Tasmania's journal of discovery

Volcanic ‘toothpaste’ doubles island’s size

McDonald Island, an isolated companion to Heard Island — itself a barren outpost — has doubled in size in recent weeks according to satellite photographs.

The chief scientist with the Australian Antarctic program, Professor Michael Stoddart, says it appears the volcanic eruption is not violent. “This is more like a gentle squeezing of the toothpaste tube, where the toothpaste is coming out of the top and running down the side,” he said.

“It’s a slow oozing of a very thick sticky, magma … so we’re not going to see all sorts of pyrotechnics.”

The remoteness of the area usually makes it difficult to study, with scientists relying on satellite images, which was how the recent activity was picked up.

The island is just 44 kilometres from Australia’s only other active volcano, on Heard Island, which has not erupted in recent times.

Cuddly and furry

baby fur seal

Heard Island is home to large populations of mammals, especially elephant seals and fur seals, including this cuddly youngster. Meet more furry denizens from the bleakness of the subantarctic island here.

Birds of a feather

beach bloodlust

A bleak environment on Heard Island is home to many species of hardy seabirds, including the skuas and petrels fighting over carcasses washed ashore after a storm. More here.

Self portrait at depth

giant squid

This inquisitive deepwater squid triggered the underwater camera being towed by the Aurora Australis during the 2004 Heard Island expedition. Explore further here.

Into the maw of Big Ben

Hobart volcanologist and geologist Dr Graeme Wheller recalls his journey to Australia’s only volcano on isolated Heard Island. Explore more here.

Heard Island’s penguin paradise


This penguin couple, captured in a rare moment of isolation, look like they like their nesting spot, but are probably not happy about the neighbours below. Read more here about the four species that call Heard Island home.

more penguins

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