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.
Where to start? What about Corio Bay? In March 1871, some men were collecting ballast on the beach for the ships, when some boys pointed out a strange animal coming out of the water. The men caught it when it was heading for its nest in the cliff – a nest furnished with stockings, seaweed, sticks, and somebody's leather purse. The creature was said to be a foot and a quarter – that's 38 cm – from nose to tail tip, and looked something like a ferret. It had webbed feet, a tail as thick as one's second finger, and fur as glossy as a beaver's. Its head was rather flattened, its nose was like a ferret's or rat's, and its teeth protruded like a rabbit's. They couldn't work out what on earth it was, but they threw it aside, not thinking it would be of any interest to a naturalist. (1)
“The aborigines, on the other hand, said that it was of the size of a bullock with a head and neck like an emu's, and a mane and tail like a horse's – not a pretty creature, it would seem, but perhaps likeable in its way.In their rude drawings of it, said Mr Gunn, they gave it two tusks or front teeth curved downwards; and feet like those of a seal. They also said that it laid eggs in a cavity which was entered by a tunnel beginning below water level.The eggs were as large as a bucket.The aborigines also stated – so Mr. Gunn said – that the bunyip ate blackfellows, but that its usual food was lobsters and roots.” [Is this a tunatpan?]
“In this lake, as well as in most of the others inland, and in the deep water rivers, is a very extraordinary amphibious animal, which the natives call Bunyip, of which I could never see any part, except the back, which appeared to be covered with feathers of a dusky grey colour. It seemed to be about the size of a full grown calf, and sometimes larger; the creatures only appear when the weather is very calm, and the water smooth. I could never learn from any of the natives that they had seen either the head or tail, so that I could not form a correct idea of their size; or what they were like.”
Aborigine called Kurruk was asked to draw a picture of one. Now, I'm guessing that Kurruk hadn't seen too many too-roo-dons in his life, but he decided to humour the whitefellows, and consulted a tribal elder, and the result was ... a picture of an emu (9). Well, I suppose he knew what the topside looked like, and drew the feet to match. The local natives described the too-roo-don as having the head and neck of an emu.
|Neil Blyth's original sketch|
- Exactly the same thing rose out of the water off Green Island, near Cairns, in 1924. It was about 15 inches wide and 9 feet high, and only a couple of oars' length away from the witnesses.
- The same thing turned up near Burrum Heads, in southeast Queensland, in 1995. In both of these cases, the witnesses were so scared of ridicule, they remained anonymous. And,
- In 1916 another long-necked sea-serpent appeared off Melville Island in the Northern Territory – this time with a row of humps visible behind it. The witnesses hit it with an oar, and ended up with a few teeth embedded in the timber.
- In 1925 the crew of a ship saw a long-necked, swan-like sea-serpent with a long body and tall fin off the coast of Port Stephens.
- In 1939, a sea serpent was seen from a warship off Western Australia. It was about 90 feet long, and its long neck bore a pattern like a giraffe's.
- In the late 1940s, a long-necked sea serpent with a visible body turned up near Darwin.
- Finally, in 1962 a witness saw, off the coast of Bribie Island, near Brisbane, an animal described as “whitish-grey in colour, about 12 feet long, and [I] seemed to have a swan's neck, a whale's body, and a fish's tail and fins.”
Addendum: The video of the speech is now available, and Dr Waldron has kindly uploaded it to Youtube. You can find it here. Unfortunately, it takes a while to upload. Also, if you click the button under the video to subscribe to Dr Waldron, you will be able to access his speech and that of Simon Townsend as well.
References (These footnotes may not work on every browser, but if they do, you can return to the original position by clicking on the return button at the top left of your screen.)
(1) 'A strange animal', Sydney Morning Herald 14 March 1871, p 4
(2) Gilbert Whitley, 'Mystery animals of Australia', The Australian Museum Magazine, issue no. 7 (1 March 1940), pp 132 -9 at p 135
(3) Tony Healy and Paul Cropper (1994), Out of the Shadows, mystery animals of Australia, Ironbark Press, p 161. Peter Ravenscroft, reported that he was unable to find it in the Mitchell Library.
The original appears to be here.
(5) R. Brough Smyth (1878), The Aborigines of Victoria: with notes relating to the habits of the natives of other parts of Australia and Tasmania. Vict. Govt. Printer, pp 436-7
(6) Mr. D'Arcy (1896), 'Is there a bunyip?' Geelong Naturalist, p 17, reprinted in Bank Notes, Dec. 1958
(7) John Morgan (1852), The Life and Adventures of William Buckley, Archibald Macdougall, Hobart, p 48 (p 56 of the 1996 reprint by Ares Books)
(8) Morgan, op. cit. pp 115 – 16 (pp 110 – 111 of the 1996 reprint).
(9) R. Brough Smyth, op. cit. Pp 436-7
(10) 'Has Aireys its own Loch Ness?' Geelong Advertiser, 4 June 1973. Jeff Wells, 'What was the thing that rose from the ocean?' Melbourne Truth, 16 June 1973.
(11) Paul Cropper and Malcolm Smith (1992), 'Some unpublicized Australasian “sea serpent” reports' Cryptozoology11: pp 51-69 at pp 61-63
(12) The accounts can all be found in my book, Bunyips and Bigfoots.