Louis-Antoine de Bougainville
One of the first sightings by a westerner was that of the famous British navigator and Arctic explorer John Davis in 1592. The first settlement on the islands was founded by the French navigator and explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville in 1764. De Bougainville landed with French settlers from the French town of St. Malo and founded the village of Port Saint Louis on Berkeley Sound in East Falkland. They named the islands “Îles Malouines”, after the home town of many of the settlers, and this is why the Falklands are sometimes referred to as the “(Islas) Malvinas”, as Spain later took over the French settlement and claimed the archipelago. Since 1833 the archipelago has been British, but sovereignty is still disputed by Argentina.
Stanley, also still known under its former name Port Stanley, is the administrative centre of the archipelago. About three-quarters of the total population of the islands, which is about 2500, lives in the town. Originally Stanley was a tiny, insignificant outpost, but then, in the 19th and early 20th century, it grew in importance as a repair port for sailing-ships rounding Cape Horn. The severe storms around Cape Horn often damaged ships which then used Port Stanley for repairs. Ships that were in a too bad state were often scuttled in the harbour; several old shipwrecks near Stanley being a reminder of those days. After the Panama Canal was built in 1914 the Cape Horn route became obsolete and Stanley returned to its former insignificant existence, living mainly from the export of wool. But since 1982 Stanley has boomed again.
The Falkland war
It started with the British military forces that were stationed near the town, but later the Falkland Islands made money by selling fishing licenses to foreign fishing vessels that want to fish in the island waters. The Falkland islanders are nowadays fairly prosperous. Unfortunately the Falkland Islands have an undeserved bad reputation, mainly because of the Falkland War in 1982 and not so many people know that these islands have much more to offer then just minefields.
The Falklands offer a broad variety of spectacular wildlife, rough scenery, fascinating geology, maritime history, good hiking and of course the warm hospitality of the people. Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, still has the atmosphere of a Scottish coastal village. Shipwrecks, Land-rovers, small houses with coloured roofs and traditional British pubs determine the village setting. It has several shops, a bank, hotels and pubs. Special Island stamps are for sale and there is a nice museum. In the vicinity there are good walking opportunities near a colony of Magellanic Penguins and other interesting bird species.
Old shipwrecks near Stanley
In the 19th and early 20th century Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, grew in importance as a repair port for sailing-ships rounding Cape Horn. The severe storms around Cape Horn often damaged ships which then used Port Stanley for repairs. Ships that were in a too bad state were often scuttled in the harbour; several old shipwrecks near Stanley are a reminder of those days. The excellent museum on the history of the islands has many maritime artefacts on display.