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Natural Wonders of the Polar Regions
Arctic
Antarctic
The Polar Plateau
Mount Erebus
Antarctic Sea Ice
Dry Valleys
Antarctic Peninsula

 

 

 

 

Heard & McDonald Islands
Southern Ocean
Earth's Natural Wonders in the Polar Regions
Height of Big Ben: 9,006 feet (2,745 m)
Thickness of icecap: 492 feet (150 m)
Highest point: 755 feet (230 m)
 
Heard island and McDonald Islands lie on the Kerguelen-Heard submarine plateau and rise from the Southern Ocean just south of the border between icy southern and warmer northern waters, the Antarctic Convergence.
 
Location of Heard and McDonald Islands[1]

 

Geography

Location of Heard and McDonald Islands
Heard Island, by far the largest of the group, is a 368-square-kilometre (142 sq mi) bleak and mountainous island. Its mountains are covered in glaciers (the island is 80% covered with ice[5]) and dominated by Mawson Peak, a 2,745-metre (9,006 ft) high complex volcano which forms part of the Big Ben massif.

Mawson Peak is the highest Australian mountain (higher than Mount Kosciuszko), and one of only 2 active volcanoes in Australian territory, the other being McDonald Island. A long thin spit named "Elephant Spit" extends from the east of the island.

There is a small group of islets and rocks about 10 kilometres (6 mi) north of Heard Island, consisting of Shag Islet, Sail Rock, Morgan Island and Black Rock. They total approximately 1.1 square kilometres (0.4 sq mi) in area.

The McDonald Islands are located 44 kilometres (27 mi) to the west of Heard Island . The islands are small and rocky and consist of McDonald Island (230 metres (750 ft) high), Flat Island (55 metres (180 ft) high) and Meyer Rock (170 metres (560 ft) high). They total approximately 2.5 square kilometres (1.0 sq mi) in area and, as with Heard Island, are surface exposures of the Kerguelen Plateau.

The volcano on McDonald Island, after being dormant for 75,000 years, erupted in 1992 and has erupted again several times since, its most recent eruption being on 10 August 2005.

Heard Island and the McDonald Islands have no ports or harbours; ships must anchor offshore. The coastline is 101.9 kilometres (63.3 mi), and a 12-nautical-mile (22 km) territorial sea and 200-nautical-mile (370 km) exclusive fishing zone are claimed.

The islands have an Antarctic climate, tempered by their maritime setting. The weather is marked by low seasonal and daily temperature ranges, persistent and generally low cloud cover, frequent precipitation and strong winds. Monthly average temperatures at Atlas Cove (at the northwestern end of Heard Island) range from 0.0 °C (32 °F) to 4.2 °C (39.6 °F), with an average daily range of 3.7 °C (38.7 °F) to 5.2 °C (41.4 °F) in summer and -0.8 °C (31 °F) to 0.3 °C (32.5 °F) in winter. The winds are predominantly westerly and persistently strong. At Atlas Cove, monthly average wind speeds range between around 26 to 33.5 km/h. Gusts in excess of 180 km/h have been recorded. Annual precipitation at sea level on Heard Island is in the order of 1.3 to 1.9 m; rain or snow falls on about 3/4 of days.

The antipode to the central Mawson Peak of Heard Island is located less than 70 kilometres (43 mi) West by south of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada.


History
Neither island cluster had visitors until the mid-1850s. Peter Kemp, a British sealer, is the first person thought to have seen the island. On 27 November 1833, he spotted it from the brig Magnet during a voyage from Kerguelen to the Antarctic and was believed to have entered the island on his 1833 chart.

An American sealer, Captain John Heard, on the ship Oriental, sighted the island on 25 November 1853, en route from Boston to Melbourne. He reported the discovery one month later and had the island named after him. Captain William McDonald aboard the Samarang discovered the nearby McDonald Islands six weeks later, on 4 January 1854.

No landing was made on the islands until March 1855, when sealers from the Corinthian, led by Captain Erasmus Darwin Rogers, went ashore at a place called Oil Barrel Point. In the sealing period from 1855-1880, a number of American sealers spent a year or more on the island, living in appalling conditions in dark smelly huts, also at Oil Barrel Point. At its peak the community consisted of 200 people. By 1880, most of the seal population had been wiped out and the sealers left the island. In all, more than 100,000 barrels of elephant seal oil was produced during this period.

There are a number of wrecks in the vicinity of the islands.

The islands have been a territory of Australia since 1947, when they were transferred from the U.K. The archipelago became a World Heritage Site in 1997.


Administration and economy
The islands are a territory (Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands) of Australia administered from Hobart by the Australian Antarctic Division of the Australian Department of the Environment and Water Resources. They are populated by large numbers of seal and bird species. The islands are contained within a 65,000-square-kilometre (25,000 sq mi) marine reserve and are primarily visited for research. There is no permanent human habitation.

From 1947 until 1955 there were camps of visiting scientists on Heard Island (at Atlas Cove in the northwest, which was in 1969 again occupied by American scientists and expanded in 1971 by French scientists) and in 1971 on McDonald Island (at Williams Bay). Later expeditions used a temporary base at Spit Bay in the northeast, such as in 1988, 1992–93 and 2004–2005.[2]

 

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References
 
1. Wikimedia Commons- Heard & McDonald Islands-Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 7/25/2009
2.  Wikipedia- Heard & McDonald Islands-retrieved 7/29/2009
 
 
 Wikipedia  text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

 

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