January 28, 2012 – The Falkland Islands
All I knew about the Falklands was that there was some sort of dispute between Argentina and Great Britain over possession of the territory, which the Argentines call Isla Malvinas. The Falkland Islands lie a few hundred miles east of Argentina and have been a possession claimed by the British since 1833.
Apparently the islands were one of those territories which went back and forth between the French, Spanish and English due to wars and treaties, ending up in the hands of the British.
Based on the population, I would say they are almost 100% British – pubs and all – no Argentines in sight anywhere. The population is about 4000 persons, largely concentrated in the capitol of Stanley. Stanley is about a half mile long along the bay, and a quarter mile wide, up the hill.
This is summer in the Falklands and the temperature almost made it up to 60 degrees – a very warm day according to the locals.
Wreck of the Plym in the harbor.
The war between Argentina and the UK occurred in 1982 when Argentina invaded the islands in a surprise attack and took the Falklands with little resistance. When we were in Argentina we heard their side of the story – claiming that the British illegally took the islands in 1833, refusing to give them back. One neutral commentator stated that Argentina mistakenly assumed that Margaret Thatcher was under political pressure on other fronts and was too weak to respond, so it was a good time to exert some muscle and right this 150 year wrong. Big mistake! Maggie responded by dispatching a strong UK task force including the RAF, Royal Navy carriers and the QE2 as a troop carrier, and took the islands back in short order with air power, sea power and the Royal Marines. The total occupation was 74 days, but the retaking of the Falklands took about a month once it was engaged. Unfortunately 255 British and 800 Argentine lives were lost. During the occupation, Alexander Haig went back and forth between Buenos Aires and London attempting, unsuccessfully to negotiate a peaceful resolution – an impossible task since both sides insisted on exclusive occupation of the Falklands as a pre-condition to talks. I bought and read a book called 74 Days which was written as a diary of the occupation by a prominent citizen of Stanley, John Smith – fascinating reading, as it was written as the events occurred.
Stanley Airfield – Bombed during the war
We took a double decker bus tour around Stanley saw the sights and visited their fascinating little museum where there was a very interesting section on the 1982 war. After the tour we walked around the pleasant little town, and had lunch at the Victory Bar – a pub made famous by the British troops after the war.
Whale Bone Arch – Jaw bones of Blue Whales
Stanley, in the Falkland Islands may be a small, isolated locale, but it is a civilized, safe, thoroughly enjoyable place and I am glad we came here.