11 December 2017

A History of Queensland Bunyips (Part Two): The 20th Century

By the end of the 19th century, the possibility that the mysterious 'bunyip' could be a real zoological entity had been generally dismissed, and it had taken its place firmly in the realms of Australian folklore as a mythical beast. Although there had been numerous recorded sightings of strange unidentified creatures in the waterways of Queensland since the arrival of Europeans, the descriptions varied widely and the reports were unverified (see my article on Bunyip sightings in 19th-century Queensland). There was also no biological evidence, such as skeletal remains, scat or fur, to support claims that the bunyip was a real animal. Despite this, the concept of the bunyip was established in popular culture and reports of new sightings lingered well into the 20th century.

There were also ongoing attempts to provide rational scientific explanations for past encounters. This was evident when the noted ichthyologist J. Douglas Ogilby addressed a meeting of the Royal Society of Queensland in 1904, on the subject of ‘A Chelydroid Tortoise Identified with the Bunyip’. He argued against identifying ‘bunyips’ as seals, carpet snakes or musk ducks, and claimed that the Chelodina longicollis (Snake-necked Turtle) could be involved in some alleged bunyip sightings:
‘…acknowledged retiring disposition of these tortoises and their selection as a 'dwelling-place of the loneliest and most desolate swamps - and waterholes,' from which they seldom emerge, fully accounted for the rarity of its appearance, and, coupled with superstitious fear, for the ignorance of its habits among the aborigines; while their ferocity, when cornered, which perhaps in bygone times caused the death of a chief, would account for the universal terror in which this animal was held, vivified and heightened by the glamour of centuries. Mr. Ogilby also drew attention to the curious but undeniable fact that there were many waterholes, to all human appearance similar to others in the neighbourhood, on which wild fowl refused to alight, and he deduced from this that these holes were inhabited by chelydrids, and experience had taught the birds the danger of settling thereon. Mr. Ogilby concluded with some recent stories of the appearance of the bunyip, tending to show that it is in reality a gigantic freshwater tortoise.’ (The Week, 29 April 1904)
The former politician and journalist Archibald Meston was present at this talk and congratulated Ogilby on his 'ingenious' argument, but maintained that the bunyip was no more than 'a good deal of imagination connected with the supposed presence in deep dark pools of a dangerous wild beast'. Meston had been on an expedition to the Bellenden Ker ranges, south of Cairns, in 1899 and heard Aboriginal people talk about a deep pool where a 'long-necked monster who used to swish about in the water, especially at night time'. He suggested that such a disturbance could have merely been a large fish eating a water bird.

The Bellenden Ker ranges.

So academic discussion of the bunyip around this time seemed to be concerned with finding rational explanations behind the folklore or - as such stories were called in the Brisbane Courier in 1908 - 'the equivalent of the mumbo-jumbo of Central African tribes'. Nevertheless, occasional reports of sightings continued to appear in the news, such as one near Gayndah in 1909, in which three young girls out looking for calves saw a creature 'trot or flounder along, until it took its refuge in the Baronne waterhole'. One of the children reportedly 'resorted to that feminine defence in crisis - hysterits'. The girls' parents and other adults subsequently searched for the animal and found nothing but tracks. This was enough to impress one man who maintained a nightly search for the creature. A local fisherman also claimed to have seen the bunyip, which he refused to fire at at since 'he reckons it is a spirit'. The animal was described as being 'the size of a calf with a ewe neck, and short reddish hair, resembling that of a retriever'.

This report prompted Mr F. Williams, a resident of nearby Torbanlea, to publicly recount an incident from a few years earlier. His station was home to a number of lagoons, some about 20 metres deep, and he claimed that one day his wife and 18-year-old daughter saw two creatures that looked like 'little men with longish black hair', the larger one being just over a metre tall, come out of a waterhole, run towards them for a 100 metres, then turn around and head back to the water. His three teenage sons reported seeing a very similar creature on the waterbank during the following year, and during a drought there were similar sightings at the Brushwood lagoon a few kilometres away.

Another alleged sighting occurred in 1910 at Coalstoun Lakes, near Biggenden, in the North Burnett. An amateur photographer took some shots of the lake, and when developing the film he noticed some kind of animal, which was subsequently described in one newspaper:
'Its appearance vaguely suggests a shovel-nosed shark taking - which a shark has never been known to do - a hop, step, and a jump over the surface of the water. It has a dorsal fin, a large terrifying eye, and a mottled skin. Indeed, it might be compared to a dugong, or sea cow, flying through space.' (Brisbane Courier, 19 January 1910)
'Shovel-nose shark' is an early term for 'bull shark', which are known to jump on occasion, although it would be near-impossible for such an animal to find its way to the Coalstoun Lakes from a river system.

Coalstoun Lakes National Park Queensland.

There was another sighting in 1910 when Reg Randall claims to have seen a bunyip while pig shooting on Moreton Island. No description was given, although Reg and his brother were said to have been organising a follow-up search party.

Things were quiet on the bunyip-spotting scene for some years afterwards, but talk of crocodiles in Gold Coast waterways during the late 1920s stirred up interest again. Reports soon began to emerge of strange sights and sounds in the swamps and lagoons near Merrimac. There had been stories about bunyips in this area for decades, including one from a local resident who had been shooting ducks there in 1886 and claimed to see have seen 'a monster with a very big rough mane coat and an enormous big rough long bushy tail' that dived among the water weeds near the bank. A local squatter offered £1,000 to anyone who could get the bunyip dead or alive, prompting some serious search parties. The eventual conclusion was that the creature was probably a crocodile.

The alleged Merrimac bunyip. (Brisbane Courier, 29 March 1929)

Public curiosity about the local bunyip grew during the the development of a housing estate in North Burleigh area in the 1920s. There were reports of a loud 'boom - boom - boom' noise coming from the swamp each night following the construction of the Miami Hotel (1925) and a sanitary depot in the swamp area (1930), although these sounds were sometimes not heard for 12 months before starting up again. According to one local resident, reminiscing in 1938, 'local aborigines would pull up camp when the booming noises came from the swamp, referring to the 'Debil Debil'.' This large Yugambeh camp was on the 'old Racecourse flat midway between Burleigh and West Burleigh'. 

These events prompted Fred Garland to recall mysterious happenings at Yalebone Creek, between Roma and Surat, about 60 years earlier:
'At that time the creek had an unfathomable water hole, which both blacks and whites were afraid to approach. Every night a tremendous splash, like the fall of a mountain of rock into the water, was heard, and, although venturesome persons had endeavoured to ascertain the cause of the splash, the mystery was never solved. Mr. Garland also states that the late Mr. A. Meston spent some time at Coombabah, between Brisbane and Southport, endeavouring without success to shoot a monster that was supposed to inhabit a creek there.' (Brisbane Courier, 24 June 1932)
The 290 residents of the small country town of Thargomindah (1,100 km west of Brisbane) were alarmed by reports of a strange creature lurking in nearby Lake Dynevor in the winter of 1941. News spread far and wide and for a few months newspapers around the country followed the story of this new and mysterious ‘bunyip’. A shire clerk claimed that about 20 people had glimpsed it, including a local postal inspector and station manager, who had both had chased it by boat one morning before it disappeared into some rushes. They saw the creature from about 90 metres away in weak dawn light and described it like this:
‘It was nothing like anything I’ve seen… The head was black and at least a foot long, and the animal was grunting and splashing a lot. From the size of the head I would say it was about 6 feet long. I was told that many years ago a seal was seen in the Dynevor chain of lakes.' (The Mail [Adelaide], 2 August 1941)
Lake Bindegolly National Park, near Thargominda.

Hunters and photographers searched for the 'bunyip', and travellers took time out to stop by hope for a sighting:  
‘Last week two of the animals showed themselves at the same time to a party of sightseers. ‘They were as alike as two peas, and we weren’t seeing double,’ said one of the party. ‘They were black, about 2ft. 6in. long, with heads like dogs, and very prominent ears. They swirled away as soon as they spotted us. Probably one was male and one female, but we couldn’t tell from where we were, about 50 yards away. They looked just the same.’ (Sunday Mail, 17 August 1941)
Carnavon’s Northern Times then reported another interesting description of the creature.
‘Mr. R. R. Smith, of Thyangra, who claims to have seen the ‘bunyip,’ said it was about three feet long, two feet six inches around the body, representing a football in shape, but tapering to the head and tail… The head was like that of a pug dog, but more pointed, and appeared to have strings or fibres hanging down from the upper lip. Its colour was mousy brown, with a definite polish, and it seemed to be rather inquisitive.’Sightings seem to have stopped around September 1941 and interest in the saga of the Thargomindah Bunyip soon waned. It was never seen again, and the search parties gave up their pursuit of it.
Reports of sightings died off in September 1941 and the bunyip was soon forgotten. In retrospect it is likely that what was seen there was either dingoes or foxes out to raid the nests of water birds, or other species of birds attracted by the expanded post-rain lakes. The musk duck was mentioned at the time as a likely candidate. 

Around this time, two boys saw a carcass floating floating upstream with the tide in the Mary River, Maryborough. They described it as being:
‘about 10 feet long, with a long snout, almost like a bill, about two feet long, and fitted with teeth an inch long... It was neither alligator nor dugong, although the body was similar to a dugong with large flippers. An outstanding feature was the creature's huge eyes. It appeared to have a tough hide, with barnacles clinging to it. In colour the body was greenish brown above and yellow underneath. The creature had been dead for some time.' (Maryborough Chronicle, 25 August 1941) 
This appears to have been no more than a badly-decomposed marine creature, although the 'bunyip fever' of the day prompted speculation about cryptids. The bunyip story associated with a waterhole at Mulgidie, near the tiny town of Monto (Upper North Burnett) was mentioned in newspapers a few years later, after subterranean rumblings caused nearby cattle to flee. The waterhole is just over a kilometre long and 20 metres wide, and on occasion is known to bubble and gurgle. There are stories of 'disappearing cattle and eerie sensations throughout the generations'. Some Aboriginal elders believe the hole is connected to a network of underground waterways. There seems to be little evidence of sightings, but local tradition has spawned an annual 'bunyip festival' in what seems to be an attempt to attract visitors to the area.

Bunyip figure at Mulgildie (Mulgildie Bunyip Festival)

One of the last reported 'bunyip sightings' in Queensland occurred at 18 Mile Swamp on Stradbroke Island in 1950, when four workmen heard a loud splash and saw 'something big' dive into the water. They described it as having 'a pointed snout and long floppy ears… it seemed to be four or five feet long with a thick body. It has black and had a long neck and long ears like a spaniel.' It left a large wake before emerging in some rushes and then disappearing into the waters again.

The second half of the century saw a dearth of Queensland bunyip sightings. Zoologically, the creature had its day - in mainstream science anyway - and it even lost status as a feasible cryptid as creatures such as the 'yowie' took hold of the imagination of the researchers of mythical beasts. The numerous sightings of yesteryear came to nought under the crushing weight of a lack of hard evidence. People catching glimpses of wild animals they couldn't identify are no longer prone to throwing the word 'bunyip' around, and newspapers generally lost interest in the tired cultural trope a long time ago. The bunyip did remain a character in children's media, most famously in Jenny Wagner's 1973 book 'The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek'.

If the animal has survived as a going concern anywhere, it is in the Indigenous Australian stories that have circulated from as far back as anyone can remember. Aboriginal people around Beaudesert, south of Brisbane, continue to share their knowledge of local bunyip places with the public, giving the lagoons there an aura of mystery that would have been more common around other Queensland waterholes a century ago.

For most of the State, the mystery of the bunyip faded away a long time ago.
   

06 December 2017

Walking Among the Dead

"Going by, you try to be as quiet as possible, better to let them sleep. Greek, Roman, sepulchres - palatial mausoleums made to order, phantomesque, signs and symbols of hidden decay - ghosts of women and men who have sinned and who've died and are now living in tombs. The past doesn't pass away so quickly here. You could be dead for a long time." (Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One, 2004)
It has been all quiet on the blogging front in recent months, but in the meantime I've been up to my armpits in running cemetery night tours.

The tours are a community partnership between the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society (BRGHS) and the Friends of South Brisbane Cemetery (FOSBC). Basically, the BRGHS provide legal cover for the tours, while monies raised help develop the FOSBC so they can undertake heritage and history projects.

South Brisbane Cemetery night tour, December 2017 (C. Dawson)

These things only started back in March, with me and my good friend and cemetery historian Tracey Olivieri picking up where our Moonlight Tours left off in 2013 - walking groups of people around the South Brisbane Cemetery at night, discussing general history and particular people along the way.

This year we also developed a range of other tours, so apart from the general cemetery history covered in our 'Torchlight Tour', we added 'Gruesome Graveyards' featuring some of the more dramatic stories associated with the place, a 'Hangman's Walk' looking entirely at capital punishment, and more recently the 'Ghosts of South Brisbane Cemetery' tour, welcoming back our tour guide colleague Liam Baker. We even ran a sold-out 'Hangman's Walk' over at Toowong Cemetery, and a 'Tombstone Folk' evening folk concert at South Brisbane.





The selling point for these tours has been that we tour guides have in-depth knowledge of what we are talking about, so people are free to ask us questions and have a chat as we go around. And judging by the feedback, this is what people want, as opposed to the kind of tours that feature a guide who knows little beyond the script and avoids any 'out of character' conversation with the guests. Our informal but knowledgeable approach has earned plenty of rave reviews, and the rising attendance levels speak for themselves. At first we were aiming at one tour per month, to see how things went. The first tour was quiet - 8 people - but it picked up to around 20 people for each of the next few tours, and then we hit the current patch of nine sold-out tours in a row (even with six tours in six weeks).

Where to from here? The plans for 2018 are to continue tweaking the tours here and there to make them even better. We have a lot of ideas (too many ideas!) and the trick is working out what is viable and worth devoting time in the calendar to. What we (and other groups) can offer in cemeteries is restricted by limited access to the popular slots of Friday and Saturday nights. While we have access for two Friday nights per month at South Brisbane, all other such nights both there and at Toowong are effectively locked up for now by a small business. Hopefully this situation will change in future if the Brisbane City Council are to fully realise their very worthwhile vision of opening up municipal cemeteries to a wider range of community cultural use.

All-in-all, we've shown that the BRGHS and FOSBC are more than capable of running successful tours. We've REALLY enjoyed taking these tours, but are looking forward to a short summer break among the living after all our work this year.


08 August 2017

Life & Death

Life & Death in the Sunshine State is a growing collection of interesting stories about the history of Queensland, including - among other things - tales of hangings, cemeteries, sharks and other animals, and prisons.

Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, circa 1860 (State Library of Queensland)

This website has been created by Christopher Dawson, a Brisbane-based professional historian.

05 April 2017

The Merrimac Bunyip

Although the 'bunyip' had generally been consigned to the realms of fantasy and folklore by the early 20th century (see my article on 19th-century Queensland sightings here), occasional speculation over mysterious water beasts still surfaced from time to time, such as when reports of crocodiles in Gold Coast waterways stirred up interest in the subject during the late 1920s.


The bunyip as described by Matt Heeb (below). (Brisbane Courier, 29 March 1929)

A part of Yugambeh country, the broad Merrimac Plain was home to a chain of lagoons named on early maps as the 'Great Swamp', fed by overflow from the Mudgeeraba and Bonogin Creeks which eventually joined with the Nerang River. Thomas Blacket Stephens - former mayor of South Brisbane - bought 6,980 acres there in 1873. He intended to drain the swamp to create grazing land for cattle, including a large drain through to the Wyangum Lagoon in 1882, but it proved to be a difficult task due to the depth of the waters. The swamp extended from the original Merrimac Estate property to Burleigh Waters.

Plan of Merrimac Estate, undated. (John Oxley Library)

Bunyip tales were already well established in this area when Stephens took the land, and interest peaked with a series of incidents there during the 1920s and '30s. On one occasion, local man Luke Meyers claimed to have seen strange tracks and heard an unidentifiable animal call at Burleigh in 1928. He was part of a family that had lived near the Nerang River since the 1870s and was well aware of old accounts of a bunyip in the district, but was of the opinion that a crocodile was the real animal in those stories.

This report prompted local resident Matt Heeb to recall a bunyip scare at the nearby Merrimac lagoon. Heeb had been shooting ducks there in 1886 and claimed to see have seen 'a monster with a very big rough mane coat and an enormous big rough long bushy tail' that dived among the water weeds near the bank. A local squatter made a verbal offer of £1,000 to anyone who could get the bunyip dead or alive, prompting some serious search parties that were later recalled by Carl Lentz in his Memoirs and Some History (1961):

'We explored those lagoons and part of the swamp. We had double shot guns loaded with swoon drops, we tried to find out its habits so we could try to catch it alive... Towards evening as we were getting ready to go home, William Laver called. When he saw the ducks he asked if we were the chaps shooting at the big lagoon, I said we were, and he asked how we got the ducks out. I told him I swam in and got them out. He said he would not go in there for a fiver, no, he would not go in there for any money... if that fellow got you it would be the end of you... He said that Jack Stanfield was mysteriously losing foals about the big lagoon... Jack was manager of the Merry Mac Estate, they had a horse stud, mares and foals running around that big lagoon. As time went on the swamps were gradually drained off, except eastwards towards Burleigh Heads. Some returned soldiers from the Boer War were trying to get the monster, but with no success... There were also Bunyip hunters up the Little Tallebudgera Creek swamp, No.1 War veterans with the same results as the previous ones. It was too cunning and wary to be caught in those labyrinths there.'

Lentz also concluded that the creature was a crocodile, an animal not too dissimilar to the one recalled by Matt Heeb, although a retired policeman claimed it was probably an otter.

The Merrimac story prompted a group of Brisbane university students to explore the swamps in December 1929, and an article about this expedition featured the claim that there was a 'general belief' that the lagoon was connected to the ocean by an underground tunnel and the alleged bunyip was in fact a dugong. Demonstrating the inherent unreliability of folklore, another article about this same bunyip was printed in the Queenslander in 1934, but placed the 'big scare' in the 1890s instead of the 1880s and described local residents as:

'telling weird tales of its blood curdling, nightly shrieking, described usually as something between a woman screaming and a bull bellowing. Some had claimed to have seen it, an awesome sight - something between a camel and a giraffe - with long,patchy, moss-like hair clinging to it, and one staunch soul had even watched it as it calmly walked across the sand terrace and disappeared into the sea. Looking back, it seems to me that the descriptions varied according to the particular brew of local rum that had been imbibed.'

Public curiosity about the local bunyip grew during the the development of a housing estate in North Burleigh area in the 1920s. There were reports of a loud 'boom - boom - boom' noise coming from the swamp each night following the construction of the Miami Hotel (1925) and a sanitary depot in the swamp area (1930), although these sounds were sometimes not heard for 12 months before starting up again. According to one local resident, reminiscing in 1938, 'local aborigines would pull up camp when the booming noises came from the swamp, referring to the 'Debil Debil'.' This large Yugambeh camp was on the 'old Racecourse flat midway between Burleigh and West Burleigh'.

'Miami Hotel looking south westwards across the Great Swamp and the Hinterland', c.1935. (Gold Coast Libraries)

Could there be a geological or human source behind these sounds? A quick search found similar noises occurring at Cooma in NSW in 2015, and in various parts of North America (2015), so an environmental cause cannot be ruled out.

Part of the mystery behind some of the sightings was solved in 1938 when Charles Finamor, a council sanitary contractor, encountered a 3-metre crocodile lying in long grass at the north end of the Merrimac Swamp. The remains of a cow, with scattered bones, were lying nearby. Heber Longman, director of the Brisbane Museum, suggested that the crocodile must have escaped from captivity. As usual, this story kickstarted more speculation, and long-term Burleigh Heads resident W.R. Clarke recalled hearing a 'deep booming sound from the undergrowth' near the swamp one day and finding tracks which he supposed to be a seal. He spent days afterwards trying to track down such a creature, but without luck.

'Digging of canals on the Merrimac Estate, circa 1924'. (Gold Coast Libraries)

Old resident Walter Lawty then recalled hearing 'unearthly howls from some animals on the rocks' there some 30 years earlier, and after meeting a boy who had just witnessed a large animal in the same vicinity he had packed his rifle and found and shot a 3-metre 'common grey seal'.

The bunyip reports declined along with the swamps as land reclamation and drainage transformed the local landscape around Miami and North Burleigh and the area became more densely populated. It is now clear that a variety of 'exotic' creatures such as crocodiles and seals had occasionally found their way into those swamps, and unclear sightings and mysterious sounds were combined with Aboriginal lore to generate speculation about bunyips.

UPDATE:
I started parts of this article a few months ago, and upon completion noticed that the Courier-Mail had a story titled 'Bunyips: The simple but scary truth behind local legend' on 1 March 2017, which covered some of the history here. It highlighted a number of historic cases of crocodiles being found in SE Queensland rivers, and is a reminder of how little credence is given to bunyip mythology in modern newspapers - even the Murdoch press.

History of 19th-century Queensland bunyip sightings

30 March 2017

Cryptid Cats and Dogs of the Far North

There have been some recent reports of possible sightings of a thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) in the far north of Queensland. The witnesses were reasonable sources - a Park Services employee and a frequent camper - although these encounters did happen at night and there is no footage. The sightings were interesting enough to warrant further investigation from scientists at the James Cook University, who are now looking at setting up numerous 'camera traps' in the areas (although that project is also focussed on other wildlife).

Thylacines
Thylacines. (John Gould)

The last known Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in Hobart in 1936, which was also the year that other reports of cryptid sightings emerged from north Queensland. On that occasion, the Victorian naturalist Charles Barrett led an expedition to Mount Bellenden Ker, between Innisfail and Cairns, which at a height of 1,593 metres is the second highest peak in Queensland, behind its neighbour Mt. Bartle Frere. The ranges there had been the site of cryptid speculation back in 1899, when former politician and journalist Archibald Meston was part of an expedition that heard local Aboriginal people talk about a deep pool with a 'long-necked monster who used to swish about in the water, especially at night time'. Meston dismissed claims that this could have been a bunyip, and instead suggested that such a disturbance could have been a large fish eating a water bird.

Barrett later reported his belief that the 'dense jungle on the mountain was one of the haunts of the mysterious 'marsupial tiger'.' He had not witnessed the creature himself, but his guide Arnold Leumann (a 'noted North Queensland guide and bushman') claimed to have seen one. Leumann described the animal as being 'about the size of a dingo, but with a short, blunt head, rather like that of a tiger. It's body and tail were striped like a tiger's. It was perched on the branch of a tree, and snarled and spat at him.'

The Bellenden Ker ranges.

Leumann was aged around 40 years at the time, and was well respected as a knowledgeable guide. Barrett was not skeptical about the existence of the animal, which he presumed to be marsupial and 'might be an unusually large species of tiger-cat'. After reading Barrett's report, the Brisbane Museum director Heber Longman said that he had been interested in the possibility of such an animal for many years, but there was nothing more than hearsay evidence to support claims of its existence.

Alfred White of Burleigh Heads, who was an old friend of Leumann, responded to the reports by saying he 'could vouch for the accuracy of the description of any animal seen by him', but believed that the animal described was a 'marsupial tiger, a large specimen of the native cat'. He was familiar with Bellenden Ker and suggested that a search on the western side of the range - where there was plentiful food for a large cat - would be the best bet for finding a specimen. 

There was reasonable speculation that what had been seen was a 'tiger cat', which could refer to the tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus gracilis), an endangered species found in a small region of northern Queensland, including the Bellenden Ker area. The average length of these animals is 80cm (male) and 75cm (female).

Talk of the 'tiger cat' could also refer to the 'Queensland tiger', which is considered to be a cryptid, although one with a feasible chance of actually being real. Known within Aboriginal culture as the yarri, it is said to be a 'dog-sized feline with stripes and a long tail, prominent front teeth and a savage temperament'. Such an animal could be a descendant of the extinct predatory marsupial Thylacoleo (T. carnifex) or even a variety of large feral cat. The story of large cats being descended from mascot pumas brought to Queensland by American soldiers during World War II is apparently an urban myth.

Restoration of T. carnifex.
Restoration of T. carnifex. (Nobu Tamura [http://spinops.blogspot.com])

Another theory, posited by tree kangaroo expert Roger Martin, is that the sightings could be of either Lumholtz's or Bennett's tree kangaroos, animals which walk on four legs when on the ground and are found in small areas of far north Queensland.

Indigenous accounts of the yarri date back through time, and the earliest non-Indigenous reports emerged in 1871. Sightings were quite consistent, although reports have declined in number since the 1950s. The Australian zoologist Albert Sherbourne Le Souef described the animal in his 1926 book The Wild Animals of Australasia as being a 'Striped marsupial cat', a description also provided by Australian Museum curator Ellis Troughton in his Furred Mammals of Australia (1965) although he also proposed that it could be a mainland variant of the thylacine. This idea was also shared by Cape York artist Percy Trezise.

The notion that the 'Queensland tiger' might actually be a mainland thylacine has been promoted by cryptozoologists for some time, although there are clear differences between the descriptions of the cats and the thylacines, such as in their head shape, position and colouring of the stripes, and arboreal habits. Nevertheless, the idea that a remnant population might exist cannot be dismissed out of hand, and researcher Sandra Abell, from James Cook University’s Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, commented about the field survey in the region where the recent thylacine sightings were reported:

'It is a low possibility that we’ll find thylacines, but we’ll certainly get lots of data on the predators in the area and that will help our studies in general.' 
It was “not impossible” there were thylacines to be found, she said. “It’s not a mythical creature. A lot of the descriptions people give, it’s not a glimpse in the car headlights. People who say they’ve actually seen them can describe them in great detail, so it’s hard to say they’ve seen anything else. 
“I’m not ruling it out at all, but to actually get them on camera will be incredibly lucky.'

I'm not aware of the precise location of these sightings - it would appear that researchers are keen to keep them quiet, and for good reason - but there is a real history of reports of cryptids in the forests of far north Queensland. And unlike the cases of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, there is a genuine chance that small populations of 'Queensland tigers' or thylacines could exist. As much as we all want these animals to have survived in some form, there is a damning lack of physical evidence (bones, scats, hair, prints, decent footage) to support the idea, and the prospect of 'mistaken identity' with eyewitness accounts cannot be dismissed. Still, we can all dream...


29 March 2017

Life and Death Quiz #4: Brisbane Cemeteries

Welcome to another 'Life and Death Quiz' about Queensland history. In this fourth entry you can test your knowledge of the history of cemeteries in Brisbane.

Be warned - they're not too easy! You can find some answers in the 'South Brisbane Cemetery' website.

(Also check out more 'Life and Death Quizzes' here when you've finished).

15 March 2017

A Bit of Housekeeping

I'm currently in the middle of reorganising my online material, which means shuffling around a few articles from one website to another. Approximately half the posts here will be moved to new homes as I think the subject matter was getting too diverse for one history blog.

Some of the sites are already in place and will be linked. Others are still a work in progress, so sorry for any inconvenience with missing stories or links.