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. The reserve is surrounded by the Australian Government Macquarie Island Marine Park, the second largest marine protected area in the world.

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 sub-Antarctic station for ANARE. In 1959, the first women to travel south with ANARE as expeditioners collected scientific data in the field for their research. In 1976, the island was also home to the first woman to overwinter at an ANARE station.

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

Management plans aim to preserve the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty of Macquarie Island. One of the most significant conservation plans has been the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program (MIPEP). Completed in April 2014, MIPEP successfully eradicated pests such as rats, rabbits and mice from Macquarie Island.