South-African National Antarctic Programme
Home > Stations > Marion Island > Life at the base

Marion Island - Life at the base

History          Life at the base          Teams          Newsletters          Weather          Gallery          News

Marion Island base

Marion base
Photo: Beneke de Wet

The Island...

Marion Island and prince Edward are two islands close to one another which constitute the Prince Edward Islands Group.

The Prince Edward Islands exhibit a rare potential for the study of ecological processes, the monitoring of ecological change and the preservation of biological diversity. The intrinsic ecological value exceeds all other values and as custodian, the DEA aims to ensure that they are afforded the highest possible conservation status.

To protect the nationally and internationally important values, a proclamation of the Prince Edward Islands to the low-water mark as Special Nature Reserves under Section 18 of the Environmental Act 1089 (Act 73 of 1989) was passed on 3 November 1995.

The Prince Edward islands are managed by the Prince Edward Islands management committee (PEIMC) through the Prince Edward islands Management Plan (PEIMP). This committee has an advisory function to the Director General of the DEA.

SwampIce CaveCoast line


Marion island , the larger of the two islands, is approximately 24 km x 16 km in , and rises to 1 186 m above sea level.

Apart from the fringe of grass on top of the cliffs, the foothills only have a covering of soft, spongy and mossy vegetation which, together with the high rainfall, create swampy conditions and make walking difficult.

Go to our Gallery to see more landscape pictures...



The weather in general is cold, cloudy and windy. The average annual temperature is about 5C, with only about 29% sunshine per year. The mean maximum and minimum temperatures are 8.1C and 2.8C respectively, but temperatures as low as -4C to -6C occur frequently throughout the year. The annual rainfall is 2 500 mm, spread fairly evenly throughout the year. There are frequent gales on Marion, which lies within the "roaring forties" latitudes. The mean wind speed is bout 60% higher than that of Cape Town.


elephant Seals can be found amongst the boulders of the few beaches. As may be expected there are many penguins; hundreds of thousands sit around in their breeding colonies at various points around the coast. These include the King, Rockhopper, Macaroni and Gentoo Penguins. During the summer the Wandering, sooty and Grey-headed Albatross may be seen around the cliffs and for example several species of the Petrel family as well as kelp Gulls and sub-Antarctic Skuas.

Visit the Gallery to see more wildlife pictures...

Gentoo Penguin and chick
Gentoo Penguin and chicks


The previous Marion base got old and unsuitable to live in. A new base was constructed which provides better facilities for its occupants as well as state of the art laboratories to continue important research on the island.

Food, clothing, medical facilities as well as recreational facilities are provided at the base.

Click here for a full inside view of the old Marion base.

(Most of the photos are courtesy of Beneke de Wet - Marion, Sanae and Gough Expeditionist)