Heard Island and McDonald Islands

Location of Heard and McDonald Islands
Location of Heard and McDonald Islands

Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI [1]) are uninhabited, barren islands located in the Southern Ocean at , about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica. They have been territories of Australia since 1947, and contain the only two active volcanoes in Australian territory, one of which, Mawson Peak, is the highest Australian mountain. The group's size is 372 km² in area.




Heard Island (368 km²) is bleak and mountainous, covered in glaciers and dominated by Mawson Peak, a 2745 metre high volcano which forms part of the Big Ben massif. Heard Island is located at 53°06′00″S, 073°31′00″E. Mawson Peak is the highest Australian mountain (527m higher than Mount Kosciuszko), and one of only 2 active volcanoes in Australian territory.

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

A long thin spit named Elephant Spit' extends from the east of the island.

McDonald Islands, located 44 km to the west of Heard Island, are small and rocky. McDonald Islands are located at 53°03′00″S, 72°37′00″E. They consist of McDonald Island (230 m high), Flat Island (55 m high) and Meyer Rock (170 m high). They total approximately 2.5 km² in area and, as with Heard Island, are surface exposures of the Kerguelen Plateau.

There is a small group of islets and rocks about 10 km north of Heard Island, consisting of Shag Islet, Sail Rock, Morgan Island and Black Rock. They total approximately 1.1 km² in area.

Heard Island and the McDonald Islands have no ports or harbours.


Administration and economy

The islands are a territory of Australia administered from Hobart by the Australian Antarctic Division of the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage. They are populated by large numbers of seal and bird species. The islands are contained within a 65,000 square kilometre marine reserve and are primarily visited for research.

From 1947 until the 1950s there were camps of visiting scientists on Heard Island (at Atlas Cove) and in 1971 on McDonald Island (at Williams Bay).

There is no economic activity, but they have been assigned the country code HM and Internet top-level domain .hm.



Heard Island, from NASA World Wind
Heard Island, from NASA World Wind

Heard Island did not have visitors until the mid-1850s. It is probable that no human had ever seen the island until this time. Peter Kemp, a British sealer (seal hunter), was the first person thought to have seen the island on November 27, 1833, from the brig Magnet during a voyage from Kerguelen to the Antarctic and was believed to have entered the island on his 1833 chart.

Captain John Heard, an American sealer on the ship Oriental, sighted the island on November 25, 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 McDonald Islands close to Heard Island six weeks later, on January 4, 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, and became a World Heritage Site in 1997.


See also



  1. Commonwealth of Australia. About Heard Island - Human Activities. Retrieved on 2006-10-21.

External links

Peri-Antarctic countries and overseas territories

Argentina  ·  Australia (Heard Island and McDonald Islands · Macquarie Island)  ·  Chile  ·  Falkland Islands  ·  French Southern and Antarctic Lands  ·  New Zealand (Campbell Island)  ·  Norway (Bouvetøya)  ·  South Africa (Prince Edward Islands)  ·  South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

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