The island features steep rocky shores with submerged reefs and granite boulders along its northern, southern and eastern sides in depths up to 30m. The faces of the boulders are covered in a range of corals and sponges and are home to a wide variety of marine life.
In 1982, the whale boat Cheynes III was scuttled off the western side of the island and is now used as a diving site. The island is an important habitat for resident and migratory birds, which are under threat from weeds such as Taylorina and feral animals such as rats.
British explorer George Vancouver gave the island its name after he discovered it on Michaelmas Day, 1791. Vancouver described the island as being “covered in rich grasses and other vegetables. Before leaving the island, he planted vine cuttings and water cress and sowed various seeds. Matthew Flinders landed there in 1801 and wrote that Michaelmas was covered in “wiry grasses, stunted shrubs and rats holes.”
Over the years, Michaelmas Island has served as a temporary shelter for a number of castaways. The stories below are from the West Australian,Wednesday, April 23, 1952, Friday, July 13, 1951 and Saturday, July 14, 1951, respectively.
Lost man found on Michaelmas Island
While aircraft flew over and boats sailed past, William Lowe, the latest Michaelmas Island castaway, "almost waved his arms off," as he put it, trying to attract attention.
Finally he was seen at 10' o'clock today by Terry Kennedy of Albany and his son Theo, who were passing the island in the auxiliary yacht Mariner on a fishing trip.
They saw Mr Lowe's signal oar with a garment attached. The Kennedys had no dinghy and the approach to the island was hazardous. However, they were able to run in close enough to the rocks to allow Mr Lowe to swing himself aboard over the bow sprit. Mr Lowe's first action after his rescue was to eat the cut lunches the Kennedys had with them.
The Mariner put back to Albany and landed Mr Lowe whose parents live at Wagin, were waiting anxiously. Mr Lowe apparently suffered no ill effects from his two days without food. He said that his dinghy had blown away while he was trying to pick up a marker buoy.
Unable to row against the seas he allowed the boat to drift until nearing Michaelmas, when he rowed into the lee of the island and landed. The boat was holed while he was hauling it ashore and became unusable. Having no matches and unable to light a fire he tried the native method of using a bow string but his tinder was wet.
Three anglers stranded on island near Albany
A police party under Sgt A McLaughlan left Albany at 9 o'clock tonight in the fishing boat Jon Jim to search for a party of anglers believed to be marooned on the barren Michaelmas Island, eight miles from Albany.
The missing men are Ian Bennett and Alf Kirkby, both of Albany and Keith Redmond of Perth - all are married. There may be a fourth man in the party. The anglers left Emu Point this morning in an open 18ft boat with a small engine to fish off Michaelmas Island, which stands at the entrance to King George Sound. The weather when they left was calm but during the day a strong south-westerly wind developed. Fears for their safety arose during the afternoon when the car in which they had travelled, to Emu Point was seen on the beach with the tide rising around it.
Arrangements were being made for search parties to start patrolling beaches north of Michaelmas Island when a faint pinpoint of light was seen on the island. Heavy rain squalls obliterated the light for some time but when they cleared it was seen again as a small fire or flare. The Jon Jim is equipped with a powerful searchlight. Under the best of conditions, however, a landing on the island is difficult because there is only one small rocky, beach which a boat can approach. At night, with a fairly light sea running, it would be hazardous.
Rescue of men marooned on island near Albany
Three anglers who were marooned on the barren Michaelmas Island, eight miles from the mainland yesterday, returned to Albany at 12.20am today in the fishing boat Jon Jim, which went to their rescue.
The anglers, Ian Bennett and Alf Kirkby, both of Albany and Keith Redmond of Perth had to swim about 30yds to climb into a dinghy from the Jon Jim. The fishing boat stood about 200yds off the island. The anglers left Emu Point yesterday morning in an open 18ft boat with a small engine to fish off Michaelmas Island, which stands at the entrance to King George Sound. They fished until the early afternoon and when a strong south-westerly wind developed and the sea began to rise they tried unsuccessfully to start the engine and return to Emu Point.
The party managed to land on Michaelmas Island secure their craft and light a fire. The dinghy was later smashed on rocks. Fears for the men arose yesterday afternoon when the car in which they had travelled to Emu Point was seen on the beach with a tide rising around it. When a pinpoint of light was seen on the island, a police party under Sgt A McLaughlan left Albany. Under the best of conditions a landing on the island is difficult because there is only, one small rocky beach which a boat can approach. The dinghy was manned by the skipper of the Jon Jim, Reg Phillips and Constable H Adams.