Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Heard Island and McDonald Islands
Heard Island and the McDonald Islands are uninhabited, barren islands located in the Southern Ocean at , about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica. They have been part of Australia since 1947.
Heard Island is bleak and mountainous, and dominated by Mawson Peak , a 2745-meter-high volcano on the Big Ben massif. Mawson Peak is the highest Australian mountain. The McDonald Islands are small and rocky. They total 412 km˛ in area, and are on the Kerguelen Plateau . They have no ports or harbors.
The islands are a territory of Australia administered from Canberra 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 have been designated a nature preserve and are primarily visited for research.
Heard Island did not have visitors until 1833. 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 in 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. Coincidentally, Captain William McDonald aboard the Samarang discovered the McDonald Islands close to Heard Island shortly afterwards 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. 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. 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.
- CIA World Factbook entry
- MODIS satellite image, taken September 30, 2004 and showing a von Kármán vortex street in the clouds, caused by Mawson Peak's effect on the wind
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve official website
- World Heritage Site entry
- Fan's page with further historical and geographic information and a map
- Image gallery
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