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Marion Island

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Marion Island lies at 46°52'34" South 37°51'32" East in the Southern Indian Ocean.

Marion Island is 19 km long by 12 km wide, and the two islands have a combined area of 316 square km and politically form part of South Africa's Western Cape Province. The islands are volcanic in origin, with Marion having many hillocks (secondary craters) and small lakes. Prince Edward Island has spectacular cliffs up to 490m high on its south western side.

Marion is the higher of the two islands, and State President Peak, it's highest point at 1,230m, is permanently covered in snow and ice. It is surrounded by a large number of secondary craters, betraying its volcanic origin. There is little vegetation, except for lichen, in the island's centre. Elsewhere the vegetation is mainly mosses and ferns, and the terrain is very boggy. This is due to the abundant snow and rain. There are no trees, due to the persistent, strong westerly winds commonly termed the Roaring Forties.

Marion Island

Position of Marion Island
Marion Island's position relative to the rest of the world.

Prince Edward Islands map
Marion Island
(click for large view of Marion and Prince Edward Island)


Biological/environmental research is a major function of the Marion Island base (weather data collection being the other). Close to 1000 scientific papers and dozens of post-graduate theses have been produced from research on Marion, and the long-term biological monitoring programmes provide exceptional research potential into the rate and impacts of climate change as a result of global warming.

The research on Marion Island focuses mainly on the following themes:

  • Weather and Climate studies;

  • the interactions between marine and terrestrial systems;

  • the life histories of seals, seabirds and killer whales;

  • the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and

  • the structure and functioning of near shore ecosystems.
Marine life on Marion Island
64th Marion Overwintering Team

The station on Marion Island is usually manned by the following personnel:

  • 1 Senior meteorologist
  • 2 Meteorologist assistants
  • 1 Medical orderly
  • 1 Radio technician
  • 1 Diesel mechanic
  • Various field assistants/biologists
The overwintering team will stay there until the new relief team arrives. They will have spent about thirteen months on the island.
Marion island map (click to enlarge)