The highest point of elevation on the Australian continent is Mount Kosciuszko of the Great Dividing Range at 2,228 metres (7,310 feet). What is lesser know, however, is that’s it’s not actually the highest point in the country of Australia which encompasses territory beyond the continent. That honour goes Mawson Peak, the volcanic capstone of the Big Ben range, poking above the surface of the Great Southern Ocean on tiny, remote speck known as Heard Island. Mawson Peak reaches 2,745 metres (9,006 feet) above the sea.
Heard Island and the nearby McDonald Islands are not much more than rocky outcrops jutting from the stormy seas surrounding Antarctica. They are nowhere near mainland Australia and in fact they about 4,000 kilometres to the south west. They are not near anything of much significance at all except to seals, birds, adventurers and the occasional scientist. They also provide Australia’s only location with volcanoes and glaciers.
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Heard Island is so remote that it’s believed to have been unseen by human eyes until the mid 19th Century. Its mountains are covered by glaciers, the weather is awful, there are no natural harbors and the seas are unforgiving. Few would ever want to live here. American sealers once occupied the island briefly until about 1880 but left after decimating the local seal population.A number of research expeditions have been conducted in later years including one as recently as the Australian Expedition of 2003-04
. There have also been five private expeditions, three commercial tourist visits and a handful of private yacht landings over the last several decades. These data are tracked by the official Heard Island and McDonald Islands website maintained by the Australian Antarctic Division at http://www.heardisland.aq/
(that “.aq” in the URL is the country code top-level domain designation for Antarctica by the way — you don’t see an address like that everyday!).
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Mawson Peak, the highest point of Australian territory, has been ascended only three times according to the Australian Antarctic Division, “by members of the Southern Indian Ocean Expedition in 1965, by members of the Anaconda expedition in 1983 and by members of the Australian Army Alpine Association in 1999/2000.”They also offer some great maps of Heard Island
if you’re interested in learning more about the geography of this fascinating place.