Contour map of Macquarie Island
|Location||Southwestern Pacific Ocean|
|Area||128 km2 (49 sq mi)|
|Length||35 km (21.7 mi)|
|Width||5 km (3.1 mi)|
|Highest elevation||410 m (1,350 ft)|
|Population||No permanent inhabitants|
|Criteria||Natural: vii, viii|
|Inscription||1997 (21st Session)|
Macquarie Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies in the southwest Pacific Ocean, about halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica. Regionally part of Oceania and politically a part of Tasmania, Australia since 1900, it became a Tasmanian State Reserve in 1978 and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997.
It was a part of Esperance Municipality until 1993 when the municipality was merged with other municipalities to form Huon Valley Council. The island is home to the entire royal penguin population during their annual nesting season. Ecologically, the island is part of the Antipodes Subantarctic Islands tundra ecoregion.
Since 1948 the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) has maintained a permanent base, the Macquarie Island Station, on the isthmus at the northern end of the island at the foot of Wireless Hill. The population of the base, the island's only human inhabitants, usually varies from 20 to 40 people over the year. A heliport is located near the base.
In September 2016, the Australian Antarctic Division said it would close its research station on the island in 2017. However, shortly afterwards the Australian government responded to widespread backlash to the decision by announcing funding to upgrade ageing infrastructure and continue existing operations at Macquarie Island.
The Australian-Briton Frederick Hasselborough discovered the uninhabited island accidentally on 11 July 1810 when looking for new sealing grounds. He claimed Macquarie Island for Britain and annexed it to the colony of New South Wales in 1810. The island took its name after colonel Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. Hasselborough reported a wreck "of ancient design", which has given rise to speculation that the island may have been visited before by Polynesians or others.
Richard Siddins and his crew ended up being shipwrecked in Hasselborough Bay on 11 June 1812. Joseph Underwood sent the ship Elizabeth and Mary to the island to rescue the remaining crew. When Siddins landed on Macquarie island in 1812, he met the Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen there.
The sealing era on the island lasted from 1810 to 1919, during which time 144 vessel visits are recorded, twelve of which ended when the vessel was wrecked. Sealers' relics include iron try pots, casks, hut ruins, graves and inscriptions.
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, who explored the area for Alexander I of Russia, produced the first map of Macquarie Island. Bellingshausen landed on the island on 28 November 1820, defined its geographical position and traded his rum and food for Macquarie Island's fauna with the sealers. Between 1810 and 1919, seals and then penguins were hunted almost to the point of extinction. The conditions on the island and the surrounding seas were considered so harsh that a plan to use it as a penal settlement was rejected.
In 1877, the crew of the schooner Bencleugh was shipwrecked on the islands for four months; folklore says they came to believe there was hidden treasure on the island. The ship's owner, John Sen Inches Thomson, wrote a book on his sea travels, including his time on the island. The book, written in 1912, was entitled Voyages and Wanderings In Far-off Seas and Lands.
Between 1911 and 1914, the island became a base for the Australasian Antarctic Expedition under Sir Douglas Mawson. George Ainsworth operated a meteorological station between 1911 and 1913, followed by Harold Power (1913 to 1914) and by Arthur Tulloch from 1914 until it was shut down in 1915.
In 1933, the authorities declared the island a wildlife sanctuary under the Tasmanian Animals and Birds Protection Act 1928, and in 1972 it was made a State Reserve under the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1970.
The Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) established its expedition headquarters on 25 May 1948 on Macquarie Island.
On 5 December 1997, Macquarie Island was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a site of major geoconservation significance, being the only place on earth where rocks from the earth's mantle are being actively exposed above sea-level.
Geoscience Australia issued a Tsunami Inundation Advice for Macquarie Island Station. The paper indicates that in certain scenario, a significant tsunami caused by a local earthquake could occur with no warning possible, and could inundate the isthmus where the existing station resides. Such a tsunami would likely affect other parts of the coastline and field huts located close to the shore. Such a significant earthquake at Macquarie Island capable of causing such a tsunami is a high risk according to several papers.
In 2018, the Australian Antarctic Division published a map signalling buildings on the island with confirmed or suspected contamination by asbestos. Over half the buildings in the island are at least suspected of containing asbestos.
The island is about 34 km (21 mi) long and 5 km (3 mi) wide, with an area of 128 km2 (49 sq mi). The island is in two main pieces of plateau of around 150–200 m (490–660 ft) elevation to the north and south, joined by a narrow isthmus close to sea level. The high points include Mount Elder on the north-east coastal ridge at 385 m (1,263 ft), and Mounts Hamilton and Fletcher in the south at 410 m (1,345 ft).
It is equidistant between Tasmania island and Anderson Peninsula on the Antarctic continent (1,500 km (930 mi)). In addition, Macquarie Island is about 630 km (390 mi) south-west of Auckland Island, and 1,300 km (810 mi) north of the Balleny Islands.
Near Macquarie Island are two small groups of minor islands, the Judge and Clerk Islets ( ), 14 km (9 mi) to the north, 0.2 km2 (49 acres) in area, and the Bishop and Clerk Islets ( ), 34 km (21 mi) to the south, 0.6 km2 (150 acres) in area. The Bishop and Clerk Islets are part of the Australian state of Tasmania and mark the southernmost point of Australia (including islands).
Macquarie Island is an exposed portion of the Macquarie Ridge and is located where the Australian plate meets the Pacific plate. The island lies close to the edge of the submerged microcontinent of Zealandia, but is not regarded as part of it as the Macquarie Ridge is oceanic rather than continental crust.
It is the only place in the Pacific Ocean where rocks from the mantle are actively exposed at sea level. It also is the only oceanic environment with an exposed ophiolite sequence. Due to these unique geological exposures it was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997.
Macquarie Island's climate is moderated by the sea, and all months have an average temperature above freezing although snow is common between June and October and may even occur in Macquarie Island's summer. Its climate is defined as a tundra climate under the Köppen climate classification due to its cool summers.
Average daily maximum temperatures range from 4.9 °C (40.8 °F) in July to 8.8 °C (47.8 °F) in January. Precipitation occurs fairly evenly throughout the year and averages 967.9 mm (38.11 in) annually. Macquarie Island is one of the cloudiest places on Earth with an average of only 856 hours of sunshine per year, similar to that in Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands.
The flora has taxonomic affinities with other subantarctic islands, especially those to the south of New Zealand. Plants rarely grow over 1 m in height, though the tussock-forming grass Poa foliosa can grow up to 2 m tall in sheltered areas. There are over 45 vascular plant species and more than 90 moss species, as well as many liverworts and lichens. Woody plants are absent.
The island has five principal vegetation formations: grassland, herbfield, fen, bog and feldmark. Bog communities include 'featherbed', a deep and spongy peat bog vegetated by grasses and low herbs, with patches of free water. Endemic flora include the cushion plant Azorella macquariensis, the grass Puccinellia macquariensis, as well as two orchids – Nematoceras dienemum and Nematoceras sulcatum.
Mammals found on the island include: subantarctic fur seals, Antarctic fur seals, New Zealand fur seals and southern elephant seals – over 80,000 individuals of this species. Diversities and distributions of cetaceans are less known; southern right whales and orcas are more common followed by other migratory baleen and toothed whales especially sperm and beaked whales prefer deep waters. So called "Upland Seals" once found on Antipodes Islands and Macquarie Island have been claimed as a distinct subspecies of fur seals with thicker furs by scientists although it is unclear whether these seals were genetically distinct.
Royal penguins and Macquarie shags are endemic breeders, while king penguins, southern rockhopper penguins and gentoo penguins also breed here in large numbers. The island has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area because it supports about 3.5 million breeding seabirds of 13 species.
The ecology of the island was affected soon after the beginning of European visits to the island in 1810. The island's fur seals, elephant seals and penguins were killed for fur and blubber. Rats and mice that were inadvertently introduced from the ships prospered due to lack of predators. Cats were subsequently introduced deliberately to keep the rodents from eating human food stores. In about 1870, rabbits and a species of New Zealand rail (wekas) were left on the island by sealers to breed for food. By the 1970s, the then 130,000 rabbits were causing tremendous damage to vegetation.
The feral cats introduced to the island have had a devastating effect on the native seabird population, with an estimated 60,000 seabird deaths per year. From 1985, efforts were undertaken to remove the cats. In June 2000, the last of the nearly 2,500 cats were culled in an effort to save the seabirds. Seabird populations responded rapidly, but rats and rabbits population increased after the cats were culled, and continued to cause widespread environmental damage.
The rabbits rapidly multiplied before numbers were reduced to about 10,000 in the early 1980s when myxomatosis was introduced. Rabbit numbers then grew again to over 100,000 by 2006. The rodents feed on young chicks while rabbits nibbling on the grass layer has led to soil erosion and cliff collapses, destroying seabird nests. Large portions of the Macquarie Island bluffs are eroding as a result. In September 2006 a large landslip at Lusitania Bay, on the eastern side of the island, partially destroyed an important penguin breeding colony. Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service attributed the landslip to a combination of heavy spring rains and severe erosion caused by rabbits.
Research by Australian Antarctic Division scientists, published in the edition of 13 January 2009 of the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, suggested that the success of the feral cat eradication program has allowed the rabbit population to increase, damaging the Macquarie Island ecosystem by altering significant areas of island vegetation. However, in a comment published in the same journal other scientists argued that a number of factors (primarily a reduction in the use of the Myxoma virus) were almost certainly involved and the absence of cats may have been relatively minor among them. The original authors examined the issue in a later reply and concluded that the effect of the Myxoma virus use was small and reaffirmed their original position.
On 4 June 2007 a media release by the Australian Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, announced that the Australian and Tasmanian Governments had reached an agreement to jointly fund the eradication of rodent pests, including rabbits, to protect Macquarie Island's World Heritage values. The plan, estimated to cost $24 million Australian dollars, was based on mass baiting the island similar to an eradication program on New Zealand's Campbell Island, to be followed up with dog hunting teams trained by Steve Austin over a period of up to seven years. The baiting was expected to inadvertently affect kelp gulls, but higher than expected levels of bird deaths caused a temporary suspension of the program. Other species killed by the baits include giant petrels, black ducks and skuas.
By April 2012, the hunting teams had located and exterminated 13 rabbits still surviving since the baiting in 2011. The last five rabbits found were in November 2011, including a lactating doe and four kittens. No fresh rabbit signs were found up to July 2013. On 8 April 2014 Macquarie Island was officially declared pest-free after seven years of conservation efforts. This achievement is the largest successful island pest-eradication program ever attempted.
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There are still far fewer ships visiting New Zealand than before 1810. This is due to the economic depression which started in New South Wales in 1810 and continues until 1815. The concern that the Boyd massacre might be repeated abates somewhat as a number of reports that it was provoked reach Port Jackson. As more ships resume visits to the Bay of Islands they consistently report that they are well treated.The sealing rush to Macquarie Island continues, and Campbell Island is also occasionally visited. Most travel via Foveaux Strait. More whalers operate off the north and east coasts of New Zealand than the previous year. A few Māori are crewing on ships and one or two visit Marsden at Parramatta.Australasian Antarctic Expedition
The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) was an Australasian scientific team that explored part of Antarctica between 1911 and 1914. It was led by the Australian geologist Douglas Mawson, who was knighted for his achievements in leading the expedition. In 1910 he began to plan an expedition to chart the 3,200-kilometre-long (2,000 mi) coastline of Antarctica to the south of Australia. The Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science approved of his plans and contributed substantial funds for the expedition.
Accomplishments were made in geology, glaciology and terrestrial biology, unlike both of Ernest Shackleton's following expeditions which produced very little science. In a celebration of the achievements of Mawson and his men, a centenary scientific voyage, retracing the route of the original expedition, departed from Australasia on 25 November 2013 and became stuck on 24 December 2013.Birds of Macquarie Island
The Birds of Macquarie Island are, unsurprisingly for an isolated oceanic island, predominantly seabirds. By far the majority of the breeding species are penguins, petrels and albatrosses. However, the bird list includes many vagrants, including passerines, from New Zealand and Australia.Bishop and Clerk Islets
The Bishop and Clerk Islets are a 60-hectare (150-acre) group of islets, lying 33 kilometres (21 mi) south of Macquarie Island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. They are, with Macquarie Island, part of the Australian state of Tasmania. The group consists of Bishop Islet, 24 smaller islets, and various rocks and reefs. Bishop Islet has an area of 3 hectares (7.4 acres) and is mostly rock with some shallow patches of soil. Its highest elevation is 45 metres (148 ft).The Bishop and Clerk Islets are part of the Australian state of Tasmania. They are the southernmost terrestrial point of both Australia (excluding the Australian Antarctic Territory) and Tasmania. The islets are within the Macquarie Island Nature Reserve, managed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and along with Macquarie Island and the Judge and Clerk Islets, were inscribed in 1997 on the UNESCO World Heritage Area, and form a Special Management Area within the nature reserve. They are very infrequently visited and are free of introduced animals and plants.Blanket bog
Blanket bog or blanket mire, also known as featherbed bog, is an area of peatland, forming where there is a climate of high rainfall and a low level of evapotranspiration, allowing peat to develop not only in wet hollows but over large expanses of undulating ground. The blanketing of the ground with a variable depth of peat gives the habitat type its name. Blanket bogs are found extensively throughout the northern hemisphere - well-studied examples are found in Ireland and Britain, but vast areas of the Russian and North American tundra also qualify as blanket bogs.
In the southern hemisphere they are less well-developed due to the relatively low latitudes of the main land areas, though similar environments are reported in Patagonia, the Falkland Islands and New Zealand. The blanket bogs known as 'featherbeds' on subantarctic Macquarie Island occur on raised marine terraces; they may be up to 5 m deep, tremble or quake when walked on and can be hazardous to cross. It is doubtful whether the extremely impoverished flora of Antarctica is sufficiently well developed to be considered as blanket bogs.
In some areas of Europe, the spread of blanket bogs is traced to deforestation by prehistoric cultures.Gentoo penguin
The gentoo penguin ( JEN-too) (Pygoscelis papua) is a penguin species in the genus Pygoscelis, most closely related to the Adélie penguin (P. adeliae) and the chinstrap penguin (P. antarcticus). The earliest scientific description was made in 1781 by Johann Reinhold Forster with a reference point of the Falkland Islands. They call in a variety of ways, but the most frequently heard is a loud trumpeting which the bird emits with its head thrown back.George Ainsworth
George Frederick Ainsworth (20 June 1878 – 11 October 1950) was an Australian meteorologist, public servant and businessman who headed one of the component parts of Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911–1914).Integrated Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia
The Integrated Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia (IMCRA), formerly the Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia, is a biogeographic regionalisation of the oceanic waters of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). As of 2008, the most recent version is IMCRA Version 4.0.IMCRA actually defines two bioregionalisations: a benthic bioregionalisation, based on biogeography of fish together with geophysical data; and a pelagic bioregionalisation, base on oceanographic characteristics.The benthic bioregionalisation incorporates three separate regionalisations:
A regionalisation of the EEZ into provincial bioregions, based on the biogeography of bottom dwelling fishes. In IMCRA 4.0, 41 provincial bioregions, consisting of 24 provinces and 17 transitions.
A regionalisation of the continental shelf into meso-scale regions based on biological and physical characters, and the distance from the coast. In IMCRA 4.0 there are 60 meso-scale regions.
A regionalisation of the EEZ into 14 geomorphic units, formed by grouping the 1,134 geomorphic units defined by Geoscience Australia.The pelagic bioregionalisation divides the continental shelf into four provincial bioregions based on pelagic fish species biodiversity and richness. Offshore waters are divided into three-dimensional water masses, taking into account water properties, circulation patterns and energetics.Joseph Hatch
Joseph Hatch (c. 1837 – 2 September 1928) was a New Zealand politician who is best remembered for the harvesting of penguins and elephant seals for their oil on the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island from 1890 to 1919. Around two million penguins were killed over nearly three decades. His company, J. Hatch & Co., was based in Invercargill, New Zealand, and then Hobart, Tasmania, where he is buried.Judge and Clerk Islets
The Judge and Clerk Islets are small islands, with a total land and reef area of no more than 20 hectares (49 acres), lying 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) north of Macquarie Island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. They are, with Macquarie Island, part of Tasmania, Australia. They are in the Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and were inscribed in 1997 on the UNESCO World Heritage Area, and form a Special Management Area within the nature reserve. They are very infrequently visited and are free of introduced animals and plants.Macquarie Fault Zone
The Macquarie Fault Zone is a major right lateral-moving transform fault along the seafloor of the south Pacific Ocean which runs from New Zealand southwestward to the Macquarie Triple Junction. It is also the tectonic plate boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate to the northwest and the Pacific Plate to the southeast.
The Macquarie Fault Zone includes a component of convergence which increases as it approaches the South Island of New Zealand. Many researchers conclude that the fault zone here is an incipient subduction zone, with oblique motion corresponding to the transition from lateral (strike-slip) motion. In the area known as the Puysegur Trench, the Indo-Australian Plate appears to be starting to sink beneath the Pacific Plate, the reverse of what is occurring off of New Zealand's North Island (see Kermadec-Tonga Subduction Zone).
A major geographic feature which runs along the Macquarie Fault Zone is known as the Macquarie Ridge. This ridge represents both the different relative heights of the abutting plates as well as the component of compression between the plates. The namesake Macquarie Island, named after Lachlan Macquarie lies atop a segment of the Macquarie Ridge.
The Macquarie Fault Zone merges into the Alpine Fault which cuts across the continental crust of New Zealand's South Island.Macquarie Island Station
The Macquarie Island Station is a permanent Australian subantarctic research base on Macquarie Island, commonly called Macca, situated in the Southern Ocean and located approximately halfway between mainland Australia and Antarctica, managed by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). The station lies at the base of Wireless Hill, between two bays on the isthmus at the northern end of the island.
The island and its surrounding waters are administered as a nature reserve by the Tasmanian Government Parks and Wildlife Service. In 1997 the island was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a site of major geoconservation significance, being the only place on earth where rocks from the earth's mantle are actively exposed above sea-level.Macquarie parakeet
The Macquarie parakeet (Cyanoramphus erythrotis), also known as the Macquarie Island parakeet, is an extinct parrot from subantarctic Macquarie Island, an outlying part of Tasmania, Australia, in the Southern Ocean.Macquarie rail
The Macquarie rail (Gallirallus philippensis macquariensis), also known as the Macquarie Island rail, is an extinct subspecies of the buff-banded rail endemic to Macquarie Island, a subantarctic island that is part of the state of Tasmania, Australia. The holotype is in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.Macquarie shag
The Macquarie shag (Leucocarbo purpurascens), Macquarie Island shag or Macquarie Island cormorant, is a marine cormorant native to Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean, about halfway between Australia and Antarctica.Poa annua
Poa annua, or annual meadow grass (known in America more commonly as annual bluegrass or simply poa), is a widespread low-growing turfgrass in temperate climates. Though P. annua is commonly considered a solely annual plant due to its name, perennial bio-types do exist. Poa (πόα) is Greek for "fodder". It is one of the sweetest grasses for green fodder, but less useful than hay. This grass may have originated as a hybrid between Poa supina and Poa infirma.Royal penguin
The royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) is a species of penguin, which can be found on the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island and adjacent islands. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the royal penguin as near threatened. The scientific name commemorates the German zoologist Hermann Schlegel.Stilbocarpa polaris
Stilbocarpa polaris, commonly known as the Macquarie Island cabbage, is a species of flowering plant usually placed in the family Araliaceae. It is a megaherb, growing up to about a metre in height, native to the subantarctic islands of New Zealand and to Australia’s Macquarie Island.Wireless Hill
Wireless Hill is a steep-sided hill with a summit plateau that takes up most of the North Head promontory at the northern end of Australia’s subantarctic Macquarie Island, lying in the Southern Ocean about halfway between Australia and Antarctica. Its highest point is about 100 m above sea level and it is joined to the main body of the island by a low and narrow isthmus that is occasionally wave-washed in heavy storms. Macquarie Island Station, operated by the Australian Antarctic Division and the only permanently populated place on the island, lies at the northern end of the isthmus at the foot of Wireless Hill. The hill is so named because it was the site of an early wireless telegraphy relay station, part of the first radio link to Antarctica.
|Climate data for Macquarie Island, Australia|
|Record high °C (°F)||13.6
|Average high °C (°F)||8.8
|Average low °C (°F)||5.3
|Record low °C (°F)||0.6
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||86.7
|Average precipitation days||25.4||24.1||27.1||27.2||28.1||26.9||27.1||27.3||26.2||26.3||25.0||24.7||315.4|
|Average relative humidity (%)||84||85||86||87||87||87||88||87||85||83||83||83||85|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||114.7||104.5||86.8||54.0||31.0||18.0||24.8||43.4||69.0||99.2||108.0||108.5||861.9|
|Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology|
World Heritage Sites in Australia
|New South Wales|
1 Shared with other states/territories
Peri-Antarctic countries and overseas territories
"Peri-Antarctic" (meaning "close to the Antarctic") does not include territorial claims in Antarctica itself.