Heard Island and McDonald Islands are located in the Southern Ocean, approximately 1,700 km from the Antarctic continent and 4,100 km south-west of Perth. As the only volcanically active subantarctic islands they ‘open a window into the earth’, thus providing the opportunity to observe ongoing geomorphic processes and glacial dynamics. The distinctive conservation value of Heard and McDonald – one of the world’s rare pristine island ecosystems – lies in the complete absence of alien plants and animals, as well as human impact.
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 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. 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.
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