The small and remote Macquarie Island is a part of Australia. This island has several interesting features, such as:

  • Unique geology of the island: this island is a horst – a raised block of oceanic crust. There are not many places in the world where the oceanic crust is exposed above the sea level and Macquarie Island is the best section of oceanic crust worldwide. It is possible that here are exposed even the rocks of the upper mantle what is a very rare case.
  • Penguin colonies: on the island have been spotted nine species of penguins – approximately half of the total number of species. Royal penguins (Eudyptes schlegeli) breed only on Macquarie Island and nearby islands. In total in this island live some 850,000 royal penguins (estimate for 1987). Together with other species, they form enormous, very impressive breeding colonies with millions of birds. There live also thousands of seals on the island.

There are other endemic species in this island as well. Macquarie shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps purpurascens) is subspecies of Imperial shag. Only some 400 – 500 breeding pairs remain on Macquarie Island and maximum 100 pairs on nearby Bishop and Clerk Islets.

Island contains also several endemic species of mites (Nanorchestes), some six endemic species of flies, one land snail, one moth, some earthworms.

Wildlife sanctuary here was established in 1933, in 1997 the island became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Most interesting wonders of Macquarie Island

Royal penguins in Macquarie Island
Royal penguins in Macquarie Island / M.Murphy, Wikimedia Commons, public domain
  • Exposures of oceanic crust in the north-western part of Macquarie Island – exposures of basic and ultrabasic rocks formed under the ocean in Miocene and Pliocene. Unique, near-complete section of oceanic crust, providing very important geological information of global importance.
  • Hurd Point penguin colony – very southern part of island. Largest colony if royal penguins in the world, with some 180,000 breeding pairs.
  • Penguin colony of Lusitania Bay – south-eastern coast of island. Giant colony of royal penguins. Lusitania Bay colony recently has been fully occupied and penguins are coming to other parts of island as well. In 1980 here were living 218 000 birds.
  • Sandy Bay penguin colony – another very impressive penguin colony. Basically bird colonies are all around the island. Sandy Bay was inhabited by king penguins in 1975.
  • Aurora Cave – western coast. Impressive sea cave in a relict sea stack. Now it has risen out of the sea and is surrounded by featherbed – wetland. There are several such caves on island – they can be important sources of information about the species of seals and birds living here in the past.

Described landmarks of Macquarie Island

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Video of Macquarie Island

Ruedi Abbühl, August 2013

Recommended books

A Hostile Beauty: Life on Macquarie Island

With stunning landscape photographs and informative essays, this pictorial explores Australia’s Macquarie Island, a sliver of unexpected rock in the vast Southern Ocean. Touching upon the island’s unique history—including shipwrecks, seal slaughters, and a damaged ecosystem resulting from human interference—this record with an ecological theme is a tribute to one of the world’s great wildlife refuges.

Subantarctic Wilderness: Macquarie Island

A tiny speck of land caught between Australia and Antarctica, Macquarie Island is as remote and rugged as it is beautiful. Despite its small size, for huge numbers of seals, penguins, and albatrosses this raw, elemental landscape is a sanctuary, while for humans it has long been a base for the exploitation of wildlife and for intrepid adventurers. Lavishly illustrated with exemplary photography and specially commissioned artwork, this stunning volume explores all aspects of Macquarie Island, including its rich history and life on the island today, its geology and plant life, and the stunning variety of wildlife that call the isle home.

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