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Macquarie Island, Australia

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Kriwoken, L and Ellis, C and Holmes, ND (2006) Macquarie Island, Australia. In: Extreme Tourism: Lessons from the World's Cold Water Islands. Elsevier Science, Amsterdam, pp. 193-203. ISBN 0-08-044656-6

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Abstract

Located in the Southern Ocean 1500 km SSE of Tasmania, Macquarie Island is a remote and isolated island located roughly half-way between Australia and the Antarctic continent. This sub-Antarctic island is only 34 km long and up to 5 km wide with a land area of 12.785 ha. Because it is situated in the path of the 'Furious Fifties', the winds that circle the high southern latitudes, on average there are over 300 days of precipitation a year. Macquarie Island lies just north of the Antarctic Convergence zone where cold Antarctic waters mix with relatively wanner northern water. This results in a rough ocean, cold mists, sea-fogs and strong average wind speeds. Steep rocky beaches rise sharply to an undulating plateau roughly 100-300 m above sea level, with the highest point heing Mt Hamilton (433 m). These extreme sub-Antarctic environmental conditions are key factors in the overall distribution and abundance of island flora and fauna. Macqueric Island is home to an abundant and diverse array of wildlife. Approximately, 3.5 million seabirds arrive annually to breed and moult. Most of these visiting seabirds are penguins including 850,000 endemic royal penguins, over 100,000 breeding pairs of king penguins, 5000 breeding pairs of gentoo penguins and rockhopper penguins. Other seabirds include the endemic king cormorant, skuas and four albatross species. Of particular importance are the 15 pairs of the endangered wandering albatross. Four species of seal breed on Macquarie Island, including Antarctic fur seals. sub-Antarctic fur seals, New Zealand fur seals and one-seventh of the world's population of elephant seals (80,000) (PWS, 2003), The limited land mass in the Southern Ocean makes this a particularly important location for birds, seals and sub-Antarctic vegetation. Macquarie Island is also one of the earliest sites occupied by Europeans in Australia. Sites of historical interest from fur seal, elephant seal and penguin oil gathering work gangs are scattered around much of the island and since 1948 there has been a permanent scientific base staffed by Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE), now known as the Australian Antarctic Program (AAP). In addition, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) operate year-round research and management programs. The station occupies a low flat isthmus at the north of the island. The: only access is by sea usually with inflatable rubber craft such as zodiacs. There are no jetties Of landing facilities for ships. Helicopters gain access from ships anchored off the northern eastern coast. From 1987 to 2004, just over 5000 tourists visited the island with commercial tour operators. Tourists arrive on expedition-style ships, typically ice-strengthened or ice breakers, with usually no more than 100 passengers. The nature-based experience is supported by a high level of onboard interpretation from lecturers and expedition staff Visitation is strictly controlled and, in some cases, severe weather docs not allow tourists to disembark. The island is often included as a stop over in a longer expedition to Antarctica or to the New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands. This chapter begins by outlining the management process including the reasons for its World Heritage Area status. The numbers and types of tourists and permitted activities are then discussed. Tourist impacts and issues revolving around tourism supply and demand are then introduced. The chapter concludes by arguing that the harsh environment and the physical challenge of getting to the island enhance the intensity of the experience surrounding this type of cold-water tourism. Tourism is undertaken in a very controlled manner and at present numbers do not Seem to adversely impact the ecology of the island. The only host community consists of researchers and field staff and these people play a role in educating tourists and in the planning and management of the island.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Macquarie Island; sub-Antarctic; Australia; wildlife; tourism; cold-water; nature-based; impacts
Publisher: Elsevier Science
Page Range: pp. 193-203
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2008 02:53
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 03:27
URI: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/id/eprint/2945
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