Friday, 13 October 2017

The Monsters of the Murray - and the Macquarie

     "Bunyip" is the name usually given to mysterious water monsters in the the outback of Australia, so it is not surprising it turned up in these newspaper accounts. They do not appear to have been discovered by any other researchers.  The first one occurred in the River Murray, which is the second longest river on the continent, and it forms the border of New South Wales and Victoria. The location, however, was just across the border in South Australia, Berri being situated at 34° 17' S, 140° 36' E, not far from Renmark. The article is from page 4 of the Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record (Renmark) of Friday 1st January 1932.

Friday, 22 September 2017

More Forgotten Sea Serpents

     Last month, when I was researching forgotten sea serpent reports from Australian newspapers of the 1930s, I discovered a number of reports of sightings in other parts of the world. This, of course, would be expected. However, when I cross-checked them against Bernard Heuvelmans' comprehensive work, In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, I discovered some which had been missed by even his eagle eye. On the assumption that they are therefore largely unknown to the general public, I feel obliged to put them on record here. Some of them were no doubt reported in more detail in the newspapers of their countries of origin, but I do not have access to them.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Anitpodean Sea Serpents, 1932-9

     In the past, I have written a number of posts on sea serpents, gleaned from Trove of digitalised Australian newspapers. I had thought I had covered them all, but a recent visit to this article by Andrew Nicholson started me on the quest again. Once more, the provisos mentioned in earlier posts apply. The reports were usually copied from one newspaper to another, with the result that I have chosen to quote what appear to be the earliest and most detailed account in each instance. Also, investigative journalism was not in vogue; the reporters simply repeated the information volunteered by the witnesses, without questioning it, and without asking for any more. But, in any case, they took them seriously. It makes one wonder how many sightings occur today and are never recorded.
     With this in mind, let us take a peek.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

More on the Chitral Yeti

     If you look at a map of Pakistan, you will see, in the far north, a sliver of land squeezed between Afghanistan and Kashmir, with Tajikistan to the north. This is the district, and former kingdom of Chitral, and it is a world apart from the hot, level plains of the Indus Valley, where most of Pakistan lives. They even speak a different language, and the mountainous terrain is essentially the western extension of the Himalayas. Into this forgotten land, in 1988 and 1990, came the Catalan born French zoologist, Jordi Magraner in search of evidence for the bar manu, the local equivalent of the Abominable Snowman. Speaking the local language himself, he interviewed a large number of people, and came back with 27 testimonies of encounters with the legendary beast.
     Five years ago I published a translation of his report. It turns out, however, that this was merely a preliminary report. A more detailed docuement, amounting to 84 pages, can be found at here in PDF form. In view of its length, I have no intention of translating the whole document. Moreover, I consider the original report presented sufficient details about the environment, the animal's appearance, and its location in time and space. However, there is one addition which is important. The full report contains far more eyewitness accounts than the three which illustrated the earlier report. I have therefore decided to translate that section. Read it, and then ask whether you any longer doubt the existence of an unknown primate in the Himalayas.
    Note: French and Russian investigators into unknown bipedal primates tend to call them "relic hominids". In normal scientific parlance, however, hominids refers to the group comprising humans, the great apes, and our extinct relatives. It is far from clear where the "relic hominids" fit into the scheme.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Really Gigantic Squid? 1. Official Records

There is probably no apparition more terrifying than a gigantic, saucer-eyed creature of the depths with writhing, snakelike, grasping tentacles, a huge gelatinous body, and the powerful beak of a humongous seagoing parrot. Even the man-eating shark pales by comparison to such a horror.
(Richard Ellis, The Search for the Giant Squid, 1998)
     No doubt this is the reason why, as I commented in another article, people are more likely to encounter a living giant squid in fiction than in real life. Most people don't realize how recent has been our fascination with this monster. It was only scientificly described in 1856, and first observed at sea in 1861. Were it not for its habit of periodically dying en masse and being washed ashore, it may well have remained as legendary as the sea serpent.
     But the aim of the next two articles is to examine the claims that there exist individuals far, far bigger than those known to science.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Really Gigantic Squid? 2. The Big Ones That Got Away.

     In Part 1 we learned that giant squid continue to grow more or less steadily throughout life, with about 6 per cent exceeding 50 feet in length, and that there is good reason to believe that some of them, not yet recorded by science, make it to 66 feet. But what do we make of the claims that rare individuals reach 100 feet in length, if not even longer?

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Big Birds Do Fly

     I am gradually coming round to the idea that there is something in the legends of avian giants ("thunderbirds") flying over North America. They were easy to ignore when they just amounted to a bird "the size of a small aeroplane" framed against the sky, because how can you judge the size of anything against the backdrop of the sky? It is a different matter when trees, houses, and roads provide a frame of reference. So, for example, I placed an article on big birds in my Anomalies blog, because two of the three sounded somehow paranormal, but the middle one seems honest-to-goodness flesh and feathers. You can find additional reports of thunderbirds in this article. Jonathan D. Stiffy also wrote an article about thunderbirds in Pennsylvania for the third volume of the Journal of Cryptozoology, which I reviewed here. The reports derive solely from North America, as far as I am aware, and as no nests or eggs have been discovered, it is assumed they represent an uncommon migratory species which breeds in some obscure region of the north. In any case, since one of the functions of this blog is to rescue reports from journals and books which others may not have seen, I shall add a few more.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Another Trove of Sea Monsters

     When I originally decided to use the Australian National Library's Trove of digitalised newspapers to flocate the original citation of old "sea serpent" reports, I didn't realise it was going to be almost open ended. Dr Heuvelmans quoted a number of cases from secondary sources. Some of these were mere summaries, but others appear to be more or less verbatim copies of the originals. However, these, as far as I can determine, were the original reports. So here goes.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Search for the Wild Man of the Pyrenees

     It came as a bit of a surprise to me to see the amount of feedback I received from last month's translation of Sr. Javier Resines' article on the alleged "wild man of the Pyrenees". It included a secondhand report of a sighting in France, and a firsthand report of a sighting in southern New York.
    In 2011 Sr. Resines also published two articles on a search for the fabulous creature, the first expedition being described here and the second here. It is high time, therefore, that I translate both of them in the same post. The italics were in the original.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A Photo of the Wild Man of the Pyrenees?

     Let me state up front that I find it extremely hard to believe that a bipedal primate, unknown to science, could exist up to the present time in a narrow stretch of mountains between two heavily populated countries, such as France and Spain. Then again, I held the same view about the Australian yowie, until the sheer bulk of evidence became too large to ignore, for evidence which would be unimpressive individually can become very strong in the aggregate. We must therefore follow the trail wherever it leads us, and at least record every item of evidence as it turns up.
     Some months ago, when I published an article on the legendary "wild man of the Pyrenees",  Javier Resines kindly informed me about various articles on the same matter on his own Spanish language blog. So, for those whose Spanish is limited, I shall provide a translation of his article of 30 March 2012. As explained, the closest town to the event was Irún (43° 21'N, 47° 20' W), an ancient Basque city close to the sea and to the French border.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The "Nemesis" Sea Serpent of 1900

     In In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Bernard Heuvelmans mentioned two alleged sea serpent sightings reported in The Wide World Magazine which he declared to be bogus. One was the Tresco sighting, which  I dealt with in my October post. The second was described on p 366 of his book.
     I shall therefore deal only very briefly with the dramatic tale of Captain Laurence Thomson of the steamer Nemesis published in Wide World Magazine, which specialized in 'true adventure' stories. In 1900 he saw what he called a sea-serpent off Cape Naturaliste. There is a photograph of the sailor and his ship to convince us they existed - but one still cannot believe in the truth of his story for a moment, nor in the drawing in the magazine. It was a rubbery worm-like animal some 300 feet long and 3 feet in diameter, which rose out of the water in three huge arches in a way that was both mechanically and dynamically utterly impossible. In front of these arches a head rose on the end of a long neck, and on the spine was a sort of high soft fin that could fold up like a parasol.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

More Forgotten Sea Serpent Sightings

    Pity poor Dr Bernard Heuvelmans! He wrote In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents before the advent of the internet, which means he had to carefully cull bits and pieces of information from the far corners of the world, squirreled away in obscure newspapers and magazines, often having to rely on brief summaries in secondary sources. These days, at least in Australia, you will find the vast majority of newspapers, even minor local ones, digitalised on Trove to at least 1955. This means that a some casual references made by Heuvelmans can be investigated in more details. Let's try a few.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The "Tresco" Sea Serpent of 1903

      On pages 368 - 369 of In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Bernard Heuvelmans describes the sea serpent allegedly seen by the crew of the Tresco near Cape Hatteras in 1903. His opinion was that the story "reaches the peak of fantasy", and I have to admit that, from the summary provided, it did seem to suffer from credibility problems. Nevertheless, one always wishes to refer to the original document, which was cited as the October 1903 issue of The Wide World Magazine. Now, The Wide World was a monthly magazine in which members of the public related their own adventures in various parts of the world. It was a requirement of publication that they certify that the story was true in all particulars and, in most cases, I suspect they were. Most of them lacked the normal structure of fiction - the beginning, middle, and end - and had the air of truth about them. Just the same, there was no method of confirmation, and a number of hoaxes certainly did make their appearances in its pages.
     I have been an avid fan of The Wide World ever since I was introduced to it as a boy, and have collected every edition I could lay my hands on. Regrettably, this includes only a couple before World War II. Then, a couple of months ago, a light bulb went off in my head. The Internet Archive contains a number of the early bound editions, including volume 12, where the relevant article appears on pages 147-155. I would really like to introduce you to this wonderful magazine, and I would seriously suggest that you read it. But for those who lack either the time or the inclination, I shall publish the article here.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Another Queensland "Black Panther"

     At last! People are using the "How to report a sighting" function at the top of this blog. On Saturday 15 August this year I received an e-mail form Mark and Bronwyn (Bronnie) Welbeloved [4 syllables] about an experience they had six days before. The site was just outside the Cordalba State Forest, a reserve of 11,000 hectares [about 27,000 acres, or 42½ square miles] which, as the name implies, lies just west of the village of Cordalba. The latter is situated at 25° 10' S, 152° 13' E, and the site itself would have been somewhat to the north of that. The nearest significant town is Childers, to the south. As is appropriate, they each wrote a separate account.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Up de Graff and the Giant Anacondas

     The green anaconda, Eunectes murinus, the great water boa of the Amazon, is the heaviest, and one of the longest snakes in the world, but how long does it grow? It certainly reaches 20 feet [6.1 m], although the vast majority are shorter. Any individuals longer than that are officially unconfirmed but, since they grow throughout life, and since every species contains freakishly large individuals, we should not doubt their existence. It is the truly gigantic forms which remain controversial. Perhaps it is natural for the white man to project onto the hostile wilderness monsters two or three times the known maximum (though we never hear of 30 foot long alligators). However, the fact that the Indians also tell of them might give us pause for thought. Percy Fawcett, we know, claims to have shot and measured (? by pacing it) an anaconda 62 feet [18.9 m] in length. So, either he was a bare-faced liar, or there really are such monsters out there.
     With this in mind, and since the aim of this blog is to rescue reports which may have got lost, I should like to share with you a record which, until now, appears to have been largely overlooked.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Barcelona Satyr, 1760

     A couple of months ago I published a translation of Michel Raynal's article on the legendary "wild man of the Pyrenees". This time, I shall follow it up with a translation of a follow-up article by the same author of the possible capture of such a creature in the mid-18th century. The original article is entitled, Une figuration de l'homme sauvage dans les Pyrénées? and it was published in Bipedia 4, 1990, pp 16-18, the original of which can be found here.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Journal of Cryptozoology, Volume 3

     Volume 3 of The Journal of Cryptozoology is now out, containing 97 pages, compared to 80 for the second volume and 62 for the first. The reason I have chosen to depict the rear cover is that because it is more interesting than the regular boring front cover, and by now you will have probably guessed that the contents involve ducks and dinosaurs. As in previous issues, the five papers are all of scientific journal quality, but it is interesting to note that none of the contributors cites a scientific establishment as an address. So what does this say about cryptozoology - that it is dominated by amateurs, or that it is dangerous for professionals to be associated with it?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Mysterious Big Birds

I have posted this essay on my Anomalies blog because, although there are a lot of reports of "thunderbirds", these specific accounts contain elements of weirdness which suggest there might be more than just a mystery animal species involved.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Wild Man of the Pyrenees

     This is my 50th post, and it appears I shall have to go back to translating, because I have run out of English language material. It seems only yesterday, but in reality it was a quarter century ago that Michel Raynal sent me his paper, in French, about the alleged "wild man of the Pyrenees". In effect, it is a local form of a legend which extends throughout Europe, and which used to be portrayed in pageants, and on the façades of churches and other public buildings, not to mention coats of arms. In English the term was wose or woodwose, from which the surname, Wodehouse derived. Classically, the wild man was conceived as solitary, hairy, speechless, and armed with a wooden club. Whether the idea related back to anything substantial is an open question. After all, the same people believed in the little people: fairies, elves, call them what you like. There is only a limited number of variations on the human form which the imagination can call upon to populate the local area. Very small humans is one variety, and another is the beast-man, who bridges the conceptional gap between humans and the natural world. Just the same, there is good evidence for similar such creatures in the Caucasus, so it cannot be ruled out that they once extended deep into the primeval heart of Europe, where they left residues on the collective memory.
     M. Raynal's paper was entitled, L'homme sauvage dans les Pyrénées et la survivance des néanderthaliens, and was published in an obscure journal, Bipedia, vol 3 (1989), pp 1-16. The original can be found here and, if you wish, you can use the "translate" facility to compare a human translation to a computer driven one.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Lake Monsters - What They Aren't

     They see them here, they see them there; they are - lake monsters. Now, far be it for me to reject or endorse every lake monster report, or to suggest that all of them, in every lake, belong to the same species. However, it might be an idea to consider some of the proposed explanations. For this, we could start with two propositions:
  1. It is far more likely they belong to a known group supposedly extinct than something which nobody has every heard of.
  2. They are part of the larger "sea serpent" phenomenon. The rule of parsimony would suggest that it is more likely that some unknown animals from the high seas have managed to get into freshwater lakes than that the sea serpents and lake monsters are two completely different phenomena. However, their presence in an enclosed lake raises issues not present in the open sea, as we shall see.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Footprints in the Sand

     I am not a footprint aficionado. They are hard enough to interpret at the best of times. Perhaps I am being unfair, for they have their use in cryptozoology. Several times I have seen a photo or sketch of a print left by an alleged "tiger", and recognized it immediately as having been made by a big dog. But the reverse is not the case. Although I have been shown prints which certainly looked like they came from a big cat, in no case could I be sure that they had been made by such a creature. Robert Downing and Virginia Fifield, who had been following "cougar" reports from the eastern U.S. for years, claimed that anybody who wanted to be able to distinguish dog tracks from those of "cougars" needed to first of all examine several thousand tracks of dogs of different breeds, under different conditions.
     In the Queensland Museum, Dr Ralph Molnar once showed me a cast of a footprint that was beyond weird. It was long and thin, with a groove down the middle. But apart from a couple of small side claws, the truly astonishing feature was the pair of huge, central clawed digits which bent downwards at a vertical angle of almost 90 degrees. It was hard to see how any animal could walk that way. Yet the explanation was simple: it belonged to a wallaby. Wallabies and kangaroos do not always hop; over short distances they walk, the large hindfeet moving in unison, and the smaller forepaws being extended for support. Often, particularly over difficult terrain, the hindfeet are placed right next to each other. This is what happened in the above case, making it appear a single footprint, and the long central toe of each foot bent vertically down to gain purchase, because it was travelling through mud. I have also been caught out in another case, where a wallaby's combined hindfeet produced a composite, apparently single footprint. Moral of the story: the simple explanation is more likely to be the case.
     With this in mind, I'd like to share some clippings Dr Molnar gave me of The Brisbane Courier  of 1918. They refer to footprints discovered on Stradbroke Island, one of the large sand islands which guard the approach of Moreton Bay, east of Brisbane.

Friday, 6 February 2015

More on the Queensland Marsupial Tiger

     The last I heard of Dr Ralph Molnar, he was looking for dinosaur bones in America, but during the 1990s he was the official Queensland Museum palaeontologist. He was also the one staff member with an active interest in cryptozoology. Thus, after he had read my book, he contacted me, and was kind enough to provide me with photocopies of his large collection of newspaper articles on the subject. Looking back through them, I was pleased to note that some of them were follow-ons from the Great North Queensland Tiger Hunt of 1923.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

"The Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant?" - a Review

Rebecca Lang (editor)(2014), The Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant?", Strange Nation Publishing, available from Amazon and other online booksellers.
     As I pointed out in an earlier post, the extinction of various bandicoots and wallabies, not to mention those species which are holding on to the edge of the precipice by their little claws, has failed to register on most Australians, but the loss of the Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, has really touched a raw nerve.
     Now, Rebecca Lang, co-author of Australian Big Cats and co-founder of Strange Nation Publishing, has assembled an array of contributors to express their opinion as to whether this iconic marsupial is now completely extinct, or whether it still clings to existence in some place or other.
     And since it appears to have been taken for granted that I would end up writing a review, I suppose I had better make two things clear from the beginning:
     First disclaimer: I am one of the contributors.
     Second disclaimer: I know the editor and some of the contributors, and those I don't know I nevertheless respect. However, a reviewer should, ideally, attempt to be completely objective - indeed, brutally honest. That sounds like a good way to lose friends and make enemies, and I now understand how some professionals, working in a very limited field, end up getting an easy run through the peer review process. With all this in mind, let us continue.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Thylacine Fever in the Wonthaggi District

     In my last post, I documented the "monster" which frequented the environs of the South Gippsland town of Wonthaggi in the years 1955 - 7, and for which I attempted to provide a mundane explanation. Of course, it didn't end there. No, I shan't impose upon you a transcript of the whole 86 additional photocopied pages - some bearing two separate articles - which my friend, Paul Cropper sent me. Sufficient it is to say that, on October 9, 1958 the same newspaper, the Wonthaggi Express announced the return of the monster. Then began a series of reports, all of which are consistent with rather large dogs, all different from the original "monster", and mostly from one another. But on December 18, 1962 something new was introduced: the witnesses claimed they had seen a Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), a species which officially became extinct in Tasmania in 1936, and on the mainland about 3,000 years ago, with the arrival of the dingo. Gradually, but not immediately, this identification became more common, until the 1980s and 1990s, when it tended to be used indiscriminately and uncritically for most strange animal sightings.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

At Last, the Double-Headed Bunyip of Tuckerbil Swamp!

     Now that the National Library of Australia has digitalised a vast quantity of old newspapers and magazines under the title of Trove, I've been able to discover the originals of very old "bunyip" reports, and I published them in my post of July 2013. However, the weirdest story of all still eluded me: the "bunyip" of Tuckerbil Swamp, near Leeton, which was supposed to have been able to swim in either direction because it had a head at either end. So, at the end of that post, I asked if anybody knew of the original source.
     It turns out nobody did, but just recently I received the following e-mail from a Mr. Brian Marsden:
I grew up 2 km south west of Tuckerbill Swamp  [ 34 deg 29 min S ; 146 deg 21 min  E ] and yes remnants of  the swamp remain. Family history has it that the Bunyip in Tuckerbill Swamp was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (?) at the time. The source of the report was supposedly attributed to my grandfather who had taken up irrigation land nearby in 1914. Within the family, the so-called Bunyip was attributed to the bellowing of a bullock stuck in the mud of Tuckerbill Swamp. If you can find the original report, I'd be most interested.
      Well, I had performed a thorough search last year before the original post, but I now gave it one more try. And this time I succeeded. Perhaps the relevant local newspaper had just been digitalised in the interim.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Wonthaggi "Monster"

     Of all those researching mystery animals in Australia, none is more energetic, or more generous, than my friend, Paul Cropper, the co-author of Out of the Shadows and The Yowie. In 1998 he sent me, out of the blue, a package of 106 - yes, 106! - photocopies of newspaper reports, covering 34 years, concerning the "Wonthaggi Beast". Anyone who has ever tried it will appreciate how tedious and time consuming such a task would be - especially with regional newspapers in a different state to his own. (Wonthaggi is a town in east Gippsland, 132 km southeast of Melbourne, at 38° 36'S, 145° 34'E.)
     Paul is a busy man, with not enough disposable time to publish it all on the internet. I, on the other hand, have more time, but to publish the whole 106 articles would merely bore the reader without edifying him. However, as a tribute to my friend, and for your edification, I shall publish the initial, most informative reports, along with the later ones which show some promise. It will also be interesting to note how public perceptions changed over the decades.
    These reports are all from the now defunct Wonthaggi Express.

Monday, 22 September 2014

A Thylacine in North Queensland?

    Black panthers, cougars, even big, hairy apes roaming the Australian bush: that I can handle. But I confess that what I find most perplexing are the reports of thylacines, or Tasmanian tigers on the mainland. The extinction of the thylacine has left an open wound in the Australian psyche. The three species of bandicoots and six species of wallabies which have gone the way of the dodo in historical times have hardly ruffled the public consciousness - let alone all those whose ranges have contracted to tiny enclaves, often on off-shore islands. Indeed, as far as the central hare wallaby is concerned, it is unlikely anyone but a real specialist has taken notice. It is known to science by only a single skull presented in 1932 by the only white man ever to see the living animal.
     But when the last official Tasmanian tiger passed on in 1936, the whole nation was aware of the tragedy. The thylacine can be found depicted everywhere in Tasmania: on its coat of arms, on Government department logos, on its beer. Countless expeditions have set out in search of it. Many people still believe it clings to existence. Almost everybody hopes it does. But what is really confusing are the reports which keep cropping up from odd corners of the mainland, where it is supposed to have been extinct for several thousand years. There exists a sort of "thylacine fever" in some areas, and every brindled dingo, mangy fox, or otherwise aberrant carnivore is uncritically labelled a thylacine. By now I refuse to take such claims seriously unless they are very detailed and well documented. The trouble is, some of them are.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Strange Striped Animals in North Queensland

     Alleged big cats are not the only mystery predators reported from north Queensland. Some of them have stripes, and a blanket explanation for all of them is not immediately obvious. Nowadays, witnesses and journalists tend to leap to the conclusion that they are thylacines, extinct for several thousand years on the mainland and officially extinct in Tasmania. In most such cases, the resemblance to a real thylacine is far from exact, and an identification as a brindled dingo, or some sort of mangy dog would appear more appropriate. However, every now and then the word "stripes" occurs in the same account as "cat", and if there is one thing the average Australian knows it is the difference between a dog (long faced) and a cat (short faced). Some, I am convinced, are overgrown (sometimes much overgrown) feral tabbies. But just the same ...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

More Big Cats in Far North Queensland

     Last month I described sightings of apparent big cats in North Queensland, mostly as reported in letters I had received in response to my book, Bunyips and Bigfoots. This time I shall record information I received predominantly by telephone through other leads. These are essentially from Cape York Peninsula - which means we are getting sightings all the way along the coast from southwest Western Australia almost to the northernmost tip of the east coast. I am not at all certain that all of them are cats, but it is clear that a lot of them are, and it is rather frightening.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Big Cats in North Queensland

     As readers of this blog will be aware, the presence of Alien Big Cats, mostly black, is no longer confined to the southern states of Australia, but is fully established in southeast Queensland. (If you are new to the site, you may care to check my posts of June and December 2013, and January and April of this year.) I would like to be able to say that this disastrous spread of a mysterious invasive species is limited to the southeast, but that would be false. They are well and truly established in north Queensland, more than 1,200 km away. Let us have a look at a few cases.

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Original Deception Bay "Monsters"

     Deception Bay is not far from where I live, but I can never hear the name without thinking, "monster". The reason is that the first time I heard of it was in 1960, not long after I came to Brisbane as a boy, and a local Sunday paper, the Truth (now defunct) carried stories about the mysterious visitor. In my post of August 2012 I called it the best documented "sea serpent" sighting in Australia. I wrote about it in the former journal, Cryptozoology, and in a more condensed form in my book. But one of the good things about the internet is that you have more space to provide the full text of all the documents, so here goes.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Still More Big Cats in Southeast Queensland

     In my January post, I quoted a letter from Bruce Thomson, a senior conservation officer with the  Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. I contacted him, and he sent me a follow-up letter dated 28 April 1997. Here, then is the text of letter, except for the names of the witnesses, which I have deleted to protect their privacy.
 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Journal of Cryptozoology, volume 2

     I have just finished reading volume 2 of The Journal of Cryptozoology, which was dated December 2013, but whose publication was slightly delayed. Being both inexpensive, and the only peer-reviewed scientific journal devoted to cryptozoology, it really ought to be on the to-read list of everybody interested in the field.  (I might add that I am left to speculate as to who is who does the reviewing. Normally, prospective papers are sent to whomever looks like they might possess an expertise in the field. I myself was once asked to review a short paper on koala behaviour, because I had already published on the subject. However, in this case, they would need to find experts who would also be prepared to treat the subject of cryptozoology seriously.)
     In any case, it is clear that the journal is shaping up to solid professional standards, with four excellent papers covering 65 pages of text.

     The first was entitled Three remarkable tales and two challenges for anthropology - an evaluation of recently reported eyewitness accounts of unidentified hominoids from Flores Island by Gregory Forth, a cultural anthropologist who has been studying the societies of the Indonesian island of Flores since 1984. In the process he became intrigued by the folklore concerning small, usually hairy "wildmen", first of all in Flores, then in the remainder of Indonesia, and finally in mainland southeast Asia itself. Here is a review of a recent book he wrote on the subject. Then, of course, in 2004 came the discovery of the fossil remains of the "hobbit", Homo floresiensis, a diminutive offshoot of the human family tree which could, theoretically, give rise to such legends, especially since there is disputed evidence that it may have survived until little more than 6,000 years ago.

Video of Speech at Geelong

     In my post of September 2013, I gave the text of my speech at the Wool Museum at Geelong about bunyips and sea serpents in the local area. The video of the speech is now available, and Dr Waldron has kindly added it to Youtube. You can access it here. Unfortunately, it does take a while to upload.
     If you click on the button underneath to subscribe to David Waldron, you will also be able to access the speeches of the other two speakers: Simon Townsend, and Dr Waldron himself.

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Year of the Sea Serpents, 1934

     1934 was a very good year for sea serpents. Over a period of three months, they put in appearances all up and down the east coast of Australia. Much of the information has been published before, but now Trove has made it easier to uncover the original articles and provide full details. So let us start in chronological order.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

More Big Black Cats in Southeast Queensland

     In my last post, I described sightings of what appear to be "black panthers" in southeast Queensland. They mostly involved witnesses I had interviewed by telephone. This time, it will be necessary only to quote the witnesses' own words from their detailed letters.
     We shall start with Toowoomba (27° 30' S, 151° 57' E), the large city on the top of the Great Dividing Range, just west of Brisbane. The letter was dated 26 March 1997, and it was originally addressed to another cryptozoologist, but I have since contacted the author. His name is Bruce Thomson, and his credentials are obvious.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Big Black Cats in Southeast Queensland

     I've heard them called zoology's flying saucers, because they turn up where they couldn't possibly be, then disappear before any investigation can be done. They are ABCs: alien big cats. In Australia they are big and black, and tend to be labelled "black panthers", a term I shall retain for the sake of convenience, without conceding its accuracy as a formal identification. Reports are particularly common in Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales but, at the time I wrote my book (1996), I was able to include only a few cases from my home state of Queensland. Since then, however, more reports have arrived - in most cases by people actively contacting me. You have already heard about the black panthers of Tamborine Mountain, and the "pink panther" of Cooyar. Let us now examine a few more case histories.

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Great North Queensland Tiger Hunt of 1923

     You don't hear much about the legendary marsupial tiger of north Queensland, but it was all the rage in the first half of last century, and even had a semi-official status. It all began with letters to the Zoological Society of London in 1871, after which anecdotes accumulated, until they were collected in 1926 by Albert S. Le Souef and Harry Burrell in The Wild Animals of Australasia. The former came from a prominent zoological family, and was one of the founders of Taronga Park Zoo, while the latter was a naturalist most famous for his work with the platypus. Their material was subsequently republished by Ellis LeG Troughton, Curator of Mammals at the Australian Museum in Furred Animals of Australia, which continued in print until at least the early 1970s. Both books recorded the yet undescribed species as a large cat-like animal, presumed to be a marsupial, of a fawn colour, with black stripes which, unlike the thylacine's, do not meet on the back, and a short face similar to a cat's. Its height was estimated at 18 inches at the shoulder, with a length of five feet, including a long tail. For reference, this is the bottom of the size range for female leopards.
     As these two publications were the major reference material for Australian mammals for nearly fifty years, they carried a lot of weight. Unfortunately, being popular works, they bore no citations, so one is left to wonder where the anecdotes came from. Did they appear in earlier, independent publications, or were the authors informed by private correspondence received in their professional capacity? I do not claim to have reached the original sources. However, with the help of Trove, I think I have got partway there.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Thylacines in Indonesian New Guinea - Further Evidence

     My post two years ago on the possible existence of the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger in the Indonesian half of New Guinea appears to have been extremely popular, and is still attracting comments. So I think it is about time I updated it with evidence from a correspondent called Franz. He has asked me not to publish his last name, but he lives in Vienna, Austria, and has visited the country often for reasons unconnected with his career as a graphic designer. He usually travels with a doctor friend.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Bunyips, Sea Serpents, and Port Phillip

     Last Thursday, 29 August 2013 the National Wool Museum at Geelong had three guest speakers give talks on cryptozoology to a public audience. The first two were Simon Townsend and David Waldron, whose recent book has been reviewed on this blog, and they both gave enthusiastic and informative presentations on their respective subjects. The third speaker was me. I consider it a great honour that they should be prepared to bring me all the way from Brisbane, a distance of more than 900 miles [1450 km] for the purpose, and I hope they found it worthwhile. So here, for the benefit of the other seven-odd billion people who missed out, is the text of the speech.
     For readers outside Australia, I should explain that Port Phillip is the very big, triangular inlet in the centre of the Victorian coastline, with the state capital, Melbourne at the northern apex, and Geelong at the southwest apex. Corio Bay is a sub-bay next to Geelong. All the other sites mentioned are within striking distance of Port Phillip.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A Trove of Sea Serpents

     Last month I revealed how the digitalised newspapers of Trove can be used to research old "bunyip" stories. This month, I shall demonstrate its use with "sea serpents".

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Trove of Bunyips

     Everyone in Australia has heard of the bunyip, but since it appears I have more readers in the northern hemisphere, I had better explain. The bunyip is a mythical (?) monster which the Aborigines believe(d) frequents the inland waterways of southeast Australia. The name by which it went varied greatly between tribes, its description was generally vague, and its habits reputably dangerous. What is not often known is that it was reported not only by Aborigines, but by white settlers, every twenty or thirty years during the nineteenth century.
     Interesting though this unusual history might have been, a major difficulty has always been documentation. The original reports were squirreled away in the musty archives of many local newspapers, too voluminous to search. The result was, when I began my investigations forty-odd years ago, I had to rely on secondary sources. Sometimes these secondary sources referred back to the primary source, sometimes not. When I wrote Bunyips and Bigfoots, I was forced to list a number of sightings of which I knew practically nothing, except that I had noted some fleeting reference.
    Fortunately, time brings a change. The National Library of Australia has now digitalised an enormous number of newspapers and magazines up to the 1950, or even later, on a website labelled Trove. As it is easily searchable, I have at last had the opportunity to follow up these stories. It turns out, many reports were copied almost verbatim from one newspaper to another, but I have attempted to cite the original as far as possible. I might add, too, that Andrew Nicholson appears to have beaten me to the Thargomindah Bunyip.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Trouble With Eye Witnesses

     A major drawback with cryptozoology - and a lot of anomaly research in general - is that it has to rely to a large extent on eye witness testimony. Of course, we would like additional evidence: footprints, photos, films, hair and other DNA samples, and - the holy grail - a carcass. But, by and large, before anybody even looks for such evidence, somebody has to see something - and tell us about it.
     Now, eye witness testimony puts people in jail, so it shouldn't be scoffed at. However, as anyone involved in criminal investigation knows, there are eye witnesses and eye witnesses. To put it bluntly, some people's powers of observation and recall are less than adequate. To illustrate, let me share two double witnesses sightings I investigated. Even when two people see the same thing, there still remains the problem of cross-fertilisation, especially if they have discussed the matter before being interviewed, as is usually the case. Certainly, it is always important to interview both separately. Just the same, the bottom line is that two pairs of eyes are better than one. So, with these reservations, let us proceed.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Littlefoot in Australia?

     For a storyteller, there are only so many variations on the human condition you can invent. People with animal heads or other features can always be placed in far off, exotic lands. The wild man, who lives like an animal, can be placed in the depths of the wilds. Giants - well, they are too big to be living right next door. But tiny humans can fit in anywhere, so perhaps that is why such stories abound all around the world. Europe has its fairies and elves, while among the Australian Aborigines, the little hairy men, under various names, take their place. And just as Europeans who still believe in fairies still claim to have seen them, the same is true of the Aborigines.
     For instance, during the Gayndah episode, which I reported in my last post, the term,  jongari was introduced to the white community. Here is what was recorded by the Fraser Coast Chronicle of 10 February 2000, on page 5.
     According to Mally Clarke, anyone who sleeps at the Scrub Hill farm runs a fair chance of hearing the Jongari at night. "One Islander fellow who stayed here once got a real fright," she said. "He was out chasing cows one night and came back shaking because he had seen a little hairy man. We all laughed because we knew what it was."
     Four years later there were three separate sightings. "Someone once rang the police to say they had seen them running across the road from the old drive into the farm," Mally said. "Years ago they would play with the kids. I saw one once and thought it was a monkey because it was all hairy."
     Such legends, however, are completely unknown to the average white resident. So when they claim to see them, I start to take notice.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Weird Little Visitor to Gayndah

     I appear to be out of the loop as far as mystery animal reports are concerned. When the "bear" or "jongari" paid a call to Gayndah, I was the last to be told. Steve Rushton, who lives nearby, heard about it. The message got passed to my friend, Paul Cropper in Sydney, and to Tim the Yowie Man in Canberra. Heck! Even the BBC got into the act before me.
     Gayndah, at 25° 38' S, 151° 36' E, stands inland, in a valley on the Burnett River in southeast Queensland, with a current population of 1745. The story began with an article on page 3 of The Fraser Coast Chronicle of 28 January 2000.

Monday, 11 March 2013

The Cryptids of Mount Tamborine

     I fell in love with Mount Tamborine as a very little boy - when my mother took me down the chasm walk (since closed), and I marvelled at my first sight of a rain forest. Mt Tamborine, at 27½° S, 153° 12' E, a short drive west of the Gold Coast in southeast Queensland, is a fragment of a huge volcanic shield. Crowned with a tourist mecca township on top, it is surrounded by a wide variety of habitats: from rain forest and eucalypt forests, down to pasture land in the valleys. Just the place, in fact, for a wide variety of animal life. And unofficial animal life as well - mysterious black "panthers", and one small, but very strange striped entity. At least, that was what was related to me by musician, Phil Manning in a letter mailed on 27 August 1998. I shall present the full text here,  with no changes except to shorten the names of third parties to their initials.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A "National Geographic" Cryptid

     As every schoolboy knows, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel, The Lost World was inspired by the tepuis: the 100-odd mesas towering on perpendicular cliffs up to a mile above the jungle in the borderland of Guyana and Venezuela. Of course, even as a schoolboy, when I read the novel (twice), I sensed a problem: huge animals require lots of living room, and a "plateau" only 20 miles wide was far too small for a breeding population of even a single species of dinosaur. No, dinosaurs do not, and cannot, inhabit the cloud-masked, rain-soaked, infertile tops of the tepuis. But that does not mean they are not ecological islands, with populations isolated one from the other and undergoing divergent evolution. You cannot throw a net in this jungle without finding a species of something or other unknown to science. Therefore, we should take seriously any account of unknown species somewhat larger than the run-of-of-mill.
     Take Auyán-tepui, one of the largest of the group, with the distinction of  featuring the world's tallest waterfall, Angel Falls. In 1977 amateur entomologist, Dr Silvano Lorenzoni mentioned leading three expeditions to its summit, and finished his article with the following paragraph:
Moreover, there is one witness who asserts that he has seen three "plesiosaur-like things," about 50 cm. [20 inches] long (with 25 cm. necks) swimming in a river atop the Auyan-tepuy. While this witness can scarcely be called a scientist (he is an adventurer that roams the area digging for diamonds) his statement remains to be one more fascinating piece of information in a jigsaw puzzle that is already taking on a recognizable shape.
Reference: Dr Silvano Lorenzoni (1977). 'Extant dinosaurs: a distinct possibility', Pursuit 10(2): pp 60-61. (This was the official publication of the now defunct Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained.)

     Would you believe? This very same witness again turned up - this time in the august pages of the National Geographic.
     In 1986, the German explorer-writer, Uwe George joined a helicopter expedition to the top of Auyán-tepui.  But first they called on 75-year-old Alexander Laime, whom they found living alone in a termite-eaten shack on an island in the middle of a major river, surrounded by his subsistence gardens. Here was man who obviously had carved out his own little niche, and let the rest of the world go by. "Publicity hound" is not a description which springs readily to mind. But let Herr George tell his story:
     Alexander is a keen student of wildlife on the tepuis, and he insists that on his 1955 expedition to Auyan he encountered three dinosaur-like lizards. Over tea in a corner of his garden he told us he had come upon them while searching for diamonds in one of the rivers on top of Auyan-tepui.
     "They were sunbathing on a rocky ledge above the river," he said. "At first I thought they were seals, but when I sneaked closer, I saw they were creatures with enormously long necks and ageless reptilian faces. Each had four scale-covered fins instead of legs."
     For proof Alexander rummaged through a pile of papers and came up with some drawings that he had made at the time. To me they resembled plesiosaurs, marine reptiles that became extinct 65 million years ago. [pp 546, 548]
     Drawn to scale, they were revealed to be slightly less than three feet long. So what were they? A species of large, long-necked otter was one suggestion. But then one of the scientists in the group pointed out that the rivers up there contain no fish, making it rather difficult for even one otter to survive - let alone three. Also, to the best of my knowledge, otters have furry legs, not scaly fins.
     But, you might ask, whatever they were, why haven't they been seen since? After all, there have been many expeditions up Auyán-tepui, and it is even the site of tourist treks. In that case, you have no idea of the sheer ruggedness of the terrain, and the fact that the summit covers 270 square miles. It was not until Herr George's second expedition that they encountered a mountain lion, or puma. What was it doing there? And it had two cubs, so it wasn't just a transient which had scaled the terrible, steep inclines; there was a breeding population. Yet its chief prey, the lowland tapir would never be able to get up there. And yet ...a third expedition discovered tapir tracks in the same general location on the summit.

Reference:  Uwe George (1989) 'Venezuela's Islands in Time' , National Geographic May 1989, pp 526 -561

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Snarls from the Tea-tree: A Review

Snarls from the Tea-tree. Big Cat Folklore by David Waldron and Simon Townsend (2012), Australian Scholarly Publishing, available here.
     Several years ago, an envelope arrived at my former address, containing photographs of animals which gave every indication of having been killed by a big cat. A quick bit of research indicated that the sender, a certain Simon Townsend, was empoyed in the Victorian branch of the same government department as me. He was most surprised when I pointed it out. Since then, we have been retired, but he has kept up his interest in the topic, and has now collaborated with Dr David Waldron on a new book.
     This is about alien big cats in Victoria and the adjacent parts of South Australia. A couple of areas in other states are mentioned, but not Western Australia. Although the subject is of major concern for cryptozoology, it is not a regular cryptozoological book as such. You will not find a proposition, evidence, or a conclusion. Rather, it is a history and analysis of the phenomenon, and advice on dealing with it. There are 168 pages of text, eight photographs, four pages of index, and 400 end-notes, the greater part being of not-easily-assessible newspaper reports. Whatever else may be said about the book, it cannot be faulted for lack of documentation!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

More Tales of the Australian Bigfoot

     In my last post, I mentioned that not everybody wants to have their name published when they report sighting a yowie. Indeed, I have noticed that the more bizarre a sighting, the more the witnesses request anonymity.
     In 1997 I was able to contact a Mrs Roma Ravn who, with two other associates, belonged to a group called "Omega International 'Research'", dedicated to investigating anomalies near their residences in southeast Queensland. She kindly sent me print-outs of the reports held on the group's hard drive, but without the witnesses identified. When she contacted a few, they reminded her that their stories had been provided under the conditions of strict confidentiality.
     I shall therefore give you the stories essentially as they have been written - not all of them by  Mrs Ravn. By and large, the sites can be located only on maps of the highest resolution, but in general, they belong to the crescent of low mountains west of Gympie, in southeast Queensland. In this area, valleys and other low areas are heavily cultivated or grazed, but the mountains have been left rugged, timbered, and rarely frequented.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Tales of the Australian Bigfoot

     What is more unbelievable: a ghost, a flying saucer, or a yowie? Obviously the last. We know very little about the intermediate state of the soul, we know even less about life in outer space, but we know that a big, hairy ape stomping around marsupial land - and quite undetected by science - is impossible. Bats flew here, and seals swim to our shores. But apart from that, no regular (eutherian) mammal larger than a rat has even reached Australia without human assistance. So you should not be surprised that, when I first heard about yowies, I was sceptical. My scepticism was not lessened by the fact that the main proponent of the legend (not mentioning any names!) was a well known crank. I therefore wrote an opinion for the journal, Cryptozoology debunking the early reports. When it came to my book, Bunyips and Bigfoots, I started the chapter on yowies as an unbeliever, and ended as a believer. As far as scepticism goes, I have been there and done that. Then, after the book was published, new reports started coming in. And since they have not yet been published, or published only in summary, I think it is time to put them on the net.

The Possum Book

I am pleased to provide a link to a website of a friend of mine, Robyn Tracey, who has written a fascinating story about her dealings with brush-tailed possums in the outer suburbs of Sydney. You can download the book for free, or read it on the site. Go to: The Possum Book.

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