Heard and McDonald Islands

Home>> World Heritage Sites>> Australia>> Heard and McDonald Islands

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands are an Australian external territory and volcanic group of barren Antarctic islands, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica.

Heard and McDonald Islands, Australia
Heard and McDonald Islands, Australia

The group's overall size is 372 square kilometres (144 sq mi) in area and it has 101.9 km (63 mi) of coastline. Discovered in the mid-19th century, they have been territories of Australia since 1947 and contain the only two active volcanoes in Australian territory, the summit of one of which, Mawson Peak, is higher than any mountain on the Australian mainland. They lie on the Kerguelen Plateau in the Indian Ocean.

Heard and McDonald Islands, Australia
Heard and McDonald Islands, Australia

Heard and McDonald Islands are remote sub-Antarctic volcanic islands located in the southern Indian Ocean about half-way between Australia and South Africa, and just over 1,600 kilometres from Antarctica. The property covers a total area of 658,903 hectares of which about 37,000 hectares is terrestrial, and the remainder marine. The islands are a unique wilderness, containing outstanding examples of biological and physical processes continuing in an environment essentially undisturbed by humans.

Heard and McDonald Islands, Australia
Heard and McDonald Islands, Australia

Heard Island is dominated by Big Ben (an active volcano rising to a height of 2,745 metres), and is largely covered by snow and glaciers. McDonald Island is much smaller, covering only 100 hectares at the time of inscription, and is surrounded by several smaller rocks and islands. The only active sub-Antarctic volcanos are found on these islands, with the volcano on McDonald Island erupting after inscription and doubling the size of the island.

Heard and McDonald Islands, Australia
Heard and McDonald Islands, Australia

The island group's physical processes provide valuable indicators of the role of crustal plates in the formation of ocean basins and continents, of dynamic glacial changes in the coastal and submarine environment, and of atmospheric and oceanic warming. The large populations of marine birds and mammals, combined with a virtual absence of introduced species, provide a unique arena for the maintenance of biological and evolutionary processes.

10