The Falklands are a remote island group in the South Atlantic, about 300 miles east of South America's Patagonian coast. They cover about 4,700 square miles -- roughly the size of Connecticut or half the size of Wales. The landscape is harsh and windswept, boggy and treeless.
The islands are a British Overseas Territory but Argentina claims sovereignty and invaded the islands, which it refers to as Las Malvinas, in 1982. The resultant Falklands War lasted 74 days -- from April 2, with the invasion of South Georgia, until the Argentine surrender on June 14. Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth 2 and P&O's Canberra were among the merchant vessels drafted in as a troop carrier and hospital ship. In total, 255 British military personnel, 649 Argentines, and three Falkland Islanders were killed during the conflict. Argentina still maintains its claims to the islands and a garrison of about 1,300 U.K. military personnel and civil servants is stationed there. In a referendum held in March 2013, 99.8 percent of voters declared they wished to remain under British rule.
The island receives about 40 visits a year from medium and large-sized cruise ships and is on the itineraries of a number of smaller expedition vessels. The five-month season runs from early November to the end of March. Ships anchor some way off shore and tender passengers to a jetty in Port Stanley. High winds and rough seas can occasionally prevent landings. It comes as little surprise to learn that the harbour and surrounding waters contain more 19th century shipwrecks than anywhere else in the world -- 20 are visible from the town at low tide.Cruise ship excursion teams are anxious to warn passengers not to stray from well-trodden paths because of unexploded mines left over from 1982, though here have been no recorded cases of any civilians being injured by mines.