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Media Release

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment

50 YEARS AT REMOTE SUB-ANTARCTIC MACQUARIE ISLAND


21 March 1998

Senator Ian Macdonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, today congratulated the Antarctic Division and the men and women of ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions) on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the research station at remote Macquarie Island.

"Macquarie Island is ANARE's oldest continuously occupied station, and is the world's oldest continuously operated station below 50 degrees south" said Senator Macdonald.

"Australians can be proud of the work undertaken at Macquarie Island and elsewhere by Australia's Antarctic program" Senator Macdonald said. "The research work, undertaken in some of the world's most difficult conditions, is of both international and practical importance."

"Dating as far back as last century, Macquarie Island has been a centre for scientific research. This proud tradition continues through to the present day, with studies in biology, botany, auroral physics, meteorology and medical research."

Senator Macdonald said "I am pleased to be able to participate in the commemoration of this significant anniversary for one of the world's most remote and special places."

Its ice-free shores and proximity to Antarctica make Macquarie Island a haven for wildlife, with large colonies of seals, penguins and other sea birds. This abundance of wildlife provides scientists with valuable opportunities for research. In earlier times, these populations were exploited for pelts and oil with devastating effect on some species.

"Fortunately, the Island and its wildlife are now protected and Macquarie Island is a nature reserve, being inscribed on the World Heritage List in December 1997. Its inclusion followed the Federal Government's nomination of Macquarie Island, and Australia's other sub-Antarctic islands - Heard Island and the McDonald Islands - for world heritage listing in 1996."

The 50th anniversary will be observed on the Station with the unveiling on Senator Macdonald's behalf of a commemorative plaque. An Art exhibition mounted by the 30 men and women currently working there will also be held during the afternoon. Senator Macdonald wished the group well for the coming festivities and a safe and productive stay on the Island.

21 March 1998

Contact Information:

For interviews contact Senator Macdonald on 0418 180 037 or for further information, contact James Shevlin on ph: 02 6277 3668 or 0417 717 935.

Historic B&W video footage of the establishment of the Macquarie Island station in 1948 is available by contacting James Shevlin on the above numbers, or Paula Randall at Senator Macdonald's Electoral Office on 07 4771 3066 or 0419 238 756. Still photos are available in electronic format by contacting James Shevlin.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON MACQUARIE ISLAND

Macquarie Island is a sub-antarctic island located in the Southern Ocean at a latitude of 54 degrees 30 minutes south, 158 degrees 57 minutes east. It is 1500 kilometres south east of Tasmania and 1300 kilometres north of the Antarctic continent.

Macquarie Island, or "Macca" as it is generally referred to, is 34 kilometres long and 5 kilometres wide at its widest point. It has a total surface area of 128 square kilometres. It is part of the state of Tasmania, and is a State Reserve managed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.

Macca is home to a large variety of wildlife. Elephant and Fur seals breed on the island as do Royal, King, Gentoo and Rockhopper penguins. The Royal Penguin is only found on Macquarie Island. A penguin rookery at Hurd Point at the southern end of the island is home to over a million birds during the breeding season.

Discovery of the island is attributed to Captain Frederick Hasselborough of the brig Perseverance who sighted it whilst on a sealing voyage out of Sydney in July 1810. Hasselborough named the place after the then governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie. His discovery was to lead to intensive exploitation of the local fauna and by the end of that year bases were established on the island to take fur seals for their skins and elephant seals for their oil. These commercial activities had a devastating effect on seal and penguin populations with some species still recovering.

During the period 1911-14 Sir Douglas Mawson established the first scientific station on the island and, in addition to conducting geomagnetic observations and mapping the island, studies were made of the island's botany, zoology, meteorology and geology. The Macquarie Island expedition also established the first radio link between Australia and Antarctica by setting up a radio relay station on Wireless Hill that could communicate with Mawson's main expedition group at Commonwealth Bay and with Australia.

The island was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1933 and, with the establishment of the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1971, Macquarie Island became a Conservation Area. It was upgraded to a State Reserve in 1972 and in 1978 was renamed the Macquarie Island Nature Reserve. The Australian Government nominated Macquarie Island for inscription on the World Heritage List in June 1996. The nomination was made jointly with the Tasmanian Government. Macquarie Island was inscribed on the World Heritage List on 3 December 1997.

ANARE operates a research station at the northern end of the island. The station was constructed in 1948 and is home to up to 44 people over the summer and 20 over the winter. A wide variety of research is carried out on the island including biology, botany, auroral physics, meteorology and medical research.

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