About 1500 kilometers north of the icy continent of Antarctica and 4,000 kilometers south west of continental Australia lays one of the stormiest parts of planet earth. Apparently, this particular spot is where the Antarctic temperate ocean meets with the Indian Ocean. It is in these surroundings that one finds one of the most interesting islands on earth – The Heard and McDonalds Islands.
Their volcanic nature allows geologists to study the earth processes such as glacial movements and geological processes. The island’s remoteness brings forth some of the rarest flora and fauna.
On the principal Heard Island, visitors will be mesmerized by the Big Ben Mountain, with its Mawson Peak (2745 meters) being an active volcano. The last eruption on the mountain happened in 1992, although some continuous volcanicity can be seen to date. As the winds from the southern bang on the towering Big Ben, an array of weather conditions that varies in seconds are created in the Heard Island. It can be windy this minute and the next it is completely dark as the thick clouds cover the sun.
The other island is McDonalds Island which is located approximately 43.5 kilometers west of the Heard Island. Among the McDonald Islands group, the McDonald is the largest, but there is also the Meyer Rock and Flat Island. Like Heard Island, McDonald is also volcanic and its ecosystem has seen no man disturbance over the centuries.
The most intriguing feature of these islands is the 2-million strong macaroni pairs penguin which is about 16% of the total world population. There is no other place on the globe that you can find such a huge population of penguins in such a small geographical region. Other wildlife you will encounter include; seals and flying birds.
The islands also feature intricate webs of lava-made caves as well as an expansive sand plain called the Nullarbor Plain.
The Islands are the only volcanic sub-antarctic island groups. They contain no species that have been directly introduced by man and as such this rarity coupled with ecosystems that comprises of coastal, freshwater, amphibious and terrestrial biodiversity is a major draw to those that are interested in the science of evolution.