|Lady Julia Percy Island, 22 kilometres south-west of Port Fairy, is Australia’s only off-shore volcano. Formed some seven million years ago by violent underwater eruptions related to the final separation of Australia from Antarctica, it is much older than other volcanoes in the region. |
As a nature reserve, entry to the island is prohibited, however boat tours around the island can be organised from the Port Fairy wharf on calm, clear days.
The island was named "Lady Julian’s Island" in 1800 by Lt James Grant but as the name was transcribed over time, it became known as Lady Julia Percy Island. There are two graves on the island – one of a sealer buried in 1822, and one a man named Hardman buried in 1828 by Captain Wishart of the “Fairy”.
The sealing industry operated at Lady Julia Percy Island during the 1800s. Gangs of sealers lived on the island often for months at a time, dropped off by supply ships, which later returned for the sealers and their haul of seal skins and blubber.
Guano (bird manure) deposits were mined on the island until 1861 for use as agricultural fertiliser. The guano was brought to Port Fairy on barges.
The island is also known by its Aboriginal name ‘Deen Maar’ or "Dhinmar" and it is understood that the spirits of the dead were conveyed across the sea to Lady Julia Percy Island from a cave called Tarnwirring ("the flowing of the wind") at the top of a rocky sea cliff.
The island is one of four Australian fur seal breeding colonies in Victoria and is possibly the largest colony in Australia.
Bird species on the island include little penguin, diving petrel, peregrine falcon, short tailed shearwater, white fronted chats, fairy prion, Australian pipits and the sooty oyster catcher. Certain rare plants survive in the caves.
The island’s robust seal population makes it an important hunting ground for another threatened species – the Great White Shark. One of the most famous shark attacks at the island was that of diver Henry Bource, whose dramatic encounter with a Great White in 1964, during which he lost a leg, was filmed and flashed around the world.
As Australia’s only off-shore volcano, Lady Julia Percy Island is listed as a geological monument of national significance by the Geological Society of Australia.