is Mount Usborne (705 m / 2,313 ft) in the Wickham Heights, the highest point in the whole island group. However, much of the land has a low, rolling topography, featuring bogs and pastures. The geology is mostly sandstone, with some quartzite and slate, and the soil often poor and acidic.
The island is almost bisected by two deep fjords, Choiseul Sound and Brenton Loch-Grantham Sound which leaves the northern portion and Lafonia in the south, connected only by an isthmus a mile and a half wide. The island contains many smaller bays, inlets and headland.
The northern portion is hilly, and is crossed by a rugged range, the Wickham Heights, running east and west, and rising in some places to a height of nearly . The remainder of the island consists chiefly of low undulating ground, a mixture of pasture and morass, with many shallow freshwater tarns, and small streams running in the valleys. Two fine inlets, Berkeley Sound and Port William, run far into the land at the northeastern extremity of the island.
Port Louis, formerly the seat of government, is at the head of Berkeley Sound, but the anchorage there having been found rather too exposed, about the year 1844 a town was laid out, and the necessary public buildings were erected on Stanley Harbour, a sheltered recess within Port William.
The island is also home to two airports with paved runways, Port Stanley Airport and RAF Mount Pleasant. There is a lighthouse at Cape Pembroke near Stanley. The island contains most of the archipelago's road network, which is none the less, scanty.
As Stanley is the capital, and East Falkland is the most populous island, it performs an economic role as the hub of the archipelago. Many cruise ships now stop there.
A large economic role is also played by RAF Mount Pleasant, which has a number of British military personnel based there. Although these number a few hundred, their economic role in a population of under two thousand cannot be underestimated.
Smaller industries include horse and cattle farming, and there is also recent evidence to suggest possible valuable mineral deposits on the island.
Rats have also been introduced, but despite this, the island has a great deal of marine life, including penguins of various kinds.
Although there is possible evidence of Yahgan (Patagonian native) landings, such as the warrah, the first accepted settlement was during the 18th century when East Falkland was settled by the French, with Louis de Bougainville establishing Port Louis on Berkeley Sound in 1764. The French settlement included a number of Bretons, and the islands became known as "Îles Malouines" (the islands of St Malo), later hispanicised as "Islas Malvinas". For years, Port Louis was the main settlement, not only on East Falkland, but the entire archipelago and a subject of controversy.
On 6 November 1820, Colonel David Jewett, an American privateer employed as captain by a Buenos Aires businessman Patrick Lynch who had obtained a corsair license for his frigate Heroina from the Buenos Aires Supreme Director Jose Rondeau, raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate at Port Louis, and claimed possession of the entire archipelaho in the name of the United Provinces of the South (which later became the United Provinces of The River Plate and ultimately Argentina). In 1823, Argentina granted fishing rights to Jorge Pacheco and Luis Vernet, who finally succeeded on establishing a permanent settlement at Puerto Soledad three years later. "Puerto Luis" as it was renamed became a penal colony, seal hunting base and small fishing port. Vernet later seized the American ship, Harriet, for breaking the restrictions on seal hunting. Property on board the ship was seized and the captain was returned to Buenos Aires to stand trial. Vernet also returned for the trial. The American Consul in Argentina protested the actions by Vernet, stating that the United States did not recognise Argentine sovereignty in the Falklands.
Therefore, the consul dispatched the USS Lexington warship to the Puerto Luis to retake the confiscated property, as well as the "Superior" and "Breakwater" which had also been seized. As a result, the USS Lexington destroyed Puerto Luis in 1832, an act which was later condoned by the American ambassador in Buenos Aires, who declared the Falkland Islands free from any power.
These events provided the spur for Britain to finally and permanently return to the islands, (See Re-establishment of British rule on the Falklands (1833)), requesting that the Argentine military presence leave on 3 January 1833 (although members of the settlement were encouraged to remain). "Puerto Luis" was initially renamed "Ansons Harbour" before reverting to "Port Louis" in line with the original French name of the settlement Port Saint Louis, and was became a naval garrison and civilian settlement.
Shortly after this, the second voyage of HMS Beagle surveyed the island. The names of two settlements on East Falkland, Darwin and Fitzroy, commemorate Charles Darwin and Robert FitzRoy respectively. On the 15 March 1833, an unimpressed Darwin commented that
This "rebellious" population would have lived on East Falkland, as there was no permanent presence on West Falkland at this time.
In 1836, the island 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 -
In 1845 Mr Samuel Fisher Lafone, a wealthy cattle and hide merchant from Montevideo on the River Plate, obtained from the British government a grant of the southern portion of the East Falkland, which was a peninsula in extent, and possession of all the wild cattle on East Falkland for a period of six years, for a payment of £10,000 down, and £20,000 in ten years from January 1, 1852. In 1851 Mr Lafone's interest in Lafonia, as the peninsula came to be called, was purchased for £30,000 by the Falkland Islands Company, which had been incorporated by charter in the same year. Lafone himself never visited the islands. The remnants of this endeavour are the ruins at Hope Place and the stone corral at Darwin.
In 1859, Darwin was founded.
Although used for sheep farming since the early nineteenth century, East Falkland was dominated by cattle farming until the 1850s.
In 1925 the Bodie Suspension Bridge was built across a creek in Lafonia, and is said to be the southernmost in the world, and is still in pedestrian use today.
In April, 1982, East Falkland was invaded by Argentina, which had never given up its claim. Governor Sir Rex Hunt was informed by the British Government of a possible Argentine invasion on Wednesday March 31. The Governor summoned the two senior Royal Marines officers of Naval Party 8901 to Government House in Stanley to discuss the options for defending the Falklands. Major Mike Norman RM was given overall command of the Marines due to his seniority, while Major Gary Noott RM became the military advisor to Governor Hunt. The total strength was 68 Marines and 11 sailors, which was greater than would normally have been available because the garrison was in the process of changing over. But their numbers were reinforced by 25 Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) members. Their commanding officer, Major Phil Sommers, tasked the volunteer militiamen with guarding such key points as the telephone exchange, the radio station and the power station. Skipper Jack Solis, onboard the civilian coastal ship Forrest operated his boat as an improvised radar screen station off Stanley.
East Falkland was also the location of the bulk of the action in the Falklands War, partly because most of the population lived there. As a result, some areas of the "Camp" in East Falkland are still heavily mined. Areas that saw intensive action included Goose Green, San Carlos, Mount Longdon and the Two Sisters ridge.
Following the Falkland War, Britain increased its military presence on the East Falkland and invested heavily in improving facilities in Stanley and transportation around the islands, tarmacking many roads. The population has risen, due to the growth of Stanley, but has declined in the Camp. Most of the improvements in the islands have taken place on East Falkland.
The re-establishment of British rule in 1833 involved East Falkland to a large degree.
Stratigraphy and Sedimentology of the Permian of the Falkland Islands: Lithostratigraphic and Palaeoenvironmental Links with South Africa
Jan 01, 2002; Abstract: Comparison of the facies, ichnology and palaeocurrent patterns of the Permian of the Falkland Islands and the Dwyka,...