The Falkland Islands are located in the South Atlantic Ocean, approximately 185 miles (480 kms) east of Argentina and are composed of two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland and around 776 islets. Stanley is the capital city and is located in the eastern part of the island. The geographical coordinates are 51°45’S, 59°00’W. The landscape is picturesque, attracting tourist from all over the world, with its terrain that ranges from hilly to mountainous grasslands. Though the island has no native trees, shrubs are plentiful. The three main mountain ranges are the Wickham Heights on East Falkland, and Mount Adam and the Hornby Mountains on West Falkland. They are mostly underlain by Palaeozoic (an era of geological time that began 600 million years ago) rocks that form rugged landscapes. The lowland areas on the other hand are characterised by Mesozoic (an era occurring between 230 and 65 million years ago, characterized by the appearance of flowering plants and by the appearance and extinction of dinosaurs) rocks which present a flat landscape.
The climate in the nation is variable and it’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day. Overall, the climate is cold marine, influenced by the proximity of the Andes and the cool South Atlantic Ocean. In January, the maximum temperature goes up to an average of 15°C (59°F) while the maximum temperature in July hardly exceeds 5°C (41°F). It rains last for more than half the year, with the average rainfall being 24 inches in Stanley, around 21 inches in East Falkland and West Falkland as a whole. The weather in the mountainous regions is much drier. The strong westerly winds, dense cloud cover and humidity remains constantly high. Snowfall and sleet are occasional throughout the year except in January and February; however the accumulation is rarely or almost never deep.
The population in the area is approximately 3,140 (as per July 2008 est.). The majority are of British descent and the minority include a few immigrants from South America, Chile in particular. English is both the official language and language spoken in daily life. Most of the Falkland Islanders are Christians about 67.2% (as per 2006 census) with quite a few denominations like Church of England, Roman Catholicism, Evangelist Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, United Free Church, Seventh-day Adventism and Lutheranism; while 31.5% are classified as having no religion.
The Falkland Islands is paradise for a variety of different species of plants and animals. And though there are no native trees, the islands are covered by a variety of shrubs, grasses and ferns. These plants largely contribute towards maintaining a suitable environment for birds and invertebrates. An example to back this up, is the Tussac grass, which is approximately 6.6 ft (2 meters) in height and can reach up to 13ft (4 meters). The structure is favourable for nesting birds as it has a tuff or tussock of foliage around a fibrous centre that resembles a pedestal. They can live for over 200 years and grow large; thus providing good long-term real-estate investment for the birdies. Also, the location of these grasses is in close proximity to the coast, owing to their requirement for high humidity and salty air. The dead leaves that accumulate, supply a dense cover that results in an insulated microclimate suitable for many birds and invertebrates; while also making the terra firma highly fertile.
Heath, whitegrass – which carpets most of the main islands, diddle-dee – a low-growing shrub that accommodates many other plants, birds and invertebrates, balsam bog – a type of cushion plant, lichen and snake plants – that grow in extreme areas, are just some of the plant species. Through all the shrubs and bushes emerges the delicate pale maiden; this flowering plant deserves a special mention owing to the fact that it is regarded as the country’s national flower.
National Flower – The Pale Maiden
The warrah, Falkland Island’s only native mammal is sadly, extinct. It was a kind of fox who’s nearest relative was the Maned Wolf and was traditionally thought to have been brought in by the Patagonian Indians. However, recent DNA studies of the species, suggests that it originated on the island long before that time and possibly during one of the cold intervals thousands of years ago. It became extinct in the 19th century due to the expansion of human settlement.
The surrounding waters play host to loads of Southern sea lions, Southern elephant seals, Peale's dolphins and Killer whales. The island is home to 277 bird species, 60 of which breed on the island itself. The country has the largest breeding population of black-browed albatross making about 60% of the entire world’s black-browed Albatross population. The bird species on the island include ten different penguin species, five of which do not have a breeding population, the ones that do are the – gentoo penguins, macaroni penguins, magellanic penguins and the king Penguins; the ruddy-headed geese, waddling around freshwater ponds accompanied by silver teal, chiloe wigeon, and white-tufted grebe; six species of egrets and herons can also be spotted one of them being the black-crowned night heron.
With the vast cover of vegetation, Falkland Islands is insects galore, boasting of 200 species, besides 43 spider and 12 worm species. A huge diversity of beetles crawl around the place – around 110 species! There are 15 recorded species of hemiptera and 12 species of booklice as well as wasps, 20 species of butterflies and moths and 60 species of true flies. The abundance of insects are balanced by the bird population and form a major part of their diet. Fish are also found in plenty, swimming the waters around the island are the zebra trout, Aplochiton zebra, the Falklands minnow and Common Galaxias, Galaxias maculates; along with different type of krill.
Up until the recent past, the economic growth of Falkland Islands depended purely on sheep farming and agriculture, which brought in the moolah. Agricultural produce mainly included potatoes, cabbages, and cauliflower. The superior quality wool exported to the UK, is where the foreign exchange earnings come from. However, fishing and tourism have taken its place and currently comprises the bulk of the economy. The fishing industry has flourished due to the government's declaration of the Falkland Islands Interim Conservation and Management Zone (FICZ). In 1987, the government began selling fishing licenses to foreign trawlers working within the Falkland Islands' exclusive fishing zone. The income generated from this activity, more than $40 million per year, has since been used to fund the islands health, welfare, and education system. The island also exports their native coins and issue stamps for overseas collectors interested in buying. The tourist industry is also booming. Tourists are attracted by the wildlife conservation, flora and fauna, golfing grounds, battlefields and wreck diving. Eco-tourism itself brought in 69,000 visitors in 2009. The government has also commenced oil exploration that was announced in 1993, by the British Geological Survey. The seismic surveys conducted earlier suggested the presence of substantial reserves that were capable of producing around 500,000 barrels per day. Quite the gold mine; the start of the oil-drilling activities in the water smoothly ignited the tension between the UK and Argentina. While wool, hides, and meat form the major exports, food, drink, building materials, and clothing form the main imports. UK, Netherland and Japan are the major trading partners.