Off the West Australian coast in 1900, Captain Angus Campbell of the Perth, along with passengers and crew,witnessed a remarkable spectacle. Sailing from Geraldton to Fremantle, and just 12 miles from shore, the chief officer on the bridge spotted “a giraffe-like object upreared vertically from the surface of the ocean”. The chief officer rushed to Captain Campbell to report that he had seen an “unseemly monster” in the water, just 100 yards from their vessel.
“Eager to see what the creature was, I at once ran up to the bridge, and after waiting a couple of minutes, saw the uncanny creature raise its head and body 20 feet out of the water,” the captain would later recount. Those lucky enough to be on board the Perth would soon watch this “unseemly monster” with “a flattish body” and “head and scales similar to those of a snake” appear to do battle with a whale for fully a quarter of an hour.
However, to see a sea monster in the flesh like the fortunate few aboard the Perth, you don’t necessarily have to be sailing the high seas … for it seems there are sea monsters in suburbia too.
The sparkling blue waterways of Broken Bay, at the head of the Hawkesbury River, provide a natural buffer between the suburban sprawl of metropolitan Sydney and the fast-expanding central coast region of New South Wales. On holidays and weekends, the vast waterways prove a popular destination for sun-loving Sydneysiders as well as for those living in the sprawling suburbs of the central coast to the north.
An unlikely spot to be home to a sea monster? Perhaps not.
Shortly after the catastrophic Second World War had ended, Doug Bradbury and his mate were enjoying the tranquilly of fishing in their small rowboat on the azure waters of the bay when suddenly a giant snake-like head on the end of a long neck rose six metres above the water. According to the report, the fishermen dropped their fishing gear and rowed as fast as they could to shore. Once on the safety of the shoreline, the two men were afforded a better view of the sea creature. They described it as having a long neck and serpent-like head, a large body with two pairs of flippers and long, thick tail similar to that of an eel’s.
Earlier, in 1930, so persistent were the sightings of sea monsters from the cliffs around Sydney that efforts were made to capture the unknown beast. On 8 July 1930, The Northern Miner reported that:
“So persistent have been the reports … that a huge sea monster has come inshore, and the statements made so corroborate each other, that a special launch has been sent to endeavour to locate it …
“The launch has been specially fitted with harpoons and will carry an explosive gun with a range of 1,000 yards, manufactured to kill a whale …
“When 30 persons in this sophisticated age, give circumstantial testimony – which is absolutely unshaken by cross-examination – to the effect that they have witnessed the gambols of a fearsome marine monster just off the cliffs round Sydney, as they have in the last 24 hours, scientific Sydney decides that their story must be accepted.
“For many days stories have been circulating that a real sea serpent has been sighted from vantage points just south of Botany Bay. It is described as being about 90 feet long, with a serpent-like neck, and a head resembling that of a calf. Furthermore, it is declared that it makes a noise like a school of barking seals.”
Unfortunately, however, it would appear that efforts to capture, or locate, the Sydney sea monster came to naught.
Just south of Botany Bay, on the southern most peninsula of metropolitan Sydney, lies the beachside suburb of Cronulla. Here too would appear to be another unlikely setting for an encounter with a fearsome sea monster, but that is exactly what happened to swimmers one warm December day in 1935. The monster was again described as having a “long neck topped by a small flat head”.
“About a dozen persons five of them adults were bathing in the Oak Park ocean pool near Cronulla a little before 4 pm on Monday when the creature appeared close to the wall of the pool near a school of porpoises. Those present say that it swam strongly and raised its head high out of the water four or five times before it was lost to sight as it made its way out to sea.”
About four and a half hours drive south of Sydney is the seaside town of Narooma. Known for its white sandy beaches, clear waters and abundance of sea life including whales and dolphins, Narooma may have also once been home to yet another sea monster.
In April 1935, two boys discovered the carcass of an unknown sea creature that had washed up on the beach. The creature was described by the local postmaster as having “long, tapering head, high cranium, eyes level with the mouth … two fins at the back of the head, a dorsal fin and a two-bladed propeller tail; 24 teeth in each side in the top row and most likely more than 48 in the bottom row (many teeth having fallen out); smooth and leathery hide; approximately 12 feet long when extended on the beach".
The carcass was apparently taken away on a truck to be photographed. Whatever happened to it next remains somewhat of a mystery.
The year 1935 was apparently a very good year for spotting suburban sea monsters. In the Victorian seaside city of Portland, an aquatic creature described as a sea serpent was reported to have made its way into Portland Harbour in June. The body was a slaty blue colour, about 80 to 100 feet long with a neck around 15 feet long and a head resembling that of a giraffe.
Around the same time, at Barwon Heads, near the Victorian city of Geelong, the extraordinary claim was made that a crew out building a new road had attempted to capture a sea monster seen lying on some rocks by the water’s edge. The monster was described as “about 18 feet long, of a grey colour, with a head and neck like a serpent's, an enormous mouth, a fur-coated body, and a white-striped chin”.
As the road crew attempted to lasso the beast, it slid from the rocks into the water and swam away to safety. Just as well for the road crew!
So, the next time you are taking a dip in the relative safety of your local beach, fishing by the shore, or relaxing on a small boat, remember that sea monsters may just be lurking in suburbia too.
For more reports of sea serpents and other cryptozoological wonders, check out Weird Australia: Real Reports of Uncanny Creatures, Strange Sightings & Extraordinary Encounters.