Heard Island and McDonald Islands

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The UK transferred these uninhabited, barren, sub-Antarctic islands to Australia in 1947. Populated by large numbers of seal and bird species, the islands have been designated a nature preserve.



islands in the Indian Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica

Geographic coordinates

53.06° S, 72.31° E

Area 203/257

total: 412 sq km

land: 412 sq km

water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly more than two times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km


101.9 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm




Heard Island - 80% ice-covered, bleak and mountainous, dominated by a large massif (Big Ben) and an active volcano (Mawson Peak); McDonald Islands - small and rocky


mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m

highest point: Mawson Peak on Big Ben volcano 2,745 m

Natural resources


Land use

agricultural land: 0%

arable land 0%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 0%

forest: 0%

other: 100% (2011 est.)

Natural hazards

Mawson Peak, an active volcano, is on Heard Island

Environment - current issues


Geography - note

Mawson Peak on Heard Island is the highest Australian mountain (at 2,745 meters, it is taller than Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia proper), and one of only two active volcanoes located in Australian territory, the other being McDonald Island; in 1992, McDonald Island broke its dormancy and began erupting; it has erupted several times since, most recently in 2005

People and Society




Country name

conventional long form: Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands

conventional short form: Heard Island and McDonald Islands

abbreviation: HIMI

etymology: named after American Captain John HEARD, who sighted the island on 25 November 1853, and American Captain William McDONALD, who discovered the islands on 4 January 1854

Legal system

the laws of Australia, where applicable, apply

Flag description

the flag of Australia is used


Economy - overview

The islands have no indigenous economic activity, but the Australian Government allows limited fishing in the surrounding waters. Visits to Heard Island typically focus on terrestrial and marine research and infrequent private expeditions.


Internet country code


Internet hosts 208/232

102 (2012)


Ports and terminals

none; offshore anchorage only

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international