The Montebello Islands are a group of more than 100 Islands off the north-west coast of Western Australia.
They achieved international notoriety in 1952 when the British, in an operation code named Hurricane, detonated an atomic weapon in a bay off one of the major Islands, Trimouille. Two further atomic tests were carried out in May and June of 1956 on Alpha and Trimouille Islands.
The flat limestone islands range in size from Hermite, the largest, at about 1,000 ha, to several small islets and rocks of less than one hectare. They are the remnants of an old coastal landform and have been separated from the mainland for more than 8000 years.
The earliest known European use of the islands was in 1622, when one of Australia’s first recorded shipwrecks, that of the TRYAL, took place just west of the Montebello’s. The survivors of the wreck spent seven days on the northern islands before setting forth for the East Indies. Only 30 could sail with the captain in the lifeboat, and the rest were left to their fate on the wrecked ship.
Other early navigators, Baudin in 1801, King in 1818 and Stokes in 1840, had less eventful voyages.