Heard Island is now part of the Australian Antarctic Territory. Situated in the far southern Indian Ocean, it is 4,100 km south-west of the Australian continent and 1,500 km north of Antarctica. 40 km to the west of Heard are the small McDonald Islands. Heard Island is named after American sealing captain John Heard, of the Oriental, who is thought to have made the first confirmed sighting of the island in November 1853.
The first landings on the islands were made by sealers, hunting the fur seal for its skin and fur and later the sea elephant for its oil. By 1880 most of seal population had been wiped out and the sealers left the island.
In 1929 Heard Island was visited by the French geologist Aubert de la Rue and by Sir Douglas Mawson, leader of the British, Australian and New Zealand Expedition (BANZARE), for a week en route to Antarctica.
Formal political control of the island was transferred from the United Kingdom to the Australian Government in 1947. The first Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) set up a station at Atlas Cove at the western end of the island in December 1947. The men were carried down on the vessel LST 3501, (later named Labuan) by Captain George M Dixson.
View fascinating photographs of the early days of the first official Australian settlement on Heard Island by William Scholes and Norman Laird, 1947-1950s: