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.

 First of all, here is a map of Moreton Bay. As you can see, Deception Bay is a sub-bay. The big yellow area in the south is Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland. North of it is the city of Redcliffe, with Scarborough being its northernmost suburb. Deception Bay is effectively a village on the bay itself, which is bounded by Scarborough in the south and Bribie Island in the north. When you read references to Bribie Island in the documents, you must realise that it is referring to the inhabited part at the southern end, overlooking Deception Bay. Also, at that time, the area was much more sparsely inhabited than now.
     So now let us look at the initial report, in the Truth, Sunday 3 January 1960.

Loch Ness Monster in Our Bay
     Popular near-Brisbane seaside resort Deception Bay may have its own "Loch Ness" monster.
     Three people claim to have seen a huge, strange creature surface about two miles out in the water, between Deception Bay and Scarborough. They are:
  • Ron Spencer, 22, of Ferguson-street, Norman Park;
  • His attractive 21-year-old wife, Jeanette.
  • Their close friend, John Belcher, 22 of Thorne-street, Mowbray Park
     Ron Spencer says he has seen the sea monster about five times in the past 12 months.
    "A huge head came about two or three feet out of the water. The monster looked around for a few seconds then dived again with a terrific splash," he told "Truth" last night. "It does not seem to have any neck. But its eyes are very strange and staring. The monster is a brownish color."
     Ron Spencer says he has fished in Deception Bay for about eight years. "But I never saw anything like this until this past year," he adds.
     "I've seen sea-cows, porpoises, and turtles - and this thing is certainly not one of them. I'm not easily scared, but this has really had me 'windy'. Its head is between 18 inches and two feet wide [46 - 61 cm]. It comes close to the boat as if it was anxious to look at you, then dives again. But it follows the boat, reappearing every now and then.
     "I've told a few people about it, but a lot of them don't seem to believe. However, I know it's there and I'm prepared to take anyone out to see it."
     Mrs. Spencer said: "I was out fishing with Ron about nine months ago, when a huge black thing came up out of the water. I got frightened and Ron brought the boat back to shore."
     John Belcher told "Truth": "I saw it about two weeks ago when I was out fishing with Ron. At first, I thought it might be a turtle, but when I had a proper look I saw that it was not. Its head is far too big for a turtle's. It is a tannish brown color and it just comes out of the water, looks about and goes away again."
     None of the three people who saw the "monster" are able to estimate its size. But from their eye-witness accounts, it head is between two and three feet long and about two feet across.
     Throughout history, tales of mysterious denizens of the deep see have been rife. Most famous has been the legendary monster of Loch Ness, in Scotland. Many reputable people, including ministers of religion, have claimed to have seen it.
     Other monsters are reported to have been sighted in such distant places as the west coast of Greenland (1734); off Parahiba, Brazil (1905), off Iceland (1917), in the Caribbean Sea (1934), and off Aden (1934).
     Australia, too, has its tales of sea monsters. Darwin has reports of two (or the same one twice). The first was in 1955, when two women claimed to have seen a sea serpent "100 feet long, with a series of humps," in Darwin Harbor.
     It is only fair to add, however, that when I telephoned Mr Belcher in 1996, he said he was indignant at the newspaper report, and what he had seen was a sea cow, or dugong, of which there are quite a few in Moreton Bay.
     Also, can anybody provide me with a citation for the 1955 Darwin sighting? I have seen several brief references to it, but not the original report.
     In any case, we have another sighting reported about the same time. The following news clipping does not bear a date or the name of the newspaper, but it almost certainly comes from either the Courier-Mail of Saturday, 2 January 1960 or the Sunday Mail of the following day, although, to tell the truth, I haven't been able to find it in either..
Search for Bay Creature
     A Hendra man is going fishing in Deception Bay today - with a camera. His target is an 18 ft. long, 3 ft. thick eel-like creature he claims surfaced near his dinghy at 12.15 p.m. yesterday. The Hendra fisherman, Mr. N. Tutt, of Bowley Street, said he saw the creature while fishing with his daughter and a friend. The creature was a mottled brown in color with a square head and several 6 in. [15 cm] long fins along the body, said Mr. Tutt. It wriggled through the water like an eel and he saw it five times before it disappeared Mr. Tutt added. He will go back to the same spot today with his camera. 
     The following Sunday, 10 January 1960, the Truth ran a follow-up story.
They Saw the Monster
     At least 10 Brisbane people are convinced there is "something very odd" lurking under the quiet waters of Deception Bay. They've all seen it!
     What is this local "Loch Ness" Monster - a giant turtle, a seal, a sea serpent, a giant or old-man fish? Everybody who has seen it has his (or her) own pet theory. And nobody knows who is right. It's a case of, "Your guess is as good as mine."
     "Truth" last Sunday told how Mr. and Mrs. Ron Spencer saw a "huge, strange creature" surface near their boat recently, and Mr. Spencer claims to have seen the sea monster about five times in the lat 12 months.
     All this week, "Truth" has been inundated with callers who have either seen "something queer" in Deception Bay, or have some explanation or other to offer.
     A fisherman, Mr. Nigel Tutt, of Bowley-street, Hendra, has described the monster as: "About 18 or 20 feet [5.5 or 6.1 metres] long, as wide as a wheat stack with several fins on its body." Several times since Monday, Mr. Tutt, who has a holiday home in Deception Bay has been out in the water with a camera in the same area as he saw the "monster" in the hopes of seeing it again.
     "When I first saw it I thought it was a crabber's bouy, but it suddenly just 'plonked' under the water. After a while its head came up about three feet [90 cm] out of the water. The head was square in shape, brown in color and its mouth appeared to be yellow. Its head came out of the water three more times, then the body surfaced only about eight feet [2.4 metres] from my boat. It appeared to me to be just like a huge eel the way it swam through the water. I have not seen it since that day. It seems as if there must be an incoming tide running and the water very flat before it will surface."
     Scarborough professional fisherman, Mr. Harry Braine, says he thinks it likely the Deception Bay "monster" is a giant turtle. To prove his theory, he showed "Truth" the picture of a huge rusty-brown colored turtle he caught in his net while prawning, in Deception Bay. The turtle was about five feet [1.5 metres] long from "bow" to "stern" with a huge head. "My boat, the 'We Three,' has often been followed across the bay by turtles. At times, only their heads show, but at other times they surface."
    Mr. Braine took a picture of the giant turtle, then released it into the water.
     But both Mr. Ron Spencer, of whose several sightings of the "monster" "Truth" wrote about last week, and Mr. Tutt are experienced amateur fishermen who have often seen turtles . . . BUT CLAIM THE "MONSTER" IS DEFINITELY NOT A TURTLE.
     Another theory is that the "monster" is a seal. This was put forward by amateur fisherman Don Hume, of Latham-street, Chermside. He said he saw a seal while fishing about a half-mile from Donnybrook, on the other side of the Bribie Island Passage from Deception Bay, last Sunday. "I had a clear view of the seal and could not possibly be mistaken," he added. "And I know seals. I've seen them in many parts of the world.
     The following newspaper cutting is also undated and unsourced, but since it refers to "7.20 a.m. today", it was almost certainly published in Brisbane's then evening newspaper, the Telegraph.
"Monster" seen in bay again
     The Moreton Bay "monster" reared its ugly head again today. According to former professional fisherman Dave Manners (still recovering from the shock) it has the ugliest head he has ever seen.
     "The head is round, something like a man's, at least 2 ft. 6 in. [76 cm] across and 2 ft. [61 cm] long, with a flat nose and sort of semi-detached to the body," he said today. "The body is about 25 ft. [7.6 m] long."
     Dave, 26, a Railway Department night officer holidaying at Bribie Island, and his mother, Mrs. I. Manners, saw the "monster" at 7.20 a.m. today.
     "We were quietly beach fishing in Woody Bay near Skirmish Point, two miles south of of Ocean Beach, when we first saw it," Dave said. "It surfaced about 20 yards off-shore and was clearly visible in the shallow water," he said. "I dropped my rod, and Mum and I followed it at walking pace for about 1½ miles [2.4 km] before we went to breakfast. It was a dirty brown color and appeared to have a body about 2 ft. across and a queer-looking fin 18 ft. from the head. It kept surfacing about every 50 yards."
     Dave said that several other fishermen saw the "monster" and could not identify it.
     A number of "monster" sightings have been reported in recent months from the Deception Bay area. A State Government Fisheries Department spokesman said today: "Most of the 'sea serpent' sightings can be attributed either to the Oar Fish or the Giant Squid. It is most unlikely that we have a local Loch Ness monster."

      I cannot imagine that anyone would describe a fin as being 18 feet behind the head of an animal only 25 feet long, and so I assume it was a misprint for 18 inches [46 cm].
      You will easily find Skirmish Point on the above map.
      Sometime in September 1960, the Truth, for a bit of fun, decided to run a contest for accounts of monsters seen in Queensland or its waters. The result, starting from the edition of 25 September, was that they were overrun with wild and wooley tall stories. After three weeks of this, on 16 October, the prize was awarded to the one person who had provided a detailed, believable account: our old friend, Nigel Tutt.
Here's Our Monster in-Chief
     Well, here's the name of our Monster-in-Chief, the major prize-winner in our famous Monster Contest. He's Mr. Nigel Tutt, of Bowley-street, Hendra, Brisbane - a carpenter who saw a Monster in Deception Bay last January. As a matter of fact, he not only SAW this Monster - he's become quite pally with him and has been trying ever since to see him again.
     It was a hard decision selecting a winner. But Mr. Tutt saw his Monster pretty recently, had two witnesses to prove it, and moreover he LIKES Monsters. So we thought he should get the prize - out of hundreds of contestants who wrote to tell us their stories.
     Anyway, here's Nigel Tutt's story the way he told it to us: "The day I saw the Deception Bay Monster, the sky was very clear, the sea calm and the tide full. We were out looking for a fishing spot - myself, my daughter Carol, now 16, and a girl-friend of hers, Joy Zeller, of Deception Bay.
     "We left from the kiosk and headed to the mouth of the Caboolture River to see the huge flocks of black swans that feed there along the whiting banks. On the way back we headed offshore, looking for deep-water channels where the big fish might be. We were just on the edge of the shipping channel, and I throttled the engine back, handed the tiller to the girls and went up to the bow to look at the water.
     "Then suddenly, right in front of our bows, a huge, square-shaped head rose up about four feet [1.2 m] out of the water. The girls let out a shriek and turned the tiller so hard they nearly tied the boat in three knots. 'Plop' - the head disappeared. When we straightened things out again I felt disappointed at not getting a clearer view of the thing. So I decided to run the launch a couple of circles in case it should surface again. Sure enough, it was most obliging. It came up three more times. In fact, it seemed quite a friendly creature - I'm sure it liked people. Its body was of two shades of brown, in big mottles, and its skin looked lumpy, not scaly. Its head was square-shaped, and hard to describe. But if you've ever seen the boot of a Mayflower car - well, it was something the shape of that. It had a yellow mouth, and appeared to have nostrils.
     "As it was acting so friendly, we decided to make for shore and get a camera. So I opened the outboard motor out, and after 10 minutes decided the Monster must have been left behind. But then came the best view we had of him - there he was, curving and gliding calmly along beside the boat and only about 8 ft. [2.4 m] away, about 22 ft, long and as thick as a sack of corn, with a fin about 6ft. to 8 ft. [1.8 - 2.4 m] back from its head. I thought, 'could he be a giant eel, the daddy of them all?' but an eel swims with a sideways motion, and this fellow was undulating up and down."
    He didn't give up the search, though.
    "I'm so keen to get a photograph of him," he said, "I've built myself a special dinghy for the search. It's got unsinkable air tanks in it, and a special waterproof compartment in which I keep a camera - fully loaded. The family have been out looking for him about 20 times this year, but no luck. I keep around the swan feeding places - I suspect my Monster may be feeding on them. But in all those 20 times, we've never had quite the same weather conditions as on the day we saw him . . . the sea hasn't been as calm since. We'll keep looking ..." [Rest of the article not copied.] 
     As first prize, Mr. Tutt received a cheque for 21 guineas, plus a baby crocodile 12 inches [30 cm] long (Sunday Truth, 23 October 1960).
     Now, although I had read the original stories, I hadn't kept them. I was, after all, only a boy at the time. But they stuck in my mind. Then, in 1989, I was re-reading Heuvelmans' In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, when I came across what looked like a brief report of Nigel Tutt's sighting in a foreign newspaper, and I asked myself: does he still live at the same address as 29 years before? He did! Here, then, is the text of his letter of 4 February 1989, in reply to my query. I shan't repeat the questions in my original letter, because they are pretty obvious from the context.
     Actually it was on Jan. 1st, that I together with my then schoolgirl daughter and one of her schoolgirl friends sighted this yet unidentified denizen of Deception Bay. About that time there had been several rather vague stories of a "Deception Bay Monster".
     I like most who heard the tales didn't take then very seriously. After having this large creature surface beside my small (13 ft) [4 metre] boat all those years ago I know for sure it existed.                                           ....
    In answer to your first question. Sure I'm the Nigel Tutt referred to in that report in the Sunday-Mail of Jan. 1960 to which you refer. My wife was able to "Dig-out" that particular cutting. Yes it's accurate as I remember. 
    [There appears to be a discrepancy here. New Year's Day was a Friday that year, but the unsourced newspaper cutting claimed the sighting was "yesterday".]

    The Sunday-Mail wasn't as interested as Sunday Truth of that time. Sunday Truth followed up the sighting and reporting with a visit, "on-the-water" to me a few days later. They continued to make a small reference to the creature for some time. Eventually culminating in a Monster Story competition which I won, the prize being twenty-one Guineas and, - of all things - a crocodile (alive). I spent the twentyone guineas ($42) buying a good camera and built a special easily accessible waterproof locker in "Camaryni" my small boat to ensure it was readily available if our friend should again surface within camera range. He never did. My wife has kept quite a lot of the cuttings from Sunday Truth reports of these incidents, should you be interested in seeing them you would be welcome to arrange a suitable time to visit our home and read them.
   Answering your second question. The sky was clear, the day was calm, the tide was full, just about to turn or by the time we sighted our unidentified creature it may have just turned to run out. We had left from in front of the Kiosk at Deception Bay. My young daughter and one of her girlfriends wanted to see the  Acres of black swans during the late 1950's and still in 1960 used to feed on the "Whiting Banks" off the mouth of the Caboolture River. I mention these black swans because I have always wondered whether that unidentified creature fed on them; within two years of my sighting it there were only ever a few score where there used to be Acres of them. After our admiring the swans, I decided the day being so bright and the bay so calm to go out towards the shipping channel and skirt along the outer edges of the fishing banks on our way home. On the outer banks I throttled the engine back and handed the tiller over to the girls, so I was free to stand in the bow and take a good look at any likely fishing spots.
     Suddenly right in front of our bows this huge square head popped up, about four feet above the water. The girls let out a shriek and turned the tiller so hard I nearly finished in the water. The head plopped down into the water. I was disappointed not to have had a better view of the creature. I didn't expect to see him again so headed the boat for home resolved to get a camera. As I eased the boat into a wide circle the creature surfaced again, but did not raise its head nearly as far out of the water as previously. It swam about twenty feet from the boat and in the same direction we were travelling. As we continued on it surfaced three more times each time swimming parallel with our boat, the last run being within eight ft. I estimated its length by the fact its head was beyond the bow of the boat and the tail behind the stern.
     Answering question three. The skin did not appear to be scaly, but gave the appearance of being extremely coarse, or rather, "lumpy looking." The darker mottles on its brown base colour could have accentuated this appearance.
     The fins you enquire about in question four were as I remember them positioned about as described in the Sunday-Mail. They were on the "Body" of the creature. The neck was almost as thick as the body, but in my observation, "A Neck" - rather than a continuation of the body as in the case of an eel. They were at the sides, but appeared to be more towards the top than the bottom. They were not very large in relation to the side of the animal, about a foot [30 cm] or a little more each way and rather rounded.
     Answering your fifth question. THE MOUTH was wide somewhat of the configuration of a "fresh-water catfish." As you may well imagine I was so surprised at seeing this creature, I must admit it never crossed my mind to observe whether it opened the mouth to breathe. I don't think it did. A no time did it appear to be threatening or in any way aggressive. It did not as far as I can remember, show its tongue; it certainly didn't protrude it.
     Its teeth were also not displayed.
     The nostrils according to my memory were rather widely spaced above the mouth but only a few inches above it.
     The other detail I always wonder about when any circumstance causes me to recall "The Deception Bay Monster" is that in swimming it appeared to undulate up and down [emphasis in the original] rather than from side to side. This mode of propulsion as it swam along beside the boat most intrigued me. It showed no sign of fear. Maybe a little curiosity? as each time it surfaced beside my little boat it was closer than the last.
     Particularly having two young schoolgirls as "Crew" and they were apprehensive and "Jumpy" about it, I felt it a good idea to gun the motor and make for home. If it had surfaced under our boat we would have been in real trouble.
     Shortly afterwards, I interviewed Mr Tutt at his own home, on which occasion he lent me the newspaper cuttings for copying. He told me that Mr Turnbull, the owner of the kiosk and boat hire had told him others had reported the animal. At the time of his own sighting, the sea was as calm as a mill pond. They were a couple of miles off shore, in water 4 to 12 metres deep. The animal's first appearance was about "a cricket pitch" [20 metres] away. Its head came up more or less vertically, at right angles to the boat. Afterwards it straightened out and just popped it head out. The last time, it was swimming parallel to the boat just 8 feet away. It swam with vertical undulations, each one about as long as a human arm and a foot or so above the water. There would have been five or six undulations at the very most, but there were no obvious humps. He was pretty sure that the length was 18 to 20 feet, rather than 22 feet. He failed to get a good look at the tail, but he was fairly certain it was not lobed.
     The skin appeared "slimy" or "wet", but was definitely not furred. The body was very dark brown, with the underside of the chin a lighter brown. The belly was not visible. Its head was about 2 feet [60 cm] wide, and almost square, with a square muzzle. The neck was slightly narrower than the rest of the body and head, and a bit longer than the head. He did not remember seeing any vibrissae, or whiskers. The fins were about a foot long and wide, and clearly possessed a rigid bone structure, rather than the usual skin and bones of a fish. They were thicker, as if there were meat under the skin. No flippers were visible - but that does not mean they weren't present.
      Here is a copy of the sketch he made at the interview - 29 years after the event! At the end of the interview, I showed him the chart of "Pinnipeds around the world" from the April 1987 issue of the National Geographic. Pinnipeds are seals and sea lions. He pointed to the leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonynx) as not unlike it in profile. The neck of the monster was comparatively thicker than the leopard seal's, but about the right length. The monster was comparatively more elongated, though he did point out at a later meeting that it was, nevertheless thickset. The coloration was similar, but the placing of the fins wrong. The shape of the leopard seal's fins (actually, its flippers) are somewhat the right shape, but the "monster's" fins were rounder and shorter.
     I myself might add that a leopard seal is grey rather than brown, its head is elongated, even reptilian, rather than square, and its mouth is not yellow, but pink, like any other self-respecting seal's. Also, its maximum length is 3.6 metres [11.8 feet], whereas both the Tutts and the Manners were close enough to the"monster" to determine that it was almost twice as long.
     And the baby crocodile? They called it "Huey", and it died. "You should never eat butcher's mince," he said. "It'll kill a crocodile."
     What about the other two witnesses in the boat? Here are the relevant extracts from a letter of 6 April 1989 by Mrs Carol Borck née Tutt.
I also remember seeing the creature we term "the monster" in Deception Bay, it was on New Year's Day. I think the year was 1960. My reaction was one of fear. I wasn't at all happy with out marine companion and wanted to get to shore as quickly as possible.
I'll continue with your questions in order -
1. It was a sunny day on or before lunch. I can presume it was calm on the water - otherwise I wouldn't have gone out.
2. At the time the creature appeared Dad had just given me a turn to steer the boat. Suddenly a huge "thing" appeared to my right. It was fairly close. I can remember it swimming along beside the boat and being terrified it would go under the boat and capsize us as it would swim along and then vanish then reappear a few feet closer or further away. The whole episode I guess would have taken place within twenty minutes.
3 &4. The creature was longer than the boat. Its skin was like that of cane toad only magnified.
5. I remember "a head" as such and the fact that it was large but that's all.
6. I do remember eyes - but no details.
7. I do remember nostrils - but no details.
8. It must have had a large mouth because I can still remember thinking, "Thank goodness it's not a whale, otherwise with a mouth like that I might end up like Jonah and the whale."
9. I don't remember it opening its mouth to feed and no its actions didn't seem as though its intentions were threatening.
10. I don't remember a neck. I seem to remember it as a huge swimming "blob" with a head, eyes and mouth, and generally a most unattractive brownish creature with skin like a cane toad, only magnified.
12 &13. I don't remember tail, flippers etc.
14. Its method of swimming reminded me of a person swimming breaststroke, a sort of smooth firm and moving actions but up and down at the same time.
15. I don't think its head moved much at all.
     Altogether quite a bit of detail after a lapse of 29 years, considering that she wasn't able to refresh her memory with the old newspaper cuttings as her father was! "That creature has always been very vivid in my memory," she said to me at a later date. Indeed, that family appears to have been blessed with exceptionally vivid memories. On the other hand, when I wrote to her friend, Joy Zeller, the latter replied:
     I'd really like to help you but all I can remember was that it was big, we were only in a dinghy, and it appeared at the side, very close and was near as big as the boat. As we hightailed back to shore it followed a short way. We were rather scared and just wanted dry land.
      What more can be said? The descriptions provided by all the witnesses are consistent. The only discrepancy is the distance of the fins from the head, but this can be resolved if we assume that Mr Manners was including the neck with the head. I don't know what to make of the lateral "fins", but the animal was clearly a mammal; the vertical undulations establish that. Dr Heuvelmans' theory was that many "sea serpents" were archaeocetes: a type of archaic, elongated whale, and given the lack of fur or whiskers on this animal, and the fact that nothing like it has ever been known to come on land to breed, this would appear to be the best bet. It may not even have been fully grown.

But that's not all.
     I told you that the entries in the Truth monster contest were clearly way-out tall tales. However, squirreled among them are a few brief paragraphs which sound highly plausible, based on what we know of "sea serpent" sightings around the world. Take, for instance, this one from page 2 of the 16 October 1960 edition of the newspaper. Remember that Bribie Island is the northernmost boundary of Deception Bay.
Another story this week comes to us from New South Wales - from Mrs. M. L. Carr, a former Queenslander, now living at Williamtown Air Force Base. She told us about a Monster she once saw in the water on a reef near Bribie Island, "with a big body and neck, poised as if staring up at me."
     In the issue of 9 October 1960, again on page 2, we have the following:
Mr. E. J. Bailey, of Beaconsfield-terrace, saw a strange beast in the water off Russell Island in Redland Bay, "like a horse or hippopotamus, with an arched neck, a short back, that moved through the water with great speed and power."
      Russell Island is in the southernmost corner of Moreton Bay, just below the boundary of the above map. You will notice that both of these concern what Heuvelmans' called a "long-necked sea serpent", one of the most common sighted.
      St Helena Island is approximately in the centre of Moreton Bay. The following story sounds a little melodramatic, but I wouldn't reject it out of hand. It comes from page 2 of the issue of 2 October.
Mrs. M. Chadwick, of The Esplanade, Wynnum, saw another "something" in Moreton Bay near St. Helena Island about two years ago [ie 1958] - "It had a large, flat, snake-like head, shiny, and pale green in color, with big wide-apart eyes and a mouth from ear to ear. It kept going (and so did we!)"
     Interestingly enough, the paragraph immediately above it read as follows:
Mr. Sid Hurst, of  Powell-street, Bowen, for example, told us of the day in August 1958, when he and Glen Heron, Harold Brock and Charles Leaver saw a Monster in Sinclair Bay. "In the distance it looked like a huge log," he said. "But as we go closer we could see that it looked like a caterpillar, with a long swan-like neck and a tail like a snake. It was about three times the length of our boat (or about 70 ft [21 metres]) and travelled at a tremendous speed."
     This, of course, sounds like one of the classic "long-necks", and the fact that he was prepared to name three other witnesses adds to the credibility of the tale. Sinclair Bay is about 24 km southeast of Bowen, at approximately 148° 25' E, 20° 10' S.

But the story doesn't end there.
     Two years later, a quite different sea "monster" turned up just a few kilometres from where the Manners' had their sighting. I received these press cuttings courtesy of the late Dr Bernard Heuvelmans. The first comes from the Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 26 September 1962.
'Monster' seen off Bribie Island
     A Bribie Island man claims to have seen a "horrible monster" in the ocean two miles [3 km] offshore from the tiny beach settlement of Woorim. He is Mr. Robert ("Bud") Duncan, 68, who saw the monster a few days ago, and described it as "something out of a nightmare". He said he had been a beachcomber on Bribie for 50 years. When he saw the monster through powerful binoculars it was playing around on the surface, and rolled from side to side for about four minutes.
     "It was whitish grey in colour, about 12 feet [3.7 metres] long, and seemed to have a swan's neck, a whale's body, and a fish's tail and fins," Bud said last night. "It repeatedly raised its strange neck out of the water, and then flipped its strange tail. I made a quick sketch of it just to prove to my mates that I wasn't seeing things," he said.
     Queensland Museum Director (Mr. George Mack) said last night he thought Bud's monster was probably a basking shark. "These sharks love playing about on the surface of the water, but are rarely seen near land," Mr. Mack said. Basking sharks had fairly narrow necks, were harmless, and sometimes grew to more than 30 feet [9 metres] in length, Mr. Mack said.
     But Bud is convinced his monster is not a basking shark. "I've seen just about every creature in the waters off the Queensland coast at one time or another," he said. "This monster was nothing at all like a shark, and nobody will ever convince me it was one," Bud said.
     Personally, I can't see how anybody could attribute a "swan's neck" to any shark. In any case, it was obviously quite different from the 1960 creature, and is more like one of the "long necks". I assume that communication between Mr Duncan and the newspaper was by telephone, and so the did not sight his "quick sketch" because, really, the official "artist's impression" is quite silly.
     The follow-up story is from an unidentified newspaper dated 9 October 1962. I suspect it was the Brisbane evening paper, the Telegraph, but I have been unable to find it. It was published by the same company as the Courier-Mail, but it also run to two editions, the "City Final" and "Late Extra". They were 99% the same, but not 100%, and reference libraries seldom carry both editions.
That monster came again
      Bribie Island's mystery monster, sighted two weeks ago, has been seen again by its discoverer, Mr. Robert Duncan. He said it was several miles from the first spot near the island's southern end. Mr. Duncan, a 68-year-old "beachcomber", said last night he saw the creature on Monday about six miles [10 km] from the northern end of Bribie.
     He described the monster as having a long, finned neck, shiny body, and fish tail. "He surfaced with a sucking noise and cruised slowly towards the shore," Mr. Duncan said. "Instead of 12 ft. as I first estimated, it was about 20 ft. [6 metres] long. Its snout, instead of being pointed, is flat like a pig's. It has two little holes near the centre. They'd be its nostrils, I suppose."
     Queensland Museum director (Mr. George Mack) has said Mr. Duncan's monster was probably a basking shark.
     One would have been happier if they had asked him for a few more details about its anatomy, as well as the distance from which he surveyed it.
     On 6 December 1962, the Australasian Post carried a brief article entitled, ' "The Thing" bobs up again up North'. It tells how Mr Duncan was hoping to see "The Thing" again, but adds nothing new except that he had so far seen it three times ie once more than already reported. It then adds:
A few months ago, a Moreton Bay amateur fisherman, Mr James Kentworth, said he saw a "strange animal" playing in shallow water between Scarborough and Deception Bay, both resorts on Moreton Bay.
     That's not much to go on.
     Also, of course, there was the completely different animal recorded on my earlier post, which appears to date from a couple of years before all this.
     These days, a fisherman or beachcomber would most likely be carrying a mobile phone with built-in camera when he saw something unusual. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. I have been sitting here in Brisbane for the last 52 years waiting for one of those things to come back to Moreton Bay, but nothing has turned up.


  1. Back in the mid eighties I wittnessed a large creature swimming about 50 metres offshore near Skirmish Point. It was hard to estimate its length but probably over 3 metres long at least. It swam with an undulating up and down movement. It was brown coloured as much as I could tell but I could only see its back. I believe a saw a Dugong as did all of these other witnesses. They are not uncommon in Moreton Bay. Using Ochram's razor principals, a Dugong would be the obvious monster. Sid Stevens (now of Noosa)

  2. I'm not shore if I'm on the right track,but just looking at the scetch and seeing a large fish recently caught here in the bribie passage that ive never seen before. I'm wondering if possably it could be a large mouth guitar fish?

    1. Which sketch are you referring to? If it was Nigel Tutt's, then a guitar fish is out because it was more than twice as long, had no dorsal fins, and undulated vertically.
      If it was Mr Duncan's, then the sketch was not made by him. However, the mention of a long neck raised out of the water would disqualify any known fish.


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.