Prince Edward Islands

The Prince Edward Islands are two small islands in the sub-antarctic Indian Ocean that are part of South Africa. The islands are named Marion Island (named after Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne) and Prince Edward Island (named after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn).

The islands in the group have been declared Special Nature Reserves under the South African Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, No. 57 of 2003, and activities on the islands are therefore restricted to research and conservation management.[2][3] Further protection was granted when the area was declared a marine protected area in 2013.[4][5] The only human inhabitants of the islands are the staff of a meteorological and biological research station run by the South African National Antarctic Programme on Marion Island.

Prince Edward Islands
PrEdwIsl Map
Map of Prince Edward Islands
Orthographic projection centered on the Prince Edward Island
Orthographic projection centred on the Prince Edward Islands
LocationIndian Ocean
Coordinates46°53′19″S 37°44′08″E / 46.888739°S 37.735658°ECoordinates: 46°53′19″S 37°44′08″E / 46.888739°S 37.735658°E
Area335 km2 (129 sq mi)
Highest elevation1,242 m (4,075 ft)
Highest pointMascarin Peak
Population0 (Uninhabited – Permanent)
50 (Research Staff – Non-Permanent)
Designated24 January 1997
Reference no.1688[1]


Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn by Sir William Beechey
Prince Edward, after whom the islands are named

The islands were discovered on 4 March 1663 by Barent Barentszoon Lam of the Dutch East India Company ship Maerseveen and were named Dina (Prince Edward) and Maerseveen (Marion),[6] but the islands were erroneously recorded to be at 41° South, and neither were found again by subsequent Dutch sailors.[7][8] In January 1772, the French frigate Le Mascarin, captained by Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, visited the islands and spent five days trying to land, thinking they had found Antarctica (then not yet proven to exist).[9] Marion named the islands Terre de l'Espérance (Marion) and Ile de la Caverne (Pr. Edward).[7] After failing to land, Le Mascarin continued eastward, discovering the Crozet Islands and landing at New Zealand, where Marion du Fresne and some of his crew were killed and eaten by Māori natives. Julien Crozet, navigator and second in command of Le Mascarin, survived the disaster, and happened to meet James Cook at Cape Town in 1776, at the onset of Cook's third voyage.[10] Crozet shared the charts of his ill-fated expedition, and as Cook sailed from Cape Town, he passed the islands on 13 December, but was unable to attempt a landing due to bad weather.[9] Cook named the islands after Prince Edward, the fourth son of King George III; and though he is also often credited with naming the larger island Marion, after Captain Marion, this name was adopted by sealers and whalers who later hunted the area, to distinguish the two islands.[11]

The first recorded landing on the islands was in 1799 by a group of French seal hunters of the Sally.[11] Another landing in late 1803 by a group of seal hunters led by American captain Henry Fanning of the Catharine found signs of earlier human occupation.[12] The islands were frequented by sealers until about 1810, when the local fur seal populations had been nearly eradicated.[11] The first scientific expedition to the islands was led by James Clark Ross, who visited in 1840 during his exploration of the Antarctic, but was unable to land.[11] Ross sailed along the islands on 21 April 1840. He made observations on vast numbers of penguins ("groups of many thousands each"), and other kinds of sea-birds. He also saw fur seals, which he supposed to be of the species Arctocephalus falklandicus.[13] The islands were finally surveyed during the Challenger Expedition, led by Captain George Nares, in 1873.[14]

The sealing era lasted from 1799 to 1913. During that period visits by 103 vessel are recorded, seven of which ended in shipwreck.[15] Sealing relics include iron trypots, the ruins of huts and inscriptions. The occasional modern sealing vessel visited from Cape Town, South Africa, in the 1920s.

The islands have been the location of other shipwrecks. In June 1849 the brig Richard Dart, with a troop of Royal Engineers under Lt. James Liddell, was wrecked on Prince Edward island; only 10 of the 63 on board survived to be rescued by elephant seal hunters from Cape Town.[16] In 1908 the Norwegian vessel Solglimt was shipwrecked on Marion Island, and survivors established a short-lived village at the north coast, before being rescued.[12][17] The wreck of the Solglimt is the best-known in the islands, and is accessible to divers.[12]

In 2003, the South African government declared the Prince Edward Islands a Special Nature Reserve, and in 2013 declared 180,000 km2 (69,000 sq mi) of ocean waters around the islands a Marine Protection Area, thus creating one of the world's largest environmental protection areas.[5]

Marion Research Station

In 1908 the British government assumed ownership of the islands. In late 1947 and early 1948, South Africa, with Britain's agreement, annexed the islands and installed the meteorological station on Transvaal Cove on the north-east coast of Marion Island.[7] The research station was soon enlarged and today studies regional meteorology and the biology of the islands, in particular the birds (penguins, petrels, albatrosses, gulls) and seals.

A new research base was built from 2001 to 2011 to replace older buildings on the site.[18] The access to the station is either by boat or helicopter.[19] A helipad and storage hangar is located behind the main base structure.[18][20]

In April 2017, the South African National Antarctic Programme launched a new experiment on Marion Island called Probing Radio Intensity at high-Z from Marion (PRIZM), searching for signatures of the hydrogen line in the early universe.[21]

Geography and geology

The island group is about 955 nmi (1,769 km; 1,099 mi) south-east of Port Elizabeth in mainland South Africa. At 46 degrees latitude, the distance to the equator is only slightly longer than to the South Pole. Marion Island (46°54′45″S 37°44′37″E / 46.91250°S 37.74361°E), the larger of the two, is 25.03 km (15.55 mi) long and 16.65 km (10.35 mi) wide with an area of 290 km2 (112 sq mi) and a coastline of some 72 km (45 mi), most of which is high cliffs. The highest point on Marion Island is Mascarin Peak (formerly State President Swart Peak), reaching 1,242 m (4,075 ft) above sea level.[22] The topography of Marion Island includes many hillocks and small lakes, and boggy lowland terrain with little vegetation.[23]

Prince Edward Island, South Africa, EO-1 ALI satellite image, 5 May 2009
Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island (46°38′39″S 37°56′36″E / 46.64417°S 37.94333°E) is much smaller—only about 45 km2 (17 sq mi), 10.23 km (6.36 mi) long and 6.57 km (4.08 mi) wide—and lies some 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) to the north-east of Marion Island. The terrain is generally rocky, with high cliffs (490 m (1,608 ft)) on its south western side.[23] At the van Zinderen Bakker Peak north-west of the center, it reaches a height of 672 metres (2,205 ft).[24]

There are a few offshore rocks along the northern coast of Marion Island, like Ship Rock 100 m (328 ft) north of northernmost point, Boot Rock, about 150 metres (492 ft) off the northern coast, and Ross Rocks 500 m (1,640 ft) from the shore.

Marion Island, South Africa, EO-1 ALI satellite image, 5 May 2009
Marion Island

Both islands are of volcanic origin.[23] Marion Island is one of the peaks of a large underwater shield volcano that rises some 5,000 metres (16,404 ft) from the sea floor to the top of Mascarin Peak. The volcano is active, with eruptions having occurred between 1980 and 2004.[22]


Despite being located inside the south temperate zone at 46 degrees latitude, the islands have a tundra climate. They lie directly in the path of eastward-moving depressions all year round and this gives them an unusually cool and windy climate. Strong regional winds, known as the roaring forties, blow almost every day of the year, and the prevailing wind direction is north-westerly.[23] Annual rainfall averages from 2,400 mm (94.5 in) up to over 3,000 mm (118.1 in) on Mascarin Peak. In spite of its very chilly climate it is located closer to the equator than mild northern hemisphere climates such as Paris and Seattle and only one degree farther south than fellow southern hemisphere climates such as Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina and Alexandra in New Zealand. Many climates on lower latitudes in the opposite hemisphere have far colder winters than Prince Edward Islands due to their maritime moderation, even though temperatures in summer are way short of normal maritime climates.

It rains on average about 320 days a year (about 28 days a month) and the islands are among the cloudiest places in the world; about 1300 hours a year of sunshine occurs on the sheltered eastern side of Marion Island but only around 800 hours occur away from the coast on the wet western sides of Marion and Prince Edward Islands.

Summer and winter have fairly similar climates with cold winds and threat of snow or frost at any time of the year. However, the mean temperature in February (midsummer) is 7.7 °C (45.9 °F) and in August (midwinter) it is 3.9 °C (39.0 °F).[25][26]

Flora and fauna

SA Agulhas with bull kelp and penguin
View from Marion island of the South African icebreaker SA Agulhas, with a penguin swimming in the water and kelp on the shore

The islands are part of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands tundra ecoregion that includes a small number of subantarctic islands. Because of the paucity of land masses in the Southern Ocean, the islands host a wide variety of species and are critical to conservation.[5] In the cold subantarctic climate, plants are mainly limited to grasses, mosses, and kelp, while lichens are the most visible fungi. The main indigenous animals are insects along with large populations of seabirds, seals[29] and penguins.[30] At least twenty-nine different species of birds are thought to breed on the islands, and it is estimated the islands support upwards of 5 million breeding seabirds, and 8 million seabirds total.[5] Five species of albatross (of which all are either threatened or endangered) are known to breed on the islands, including the wandering albatross, dark-mantled, light-mantled, Indian yellow-nosed and grey-headed albatross.[5] The islands also host fourteen species of petrel, four species of prion, the Antarctic tern, and the brown skua, among others seabirds.[5][30] Four penguin species are found, including king penguins, Eastern rockhoppers, gentoos and macaroni penguins.[30]

Three species of seal breed on the islands, including the southern elephant seal, the Antarctic fur seal, and the Subantarctic fur seal.[5] The waters surrounding the islands are often frequented by several species of whale, especially orcas, which prey on penguins and seals.[31] Large whales such as southern rights and southern humpbacks, and leopard seals are seen more sporadically, and it remains unclear how large or stable their current local populations are, though it is thought their numbers are significantly down compared to the time of first human contact with the islands.[32] The area saw heavy sealing and whaling operations in the nineteenth century and continued to be subject to mass illegal whaling until the 1970s, with the Soviet Union and Japan allegedly continuing whaling operations into the 1990s.[33] Currently, the greatest ecological threat is the longline fishing of Patagonian toothfish, which endangers a number of seabirds that dive into the water after baited hooks.[5]

Invasive species

The wildlife is particularly vulnerable to introduced species and the historical problem has been with cats and mice. House mice arrived to Marion Island with whaling and sealing ships in the 1800s and quickly multiplied, so much so that in 1949, five domestic cats were brought to the research base to deal with them.[34] The cats multiplied quickly, and by 1977 there were approximately 3,400 cats on the island, feeding on burrowing petrels in addition to mice, and taking an estimated 455,000 petrels a year.[35] Some species of petrels soon disappeared from Marion Island, and a cat eradication programme was established.[34] A few cats were intentionally infected with the highly specific feline panleukopenia virus, which reduced the cat population to about 600 by 1982.[36] The remaining cats were killed by nocturnal shooting, and in 1991 only eight cats were trapped in a 12-month period.[34][37]

It is believed that no cats remain on Marion Island today, and with the cats gone, the mouse population has sharply increased to "plague like" levels.[35] In 2003, ornithologists discovered that in the absence of other food sources, the mice were attacking albatross chicks and eating them alive as they sat helplessly on their nests.[35] A similar problem has been observed on Gough Island, where a mouse eradication programme is currently planned to begin in 2019, with the island expected to be mouse free by 2021.[38] A programme to eradicate invasive rats on South Georgia Island was completed in 2015, and as of 2016 the island appears to be completely rat free.[39] The geography of Marion Island presents certain obstacles not found on either Gough or South Georgia islands, particularly its large size, high elevations and variable weather.[35] An assessment of the island was completed in May 2015, led by noted invasive species ecologist John Parkes, with the general conclusion that an eradication programme is feasible, but will require precise planning.[40]

Both Gough Island and the Prince Edward Islands also suffer from invasive procumbent pearlwort (Sagina procumbens), which is transforming the upland ecosystem and is now considered beyond control.[41]

Legal status

Marion Island
Logo of Marion Island

Marion Island and Prince Edward Island were claimed for South Africa on 29 December 1947 and 4 January 1948 respectively, by a South African Navy force from HMSAS Transvaal under the command of John Fairbairn.[12] On 1 October 1948 the annexation was made official when Governor-General Gideon Brand van Zyl signed the Prince Edward Islands Act, 1948. In terms of the Act, the islands fall under the jurisdiction of the Cape Town Magistrate's Court, and South African law as applied in the Western Cape applies on them. The islands are also deemed to be situated within the electoral district containing the Port of Cape Town; as of 2016 this is ward 115 of the City of Cape Town.

Amateur radio

Cloud Patterns Over the Prince Edward Islands
Cloud patterns over the Prince Edward Islands

As of 2014, Marion Island, prefix ZS8, was the third most wanted DXCC "entity" by the amateur radio community. By the end of 2014, it had dropped to 27th, after simultaneous activity by three licencees in the 2013/2014 team. However, their activity was mainly on voice. On Morse telegraphy, the Islands remain the second most wanted entity after North Korea, while on data they are sixth out of 340.[42]

See also


  1. ^ "Prince Edward Islands". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. ^ Cooper, John (June 2006). "Antarctica and Islands – Background Research Paper produced for the South Africa Environment Outlook report on behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  3. ^ 1993 United Nations list of national parks and protected areas. World Conservation Monitoring Centre, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Commission on Natural Parks and Protected Areas, United Nations Environment Programme. 1993. p. 173. ISBN 978-2-8317-0190-5.
  4. ^ "Prince Edward Islands declared a Marine Protected Area". Department of Environmental Affairs, Republic of South Africa. 9 April 2013. Archived from the original on 12 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Prince Edward Islands Marine Protected Area: A global treasure setting new conservation benchmarks" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 July 2016.
  6. ^ Pieter Arend Leupe: De eilanden Dina en Maerseveen in den Zuider Atlantischen Oceaan; in: Verhandelingen en berigten betrekkelijk het zeewezen, de zeevaartkunde, de hydrographie, de koloniën en de daarmede in verband staande wetenschappen, Jg. 1868, Deel 28, Afd. 2, [No.] 9; Amsterdam 1868 (pp. 242–253); cf. Rubin, Jeff (2008). Antarctica. Lonely Planet. p. 233. ISBN 978-1-74104-549-9.
  7. ^ a b c "Marion Island, South Indian Ocean". 29 June 2003. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Marion and Prince Edward Islands". Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  9. ^ a b Keller, Conrad (1901). "XXII – The Prince Edward Isles". Madagascar, Mauritius and the other East-African islands. S. Sonnenschein & Co. pp. 224–225. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  10. ^ Hough, Richard (1995). Captain James Cook: A Biography. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 259–260. ISBN 978-0393315196.
  11. ^ a b c d Mills, William J. (2003). Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 531. ISBN 978-1576074220. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d "Marion Island – History". Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  13. ^ Ross (1847), pp. 45-47, vol.1.
  14. ^ Cooper, John (2008). "Human history". In Chown, Steven L.; Froneman, Pierre William (eds.). The Prince Edward Islands: Land-sea Interactions in a Changing Ecosystem. Stellenbosch, South Africa: Sun Press. pp. 331–350, page 336. ISBN 978-1-920109-85-1.
  15. ^ R.K. Headland, Historical Antarctic sealing industry, Scott Polar Research Institute (Cambridge University), 2018, p.167 ISBN 978-0-901021-26-7
  16. ^ Wreck of the troopship Richard Dart
  17. ^ "ALSA to talk on Marion Island's forgotten history at a SCAR conference". 24 August 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  18. ^ a b Yeld, John (18 March 2011). "New Marion Island base opens". The Cape Argus (Independent Newspapers). Archived from the original on 25 April 2016.
  19. ^ "New Base Puts Sa On Top Of The Weather". South African Garden Route. 21 March 2011. Archived from the original on 25 November 2015.
  20. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. 1 January 1970. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  21. ^ Philip, L.; Abdurashidova, Z.; Chiang, H. C.; et al. (2018). "Probing Radio Intensity at high-Z from Marion: 2017 Instrument". Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation. 8: 1950004. arXiv:1806.09531. Bibcode:2019JAI.....850004P. doi:10.1142/S2251171719500041.
  22. ^ a b "Marion Island". Global Volcanism Program. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  23. ^ a b c d "Marion Island". South African National Antarctic Program. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  24. ^ Peakbagger – Van Zinderen Bakker Peak, South Africa
  25. ^ General Survey of Climatology, V12 (2001), Elsevier
  26. ^ GISS Climate data averages for 1978 to 2007, source – GHCN
  27. ^ "Marion Island Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  28. ^ "Station Ile Marion" (in French). Meteo Climat. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  29. ^ "Marion Island Marine Mammal Programme". Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  30. ^ a b c "Southern Indian Ocean Islands tundra". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
  31. ^ "Marion Island Killer Whales". Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  32. ^ M. Postma, M. Wege, M.N. Bester, D.S. van der Merwe (2011). "Inshore Occurrence of Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena australis) at Subantarctic Marion Island". African Zoology. 46: 188–193. doi:10.3377/004.046.0112. Retrieved 9 March 2016.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  33. ^ Berzin A.; Ivashchenko V.Y.; Clapham J.P.; Brownell L. R.Jr. (2008). "The Truth About Soviet Whaling: A Memoir" (PDF). DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  34. ^ a b c Bloomer J.P.; Bester M.N. (1992). "Control of feral cats on sub-Antarctic Marion Island, Indian Ocean". Biological Conservation. 60 (3): 211–219. doi:10.1016/0006-3207(92)91253-O. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  35. ^ a b c d John Yeld. "Marion Island's Plague of Mice". Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  36. ^ K Berthier; M Langlais; P Auger; D Pontier (22 October 2000). "Dynamics of a feline virus with two transmission modes within exponentially growing host populations". BioInfoBank Library. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012.
  37. ^ de Bruyn P.J.N. & Oosthuizen W.C., eds. (2017). Pain forms the Character: Doc Bester, Cat hunters & Sealers. Antarctic Legacy of South Africa. ISBN 978-0-620-74912-1.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  38. ^ "The killer mice of Gough Island". Financial Times. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  39. ^ "Ridding South Georgia of rats and reindeer". Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  40. ^ "Impressions of an expert. Field work to assess the feasibility of eradicating Marion Island's mice completed". Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  41. ^ Cooper, J. et al., "Earth, fire and water: applying novel techniques to eradicate the invasive plant, procumbent pearlwort Sagina procumbenss, on Gough Island, a World heritage Site in the South Atlantic", Invasive Species Specialist Group, 2010, Retrieved on 12 February 2014.
  42. ^ "Club Log: DXCC Most-Wanted List for April 2016". 23 April 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.


External links

Antarctic realm

The Antarctical realm is one of eight terrestrial biogeographic realms. The ecosystem includes Antarctica and several island groups in the southern Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The continent of Antarctica is so cold and dry that it has supported only 2 vascular plants for millions of years, and its flora presently consists of around 250 lichens, 100 mosses, 25-30 liverworts, and around 700 terrestrial and aquatic algal species, which live on the areas of exposed rock and soil around the shore of the continent. Antarctica's two flowering plant species, the Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis), are found on the northern and western parts of the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica is also home to a diversity of animal life, including penguins, seals, and whales.

Several Antarctic island groups are considered part of the Antarctica realm, including South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, South Orkney Islands, the South Shetland Islands, Bouvet Island, the Crozet Islands, Prince Edward Islands, Heard Island, the Kerguelen Islands, and the McDonald Islands. These islands have a somewhat milder climate than Antarctica proper, and support a greater diversity of tundra plants, although they are all too windy and cold to support trees.

Antarctic krill is the keystone species of the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean, and is an important food organism for whales, seals, leopard seals, fur seals, crabeater seals, squid, icefish, penguins, albatrosses and many other birds. The ocean there is so full of phytoplankton because around the ice continent water rises from the depths to the light flooded surface, bringing nutrients from all oceans back to the photic zone.

On August 20, 2014, scientists confirmed the existence of microorganisms living 800 metres (2,600 feet) below the ice of Antarctica.

Antarctic tern

The Antarctic tern (Sterna vittata) is a typical tern. It ranges throughout the southern oceans. It is very similar in appearance to the closely related Arctic tern, but is stockier, and the wing tips are grey instead of blackish in flight. It is in breeding plumage in the southern summer, when the Arctic tern has moulted to its non-breeding plumage (though this is not useful for separating it from another species, the South American tern).

Breeding takes place from mid-November to early December. Chicks hatch from December to February. Skuas and jaegers are the primary predators of the bird's eggs and young.

The total global population of this bird is around 140,000 individuals.

Black-bellied storm petrel

The black-bellied storm petrel (Fregetta tropica) is a species of seabird in the family Oceanitidae.

It is found in Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Bouvet Island, Brazil, Chile, Falkland Islands, French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, Madagascar, Mozambique, New Zealand, Oman, Peru, Saint Helena, São Tomé and Príncipe, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Uruguay, and Vanuatu.

Black-faced sheathbill

The black-faced sheathbill (Chionis minor), also known as the lesser sheathbill or paddy bird, is one of only two species of sheathbills, aberrant shorebirds which are terrestrial scavengers of subantarctic islands.

Brown skua

The brown skua (Stercorarius antarcticus), also known as the Antarctic skua, subantarctic skua, southern great skua, southern skua, or hākoakoa (Māori), is a large seabird that breeds in the subantarctic and Antarctic zones and moves further north when not breeding. Its taxonomy is highly complex and a matter of dispute, with some splitting it into two or three species: Falkland skua (S. antarcticus), Tristan skua (S. hamiltoni), and subantarctic skua (S. lönnbergi). To further confuse, it hybridizes with both the south polar and Chilean skuas, and the entire group has been considered to be a subspecies of the great skua, a species otherwise restricted to the Northern Hemisphere.

Crozet shag

The Crozet shag (Leucocarbo melanogenis), also known as the South Georgia cormorant, is a marine cormorant native to the Crozet, Prince Edward and Marion in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Fairy prion

The fairy prion (Pachyptila turtur) is a small seabird with the standard prion plumage of black upperparts and white underneath with an "M" wing marking.

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 type locality in 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.

Great-winged petrel

The great-winged petrel (Pterodroma macroptera) is a petrel.

Grey-headed albatross

The grey-headed albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma) also known as the grey-headed mollymawk, is a large seabird from the albatross family. It has a circumpolar distribution, nesting on isolated islands in the Southern Ocean and feeding at high latitudes, further south than any of the other mollymawks. Its name derives from its ashy-grey head, throat and upper neck.

Indian yellow-nosed albatross

The Indian yellow-nosed albatross (Thalassarche carteri) is a member of the albatross family, and is the smallest of the mollymawks. In 2004, BirdLife International split this species from the Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross; however Clements has not split it yet, and the SACC has not either, but recognises the need for a proposal.

Kerguelen tern

The Kerguelen tern (Sterna virgata) is a tern of the southern hemisphere.

This seabird mainly breeds colonially in the Kerguelen Islands, as its common name implies. However, smaller colonies are also found in the Prince Edward Islands (i.e. Prince Edward and Marion) and Crozet Islands. The total number of individuals is from 3,500–6,500 birds, although there is no recent data from the main colony at Kerguelen. These birds do not inhabit Kerguelen proper, instead nesting on islets free of feral cats. During bad weather, they are known to abandon their colonies.

Kerguelen terns are among the least-ranging of all typical terns. They generally do not reach far into the seas near their breeding grounds.

These birds eat fish and marine invertebrates, especially those found in beds of the seaweed Macrocystis spp. They sometimes also hunt insects on land and catch fish from rivers on Kerguelen.

There are two subspecies:

S. v. mercuri (Voisin, 1971) – Crozet and Prince Edward Islands

S. v. virgata (Cabanis, 1875) – Kerguelen Island

King penguin

The king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) is the second largest species of penguin, smaller, but somewhat similar in appearance to the emperor penguin. There are two subspecies: A. p. patagonicus and A. p. halli; patagonicus is found in the South Atlantic and halli in the South Indian Ocean (at the Kerguelen Islands, Crozet Island, Prince Edward Islands and Heard Island and McDonald Islands) and at Macquarie Island.King penguins mainly eat lanternfish, squid and krill. On foraging trips king penguins repeatedly dive to over 100 metres (300 ft), and have been recorded at depths greater than 300 metres (1,000 ft).King penguins breed on the subantarctic islands at the northern reaches of Antarctica, South Georgia, and other temperate islands of the region.

Prince Edward Islands Marine Protected Area

The Prince Edward Island Marine Protected Area is an offshore conservation region near the Prince Edward Islands in the exclusive economic zone of South Africa, nearly 2,000 km southeast of South Africa in the Indian Ocean. The MPA provides habitat for seals, killer whales, breeding seabirds and Patagonian toothfish.

SAS Transvaal

SAS Transvaal was one of three Loch-class frigates in the South African Navy (SAN). She was built as HMS Loch Ard (K602) for the Royal Navy during World War II, but was transferred to the SAN in 1944 before completion and renamed as HMSAS Transvaal. The ship was completed shortly after the German surrender in May 1945 and did not participate in the war.

Transvaal was assigned to ferry troops home from Egypt after the war and participated in the annexation of the Prince Edward Islands in late 1947. Together with her sister ships, the ship made port visits in Middle Africa in 1948. Three years later, she participated in the celebration of Australia's Golden Jubilee. Transvaal received a lengthy refit in the late 1950s. The ship was placed in reserve in 1964 and was sold for scrap in 1977. Transvaal's remains were donated for use as an artificial reef and it was scuttled the following year.

Soft-plumaged petrel

The soft-plumaged petrel (Pterodroma mollis) is a species of seabird in the family Procellariidae.

Subantarctic fur seal

The subantarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus tropicalis) is found in the southern parts of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. It was first described by Gray in 1872 from a specimen recovered in northern Australia—hence the inappropriate specific name tropicalis.

Vela incident

The Vela incident, also known as the South Atlantic Flash, was an unidentified double flash of light detected by an American Vela Hotel satellite on 22 September 1979 near the Prince Edward Islands in the Indian Ocean.

The cause of the flash remains officially unknown, and some information about the event remains classified. While it has been suggested that the signal could have been caused by a meteoroid hitting the satellite, the previous 41 double flashes detected by the Vela satellites were caused by nuclear weapons tests. Today, most independent researchers believe that the 1979 flash was caused by a nuclear explosion — perhaps an undeclared nuclear test carried out by South Africa and Israel.

White-chinned petrel

The white-chinned petrel or Cape hen, Procellaria aequinoctialis, is a large shearwater in the family Procellariidae. It ranges around the Southern Ocean as far north as southern Australia, Peru and Namibia, and breeds colonially on scattered islands.

Climate data for Marion Island (1961–1990, extremes 1949–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 25.6
Average high °C (°F) 10.6
Daily mean °C (°F) 7.2
Average low °C (°F) 4.8
Record low °C (°F) −1.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 219
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 21 18 19 20 22 23 23 22 21 19 19 20 247
Average relative humidity (%) 83 84 84 84 85 86 85 84 83 82 82 83 84
Mean monthly sunshine hours 160.4 134.7 114.2 90.8 82.1 57.5 65.9 91.7 103.9 137.7 159.1 159.9 1,357.9
Source #1: NOAA[27]
Source #2: Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)[28]
Peri-Antarctic countries and overseas territories


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