The overwintering exodus to Marion Island this year saw SANSA researcher, Dr Stefan Lotz, accompany Travis Duck, an engineer and member of the 73rd Marion expedition (M73), to assist with the takeover from returning engineer, Pierre Joubert, a member of M72, at the conclusion of his 14-month sojourn on the Island.
Located almost 2 000 km southeast of Cape Town, the meteorological and biological research station on Marion Island, which is run by the South African National Antarctic Programme to carry out vital research throughout the year, houses about 20 scientists and engineers as its only human inhabitants. Otherwise the island is home to birds and mammals, such as the wandering albatross, fur seals and killer whales that are perfectly visible in the clear water.
Marion Island, situated at 46°52'34" South 37°51'32" East, lies close to Prince Edward Island in the southern Indian Ocean. The two islands cover a combined area of 316 square km and constitute the Prince Edward Islands Group that politically forms part of South Africa's Western Cape Province. The islands are volcanic in origin. Marion Island, which is 19 km long by 12 km wide and the higher of the two islands, has small lakes and many hillocks (secondary craters), with Mascarin peak as the highest point at 1 230m and permanently covered in snow and ice. The island has little vegetation, mainly mosses and ferns, with some lichen in its centre, and boggy terrain due to the abundant snow and rain. The persistent, strong westerly winds, typically occurring at southern latitudes between 40 and 50 degrees (known as the Roaring Forties), ensure that no trees grow on the Island.