Are they the Falkland Islands or Islas Malvinas?

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

One of the enduring mysteries surrounding the Falklands - and there are many - is the question of discovery. Who really first sighted the islands off South America's Atlantic coast? Was it the unknown Spanish ship in 1540? Or was it British Capt. John Davis of the Desire in 1592? Or was it someone else?

In his book on the Falkland Islands (1926), Julius Goebel quotes these ship logs:

''All this country is bare with not a bit of wood, very windy and very cold because eight months in the year it snows. . . . In this land there is much game , fowl, foxes, and sea lions, and here we were for six months and afterwards took in water and wood and prepared our ship to return to Spain.''

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- Translated from a fragment of a Spanish log.

''. . . wee were driven in among certain Isles never before discovered by any knowen relation lying fiftie leagues or better from the shoare East and northerly from The Streights (of Magellan): in which place unlesse it had pleased God of his wonderfull mercie to have ceased the winde wee must of necessitie have perished.''

- John Jane, ship historian for Captain Davis of the Desire.

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