Scattered by cones
Volcanic cones (150 in total) on Marion Island almost appear are spots on a teenagers face. In addition a large portion of the island is covered in A’a and pahoehoe flows, the vegetated ones could be less than 100 years old. Marion is one of the peaks of a large submarine shield volcano that rises 500m from the bottom of the sea. Mascarin peak, the highest point on Marion is 1242m high. Eruptions have occurred in 1980 and 2004. It’s South Africa’s only historically known active volcano.
Together with smaller neighbor Prince Edward Island Marion is collectively known as the Prince Edward islands and is located 1769 km from the South African mainland and a little bit further away from Antarctica.
On average it rains 320 days a year. Thus Marion is rightly known as one of the cloudiest places in the world. Due to the wetness of the climate the island is covered with bog, lichen and other subarctic vegetation. There is not much difference between winter and summer on the island, it is always wet, with threat of snow and frost. The strong westerly winds that roam the island are branded the Roaring Forties
Marion was discovered by the Dutch ship Maerseveen in 1663, however it was not until 1772 that someone actually sat foot on it. Frenchman Joseph Marion du Fresne was in the preconception that he had made it to Antarctica. It took him 5 days to discover he was on two small islands. Again in 1803 the island was visited by sealers. In 1947 South Africa annexed the island and based a meteorological station there. There are no permanent inhabitants.
The introduction of cats on the island (in the first place brought here to deal with the problem of mice) caused the grey petrel to become extinct. Supposedly the cats managed to eat about half a million birds in 1975 alone. The cat eradication programme finally managed to get rid of the cats in 1991.
Image: NASA Erath Observatory.