About 12 kilometres from The Crags, west of Yambuk, the flat and unassuming silhouette of an island named Deen Maar conceals a long history of perilous encounters. Built of submarine basaltic flows millions of years old, it has long been of central importance to the Gunditjmara and Eastern Maar peoples.
Australia's only off-shore volcano
It was a large, underwater volcanic eruption about eight million years ago which formed the island, since carved into its distinct flat shape by extensive erosion from wind and water.
Now two kilometres long and one kilometre wide, many of its inner workings including a volcanic vent can be viewed.
Peek Whurrong elder Rob Lowe said the island, which was called Deen Maar long before it was appointed the name Lady Julia Percy Island, remained a sacred area.
"Even today, it's still a very spiritual place," he said.
"A lot of the Indigenous burial sites around that area - all the heads face towards Deen Maar and that's because that's where their spirits rise.
"It means a lot to Indigenous people. We know our spirits are going to be rising at Deen Maar so we're still going to be spiritually in this area."
He said any plans to develop near the island, including a recent $4 billion wind farm proposal to power a Portland smelter, risked destroying beauty and history.
"I don't know why people are trying to destroy beauty and history," he said.
"A lot of our history has already been destroyed, so why destroy something very precious not only to Indigenous people but also the wider community? I know a plane went down near Deen Maar too in the early part of the '40s."
In 1944, during World War II, a Royal Australian Air Force plane plunged into the sea near Lady Julia Percy Island, resulting in the death of four airmen.
South-west historian Bernard Wallace said the incident was "almost-forgotten".
"A substantial monument in the Crags car park tells us more about this almost-forgotten incident," he said.
"A plaque on the monument erected by the Rotary Club of East Warrnambool about four years ago records that RAAF Avro Anson AW-878 crashed into the sea, south of the monument, near the north-western extremity of Julia Percy Island on February 15 1944."
Fur seal refuge
J.G. Douglas' The Nature of Warrnambool states fur seals were once "everywhere" 200 years ago but were slaughtered to the point the population never recovered:
"(But) fur seals maintained a toe hold in places like Lady Julia Percy Island, 40 kilometres to the west of Warrnambool, where 5000 pups are now born each year.
"These seals, especially the recently weaned pups, regularly visit Warrnambool, where they seem to favour the breakwater area, possibly because of the chance of obtaining easy food in the shape of discarded fish offal.
"A sealer's grave dated 1822 on Lady Julia Percy Island provides one of the few physical reminders of their early presence in the area."
'Big Ben' attacks
Henri Bource was in his 20s when he embarked on an excursion to the island's seal colony 50 years ago.
He and his friends from the Aqualung Club and members of the Port Fairy Manta Skin Diving Club left Moyne River wharf in 1964.
At the time, locals knew of the legendary huge white pointer called Big Ben. Just after noon, Mr Bource was attacked by a large white pointer which rushed through a pack of seals.
He was pulled from the water by his quick thinking friends who took a spear gun rubber strip, wound it around his severed leg and kept tension with a knife handle.
Mr Coster and several others were later awarded by the Royal Humane Society of Victoria for their bravery.
Marten Syme's Port Fairy: The town that kept its character states shark fishing was a popular activity in the 1970s:
"The enthusiasm for catching massive sharks became known in the United States of America and a series of personalities arrived to catch them in the waters surrounding Lady Julia Percy Island for a few years."
In 1977, actor Lee Marvin even brought singer John Denver to the area for a spot of shark fishing.
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