Macquarie Island research station turns 70

Photo of station with clouds
View south from Wireless Hill over station buildings and Hut Hill to island plateau that is covered with orographic lenticular cloud. (Photo: Barry Becker)
Black and white photo of a group of menGroup of people sitting and eating. Herd of sheep on The Isthmusblack and white photo of men and pigs

Macquarie Island research station celebrates its 70th anniversary this week, as work gets underway to build a new station on the shores of the rugged Tasmanian outpost.

The sub-Antarctic station was officially opened on 21 March 1948, with a team of 14 expeditioners staying for winter. 

Prior to the station’s establishment, Macquarie Island was home to sealing gangs who harvested skins, oil and blubber, until the Island was declared a sanctuary by the Tasmanian Government in 1919.

Unfortunately the sealers and other visitors brought pests to the island, in the form of rabbits, rats and mice. These were successfully eradicated in 2014 after a seven year pest eradication program.

In 2016, the Australian Government announced it would spend $50 million to build a new state-of-the-art research station on Macquarie Island.

The new station is expected to be finished in 2021–22, with the decommissioning of the existing station to follow.

The primary focus of construction will be to minimise the station’s physical size, simplify and reduce long-term station maintenance and incorporate new technologies such as automation of long-term science projects.

Today, the station is home to 14 expeditioners who arrived on Australia’s icebreaker Aurora Australis earlier this month and will spend the next 12 months living and working on the island.

The sub-Antarctic island is named after an early governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie when it was discovered by sealing brig, Perseverance