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Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands, The (Fr. Les Iles Malouines), a group of some two hundred islets off the E. coast of South America (lat. 51° to 52° 30' S., long. 57° 40' to 61° 20' W.). They were discovered by Davis in 1592, colonised by France in 1763, taken by Spain in 1767, and ceded to England in 1771, but not permanently occupied until 1833. Of the total area of 6,500 square miles, East Falkland and West Falkland make up five-sixths. The population, amounting to about 2,000, is principally engaged in sheep-farming, and frozen meat is exported in considerable quantities. Stanley Harbour on East Falkland is the chief town, and the residence of the governor. The climate, though wet and windy, is not unhealthy. The uninhabited group of South Georgia is attached to the Falklands. The coasts are much indented, and the climate cold, damp, rainy, and foggy. Wheat will not ripen, and there are no trees - the "vatchinal," a woolly ragwort (Senecio candicams), 3 to 4 feet high, being the tallest plant. Most of the interior is covered by a thick peat formed of the stems of the "diddle-dee" or crowberry (Empetrum rubrum), the "Malvina tea" (Myrtus nummularia), a marsh-marigold, and sedges. On the bog are the round lumps of the "balsam-bog" (Bolax glebaria), a very slow-growing and condensed umbelliferous plant, which exudes a resin. The plants are from 3 to 8 feet in diameter. On the sandy shores grows that sweet and valuable fodder plant the "tussock-grass" (Dactylis caespitosa), which has been introduced into the Hebrides, these islands in many respects resembling the Falklands. A wild fox is now extinct, and seals and whales have almost disappeared from the coasts. Penguins, wild geese, and other sea-birds are numerous. Mount Adam, the highest peak, is 2,315 feet. The rocks are sandstones, clay-slates, and quartzites, the latter forming conspicuous projecting white dykes and breaking up into the remarkable "stone-runs" which occupy many of the valleys. Most of the islands, the sheep, and the trade, are in the hands of the Falkland Islands Company.