Marion Island lies at 46°S, 37°E in the Southern Indian Ocean, 2160 km from East Pier, Cape Town Harbour.
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 Mascarin Peak, it’s highest point at 1,230m. 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.
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.