Saturday, 15 June 2019

The Great Koolunga Bunyip Hunt of 1883

They sought it with thimbles,
They sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.
 (The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll, 1876)
Bunyip: The bogey of the bush, a mythical monster which lurks in the rivers and swamps of inland Australia, and makes Aborigines turn white with terror. Everyone has heard about the bunyip, but no-one can tell you what it looks like.
Koolunga, South Australia: population 195, the epitome of a one horse town. You'll need a really detailed map to find it, so I shall give the co-ordinates: 33½° S, 138.1° E, on the banks of the Broughton River, 33 km south of Crystal Brook, and 46 km north west of Clare.
     Yet, in early 1883 it was the centre of a colourful bunyip hunt which kept the rest of the continent amused long after it had ended with a blast. No doubt many readers in Queensland and Tasmania were asking themselves at the time: "Where the [expletive] is Koolunga?"

Monday, 10 June 2019

New Zealand's Mystery Animal

     Going through my papers, I discovered a translation I made from the German more than forty years ago on the waitoreke, an alleged native mammal of New Zealand. It's not doing much good lying on my desk, so I might as well share it with you. Once more, I have preferred accuracy of translation to elegant English. Nevertheless, some of the terms I found obscure, so I cannot guarantee absolute accuracy, but anyone who wishes to check it can find the original document here.
     The fauna of New Zealand has suffered dreadfully from human settlement, and many species have been driven to extinction. To cite just one example: in 1986 the world's largest gecko was discovered as a stuffed specimen in the Natural History of Marseilles, and was recognized as a lizard described in Maori oral tradition, which only a single person had ever claimed to have seen alive. New Zealand is a land where flightless birds take the place of mammals, for the only native land animals are two species of bats, because New Zealand has been isolated from the rest of the world since the age of dinosaurs. It even possesses a strange reptile, the tuatara, which looks like a lizard, but is really the last survivor of a group which otherwise died out with the dinosaurs. It stands to reason, therefore, that any non-flying native land mammal may well be a monotreme, like the platypus and echidna, or something more ancient and primitive. With this in mind, let us proceed to the translation.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The Beast of Gévaudan - Solved !

     Between 1764 and 1767 a huge man-eater terrorised the region surrounding the southern French town of Gévaudan, claiming between 80 and 100 lives. People, often teenagers, tended the fields bearing spears. A detachment of dragoons was sent to hunt the Beast, and. 10,000 citizens were engaged as a battue to flush it out. Several times its death was announced, but the killings kept going on. It took a number of musket balls at relatively close range. The Beast of Gévaudan has become the stuff of legend and speculation. What was it? Officially a wolf. Or perhaps some huge wolf-dog hybrid. Or a hyaena. Or even a werewolf, according to Montague Summers! But now, at last, a German zoologist, Karl-Hans Taake has examined the primary sources, and definitively identified it.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Four More Forgotten Sea Serpents

      Once again I shall continue with my program of publishing old "sea serpent" reports which had evaded the attention of earlier researchers, such as Oudemans, Gould, and the redoubtable Heuvelmans. As before, my sources are the old Australian newspapers digitalised by the Australian National Library under the title of Trove. No doubt, as more and more nations digitalise their newspapers, more and more incidents will come to light, if other researchers take the time to unearth them.

Friday, 1 March 2019

In a Dark Hut With a Mystery Monster

     Crytozoological references can turn up in all sorts of odd places, and since these publications are likely to have vanished from public memory, it is important that the stories be filed in a central registry - like this one. Readers of this blog with long memories may recall that one such story appeared in the august pages of the National Geographic. Now I have just discovered another one in the May 1915 issue of my favourite magazine, The Wide World which, if you are interested, can be read or downloaded here.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Forgotten Sea Serpents of 1888 - 1889

     Another month, so let's continue with the task of documenting nineteenth century sea serpent sightings which managed to avoid the gaze of all major researchers, such as Oudemans, Gould, and Heuvelmans, but which serendipitously turned up in obscure Australian newspapers, frequently long after the event. In this post we shall concentrate on the years 1888 and 1889.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The Georgetown Sea Serpent, 1888

     Did a sea serpent turn up in Georgetown Harbour in 1888? On page 573 of The Great Sea-Serpent (1892), A. C. Oudemans features a list of hoaxes, culminating at the bottom of the page with:
The sea-serpent is distinctly seen in Georgetown Harbour, on the 20th. of August, 1888, sleeping on the surface, &c. - Chambers' Journal, 1888, Nov. 24. - (R. P. G.)
    The three last initials stand for Mr. R. P. Greg, who provided him with his whole collection of clippings. But why was it classified as a hoax? Did he know something he wasn't telling?

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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