Cultural heritage on Macquarie Island

Macquarie Island Shipping Station 1911, sealers moving barrels of penguin oil.
Macquarie Island Shipping Station 1911, sealers moving barrels of penguin oil.
Macquarie Island is situated on a narrow isthmus

Lying roughly midway between Tasmania and Antarctica, Macquarie Island is a long, narrow, steep-sided plateau only 34 kilometres long and 5.5 kilometres wide at its broadest point. It is cold and windy, with frequent low cloud and strong westerly winds. Its nickname of ‘The Sponge’ is well earned: it experiences over 300 rainy days a year.

Macquarie Island has a long history of human presence from the early nineteenth century, and has been occupied by ANARE since 1948. In 1997 Macquarie Island was declared a World Heritage Area.

Of Australia’s four permanent research stations, the ANARE station at Buckles Bay on the northern isthmus of the island is the oldest. It is now the only permanent subantarctic station for ANARE, and was host to Australia’s first women expeditioners to travel south with ANARE in 1959. The island was also home to the first woman to overwinter with ANARE in 1976.

From the Buckles Bay station, walking tracks lead to field huts in other parts of the island. Scattered reminders of past lives on Macquarie include the remains of the island’s earlier sealers and of its first scientific station.

Mawson’s 1911–14 Australian Antarctic Expedition (AAE), studied many aspects of the island and also used it as a relay post for the first radio link between Australia and Antarctica. During this period, the first meteorological reporting and magnetic recordings were undertaken as well as extensive biological and botanical studies.

A number of archaeological and cultural heritage management plans have been prepared for Macquarie Island and a cultural heritage management plan is in preparation specifically for the ANARE station area at Buckles Bay. This is a joint undertaking by the AAD and the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS), which manages the island for the state of Tasmania.

The PWS is currently preparing a new management plan for the Nature Reserve and its marine extension to three nautical miles.