The island, located at the southern tip of Australia, about 5 km wide and 34 km long, is the only place on earth where the sea floor appears above the sea surface. The island is of volcanic origin and is covered by tundra vegetation, trees do not grow here. There are large penguin colonies on Macquarie Island. Skuas and petrels also live in the bird paradise. Ducks, rabbits and rats were introduced.
Macquarie Island: Facts
|Official title:||Macquarie Island|
|Natural monument:||the 34 km long and up to 5 km wide Macquarie Island as part of the sub-sea level Macquarie Ridge and raised as part of the Indo-Australian Plate, protected since 1933; also Bishop, Judge and Clerk Islets and surrounding ocean areas with reefs; Area of 127.85 km²|
|Continent:||Australia / Oceania; See usprivateschoolsfinder|
|Location:||Macquarie Island, 1500 km southeast of Tasmania|
|Meaning:||the only part of the earth where the sea floor is visible above sea level|
|Flora and fauna:||46 types of vascular plants and 80 types of moss, as well as 141 types of lichen, over 100 types of algae and 135 types of fungi; Orca, southern right and common pilot whale, southern duck and cuvier-beaked whale, Weddell seal, southern elephant seal, New Zealand and Kerguelen fur seal, Auckland sea lion, leopard seal; 72 species of birds, including up to 660 breeding pairs of an endemic subspecies of the king cormorant, approx. 5000 breeding pairs of gentoo penguin and up to 500,000 breeding pairs of rockhopper penguin, black-browed albatross and wandering albatross|
Island of the penguins
Course 54 ° 30 ‘South and 158 ° 57’ East – if you want to visit Macquarie Island, you have a long way to go. Hundreds of kilometers lie between this island and Tasmania, one of the six Australian states to which the island also known as “Macca” belongs. About halfway between Australia and Antarctica, in the stormy latitudes of the so-called »angry fifties«, steadily blowing westerly winds ensure mostly foggy and cold weather, frequent precipitation and an increasingly rough sea.
Together with seven other archipelagos, Macquarie Island is one of those remote animal paradises in the Sub-Antarctic that trace the line of the »Antarctic Convergence«. Where the north-flowing cold surface water of the Southern Ocean sinks below the warmer water of the three adjoining oceans, the sea is particularly rich in plant plankton. Countless small organisms feed on it, including the krill. This luminescent crab, which is only a few centimeters long, is at the center of the Southern Ocean’s food chain.
Krill is also the main food for the type of penguin that can only be found on Macquarie: the crested penguin. Around 850,000 breeding pairs populate the island during the breeding season! The other three species of penguin that breed here are the small rockhopper penguin, the red-beaked gentoo penguin and the majestic king penguin, the second largest species of penguin in the world. The more interesting breeding birds also include various species of petrels and shearwaters, a subspecies native to Macquarie of the royal cormorant, which is also found in the Falkland Islands, and four species of the albatross. The largest among them is the wandering albatross, which has a wingspan of up to three and a half meters!
Since penguins appear in huge numbers on this remote Australian island, you don’t have to look far for them, especially since the terrain is quite clear. Nowhere is the rock plateau with its numerous lakes higher than 433 meters. Due to the cool sea climate that prevails here, no trees and bushes thrive on the island. The tallest clumps of tussock grass and the large-leaved, rhubarb-like Macquarie cabbage, which was once valued by seafarers as an effective remedy for scurvy because of its high vitamin C content, are among the largest plants.
Most of the animals can be found on the coast. Not to be overlooked are the southern elephant seals, giants weighing tons that have settled here by the tens of thousands. In addition to these, the three species of fur seal native to the island look downright graceful. All of them were ruthlessly pursued during the 19th century. As early as the day of its discovery in 1810, the bloody seal-hitting began. This involved both the fur of the fur seals and the fat of the elephant seal. The king and crested penguins, tens of thousands of which were boiled into oil, later suffered a similarly harsh fate.
Only the visit of the Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson in 1911 ushered in the turning point. Thanks to his efforts, the slaughter of elephant seals, fur seals and penguins has ended. Years later, the island was declared a protected area and in 1948 a permanent station for the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions was established. Today it is the only human “settlement” on the island and the first port of call for every ship heading for the island.
Biologists and geologists work at this station, for whom Macquarie Island offers the unique opportunity to study the seabed with dry feet. This island was never part of a continent, but owes its creation to the collision of the Indo-Australian and Pacific plates, in the course of which the Macquarie Ridge was pushed back. Probably 300,000 years ago, the first piece of ocean floor broke through the surface of the sea – the “island of penguins” was born!
The influence of humans on the island can still be felt today: In September 2006 rabbit burrows caused a severe landslide on the east coast of the island, killing many birds, such as the penguins that broke there. This preceded the shooting of the feral domestic cats there until the year 2000, which led to the rabbits multiplying. Due to the threat to the ecosystem from rabbits and rats, the populations were destroyed by specially trained hunters until 2012.