The Falkland islands have been featured in a few posts as have the Falkland Island penguins. There are lots of Rockhoppers, Gentoos, Magellanic, and King Penguins on these rather remote and unsettled islands. The Falklands consist of 780 islands, islets, and protruding rocks; only two of the islands (East and west Falkland) are of any size at all. Size enough for humans to live and prosper that is – there are many that are excellent for sea birds, whether they fly or swim. The islands if all lumped together are about half the size of New Hampshire; maybe three Rhode Islands. Almost 50 island groups would fit in Kenya and about 41 Falklands would snuggle within Spains border.
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The Falkland Islands are a rather remote and rugged group of 780 islands, islets, and above sea level rocks totaling about 4700 square miles. This is about half the size of New Hampshire and would fit about 53 times within the boundaries of France. There are only two large islands (East Falkland and West Falkland). The capital is the town of Stanley, where about two-thirds of the 3400 residents live, and is situated on the easterly point of East Falkland. The islands are dependent on fishing and tourism and a bit on a declining wool industry. Perhaps, surprisingly the two largest economic/trade partners are Spain and Namibia.
In the late 1980s they started selling fishing licenses to foreign countries and that brings in a large portion of the country’s annual income covering the cost of health care and other governmental responsibilities. Most of the industrial fishing in the area is for ilex squid as they migrate southward past the islands. The Argentinians have started fishing heavily just north of the Falkland waters and the jousting for rights and ownership is festering again. The economic value of the squid is significant to both or either country. The market value of the catch is about 50 million and the license fees are about 40 million. We may see more tension developing between Argentina and Britain due to these impending “squid wars”. (There are also reports that say that illegal fishing, mostly in Argentine waters, (unlicensed and non-Argentinian) takes an estimated 300,000 tons of squid annually). The squid population cannot maintain under this unregulated competitive siege.
The highest elevation on any of the Falkland Islands is about 2300 feet above sea level; but when you are as far south as the Falklands (51º-53º south latitude) there is little chance for forest type of vegetation. As a matter of fact the only treed areas are around the buildings that have been built in gullies and creases in a rather heath-like landscape. There are many harbors along the coastline and also many quartz beaches with white sand. A soil cross section will go down from peat on the top to clay and then rock. It is a poorly drained region and the ground is often thoroughly waterlogged. The peat has been harvested for fuel throughout the time of settlement down there.
The islands are closest to the South American continent at the tip of Tierra del Fuego. Though the islands are pretty much due east of the spot where Argentina and Chile come together the Argentinians have always laid claim to the Malvinas Islands. In 1982 the British and Argentinians came to blows over the dominion of these islands. The British retained their oversight after a brief but focused “war”. There are currently less that 3,500 people on the islands and about two-thirds of these residents live around the one major town; Stanley; on the east-most edge of East Falkland.
The penguins are everywhere. There are five breeding penguin species on the Falklands; King, Gentoo, Rockhopper, Macaroni, and Magellanic. At least four other species are listed as vagrants and are very rarely seen; but these five (excepting perhaps Macaroni) are really quite common and easily found. Because of the 1982 troubles many of the beaches were dressed with land mines. This has kept people off the beaches and allowed the penguins (especially Magellanic and Gentoo) to live pretty much unfettered lives. What was bad for soldiers, and remains bad for residents, has been helpful to the penguins.
If you become interested in the Falklands there are several other posts that refer to these islands and the creatures that live on and around them. These posts are from February 23, 16, 12, 12, and 1 of 2020. There is also a post from September 25, 2019 that helps set the scene.
One thought on “Penguins – to the Falklands”
Excellent and very informative as usual. Seeing all those Beautiful Penguins is fantastic, probably my favorite trip when you throw in the Albatrosses and Sea birds. Thanks , always a great trip to go on the road with DEC.