Scientific research and management activities are not the only reasons for visiting Heard Island.

However, the high costs and substantial logistical arrangements required to access the island, and operate there, have meant that private expeditions and commercial tourist visits have been infrequent and brief.

Private expeditions

There have been five private expeditions to Heard Island between 1965 and 2000.

First was the Southern Indian Ocean Expedition to Heard Island which visited in 1964/65 with the aim of climbing Big Ben. The climbers were landed at Capsize Beach – so named as the surf overturned their boats on landing – and successfully reached the summit on 25 January 1965.

A second mountaineering expedition visited Heard Island in early 1983 and was successful in its attempt to ascend Big Ben, reaching the summit on two occasions.

Another expedition was present on Heard Island at that same time. This group consisted mainly of ham-radio enthusiasts, but a small mountaineering team was also landed, and made an unsuccessful attempt to climb Big Ben.

Another ham-radio expedition spent less than three weeks at Atlas Cove in January 1997. They established their own camp and made more than 80,000 contacts with other ham-radio operators around the world.

The third ascent of Big Ben was made in 1999/00 by a small team of four climbers from the Australian Army.

Several small yachts have also visited Heard Island since the early 1970s.

Commercial tourist visits

Tourists have landed on Heard Island three times – in 1992, 1997 and 2002 – in each case from the Russian ice breaking vessel Kapitan Khlebnikov at Spit Bay and/or Atlas Cove.