Australia is a land of mystery that certainly has its fair share of strange animals and unidentified, enigmatic beasts. Yet hidden out on the fringes of such phenomena are often odd encounters and sightings of things that are perhaps not as well known in the typical literature of such things, and which are particularly bizarre. From the wilds of the land down under come various accounts of the truly weird, some of which we will look at here.
One very bizarre sighting of an unidentified creature allegedly occurred a the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) Base Scherger, located around 16 miles (26 km) east of the town of Weipa on the western side of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia. In late July and early August of 2005, military personnel at the base were engaged in a series of exercises and drills code named Northern Awakening and Kakadu, and it was during this time that a band of four Air Force members came across something rather strange and beyond their understanding out in the wilderness.
The four Air Force personnel, identified as Mathew Cash, Cy Holland, Chris Hey, and one other unidentified individual, were allegedly out with a tracking dog doing maneuvers to intercept a mock special forces team as part of the exercises on a bright night during a full moon. As they crept along a creek line, a bizarre, quadrupedal creature standing about waist high, with spotted fur, a small head, and reported as moving “like a cat,” ambled out of the brush as they entered a clearing, startling the dog in the process. Airman Cash would say of what happened next:
We came across the quarry and pulled up, looked around and this creature was sniffing on the ground, following exactly where we’d come through. It pulled up on a mound [about 50m away] and just sat there. We had our night weapon sight and our [night vision] on, watching it, and [the creature] was just sitting there sniffing and watching us. The two front legs were bigger than the two back legs, [with] big shoulder blades. I would have said it was a hyena, but obviously we don’t have hyenas here. It was weird looking – it was something that we’d all never seen before.
In the wake of the strange sighting, the airmen claimed that they had actually managed to find an odd looking paw print pressed into the mud of the quarry when they searched for signs of it. The creature was then spotted again two nights later, when it purportedly came to within 10 meters of an observation post and lurked about for a time before melting away into the night. A night vision image was allegedly taken of the creature, but it is hard to say just what kind of animal it could possibly be, as it looks so decidedly bizarre, almost demonic in nature. Military personnel speculated that the creature seen could have been a pig or dingo, but neither of these matches the description, and the airmen who saw it are convinced it wasn’t any of these. Another idea is that the creature could have been some type of anomalous cat or presumably extinct marsupial predator, which might not be surprising consider other similar cryptids said to roam the Australian wilderness.
One such cat-like cryptid of Australia is what is typically referred to as the “Queensland Tiger,” or sometimes the “Marsupial Lion,” which is supposedly a striped, carnivorous cat-like beast about the size of a large dog, that has long been reported by both Aborigines, who call it the Yarri, and European explorers alike in the rainforests of Northeastern Queensland since before colonization of Australia began. These creatures are said to be larger, stockier, and more formidable looking than the thylacine, more lion-like, and indeed even 16th century early maps of Australia featured images of what were labelled “native lions.”
A modern sighting of the Queensland Tiger was made by the naturalist George Sharpe along the Tully River in the early 20th century. Sharpe claimed that it was larger, more powerfully built, darker in color, and more cat-like than a Tasmanian tiger, and that it had bolder stripes all down its back rather than just the hindquarters. At around the same time a rancher claimed to have shot and wounded one of the creatures after it attacked his goats. He then tracked it into the wilderness, where he found its carcass, which had been mostly eaten away by other wildlife. The rancher claimed that the creature was around 5 feet long and looked like some sort of striped big cat. In 1926 the creature was even named as a “striped marsupial cat” by a curator of mammals in the Australian Museum named Ellis Troughton, in the book Furred Mammals of Australia.
Sightings dropped off for a while until the Queensland Tiger came back into the public consciousness in the 1940s and 50s with a spate of sightings of tiger-like creatures in the forests of Queensland, and there were even expeditions that went out hunting for specimens without success. Ranchers also complained that striped beasts similar to tigers would come out of the night to kill their livestock at the time. In 1961 there was a sighting made by a witness named Craig Black, who said he spotted a female carrying her young in a pouch through Ben Lomond National Park. In 1964 there was even a photo purportedly taken of one of the beasts, when a Rilla Martin claimed to have captured it on film running near a dirt road while on vacation near Goroke, western Victoria, Australia. Called the “Ozenkadnook tiger photo,” the image has its fair share of criticism and debate, with some saying it is genuine and others saying it is merely a hoax.
The 1970s saw numerous sightings of the Queensland Tiger, with naturalist Janeice Plunkett collecting over 100 such reports throughout the decade. In the 1990s, residents of the Buderim area of Queensland experienced a wave of sightings of the tiger stalking about at Buderim Forest Park and along the banks of Martins Creek, where it was called “The Beast of Buderim.” As to what these creatures in such reports could be, it has been suggested that they are everything from modern day sightings of the supposedly extinct Tasmanian tiger, to escaped exotic big cats, to the possibility that they are surviving specimens of Thylacoleo carnifex, which was a marsupial carnivore similar to a tiger in appearance that is believed to have been extinct for around 40,000 years and which was perhaps the largest marsupial predator to have ever lived. Could this fierce predator have possibly survived up into the modern era to account for such reports?
Perhaps connected to these sorts of sightings, or perhaps not, are other weird sightings of similar mystery creatures in Australia, and there have been numerous reports of anomalous big cats or cat-like beasts from around the country. In 1903, a rabbit hunter was out in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales when he saw what he described as a "tiger" lounging about near a fallen tree. The man said that the large cat had been staring at him, and so he had decided to get out of there in a hurry. At around the same time was a report from a schoolteacher who claimed that as he had been traveling through the area on horseback he had been confronted with what he said was a creature just like a tiger, saying, “The tiger, which must have been crouching behind a bush, came bounding at me with gaping mouth, and eyes which glared like bull’s-eye lanterns.” The unidentified beast would come to be known as the “Marulan Tiger,” and would pop up in later reports as well, such as a possible account of the animal in the same area written of in the June, 27, 1931 edition of the The Northern Miner, which said:
Two days ago three men were cutting wood on the Johnstone property, when a strange animal, half pig and half dog, came out of a nearby creek; and ran towards the woodmen. Grabbing an axe, one of the party swung at the animal and struck it on the head, killing it. The queer creature had a head resembling a pig, short, fat legs, and a heavy coat of soft, silver-grey fur, but no tail. It was about the size of a collie dog, though not as tall. When the pelt was shown to a local familiar with Australian fauna, he expressed the belief that it was a huge wombat, but others could not identify it. Mr. Johnstone thinks it to be the mysterious animal reported in various parts of the district in recent years.
It is unknown if this creature had anything to do with the Marulan Tiger or other reports, but it would be a curious account even if it wasn’t. There is also a creature said to have looked like a cross between a fox and a wolfhound seen in the area of Kadina in the early 1940s, which was said to kill sheep and harass or terrorize people. What became known as the “Kadina Wehrwolf” was supposedly killed when a farmer decided to set up a stakeout to wait out the beast and shoot it. The June 19, 1943 edition of The World’s News, titled “There Are Queer Creatures in This Australia,” explains how the animal was apparently caught thus:
For three weeks, one of the local farmers lay in wait by a watering hole, ready to shoot the marauder when it came to drink, but the “wehrwolf” quenched its thirst elsewhere. Packs of staghounds and greyhounds were employed in the hunt, but they refused to attack the marauder. Finally, it was caught by one foot in a trap. It was so wild that when its captor went near it, it leapt at him. When it made a second plunge, he shot it in the mouth. This monster weighed 70 pounds and was 4 feet 6 inches from nose to tail. It had a powerful chest and neck, with brindled hair and coarse lines of wavy black and tan on its rump and forelegs. Its tail was short and bushy. A litter of queer-looking pups, which had been found a year before, drowned by flood waters, were believed to be the “wehrwolf’s” offspring.
One wonders what it was or what happened to this supposed carcass or the pups that were apparently found. At around the same time was the account of what was called the “Yengarie Lion,” which was apparently also eventually killed. The creature in this case terrorized the Yengarie district in the early 1940s, and was described as a lion-like animal that slaughtered livestock and marauded about the wilds. A team of around 50 hunters supposedly eventually tracked the monster down to kill it, with an article in the July 23, 1946 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald saying of the hunt:
The mysterious ‘Yengarie lion,’ which caused havoc amongst calves in the Yengarie district, has fallen to a farmer’s rifle, after evading armed hunting parties for weeks. The ‘lion’ proved to be a strange crossbreed animal, 6 feet 6 inches long, 3 feet 11 inches high, and weighing 170 pounds. Farmers who inspected the skin said that they had never seen such an animal. They described it as a cross between a dingo, a collie dog, and a fox. It had a fox’s tail 2 feet long, shaggy shoulders, the bushy neck and colouring of a collie dog and some characteristics of a dingo, with huge claws and heavy footpads six inches across. When the animal was opened up it was found to have inside it half a poddy calf, 14 fowls’ legs, portions of other birds, and chewed rope and leather.
What was this bizarre creature, and more importantly where did its corpse go? Why is it that these exciting reports of mystery monsters being killed tend to end with nothing to show for it? Who knows? Besides mystery big cats and other cat-like predators there are what seem to be giant predatory reptiles roaming the bush of Australia. One such creature has for millennia been part of the lore of the native Aborigines, who knew it as the Burrunjor. This was said to be a large, bipedal reptile of some sort that can reach sizes of up to 25 feet high and seems very much like the common image of a tyrannosaurus rex today, with stout, powerful hind legs and small arms, and which is said to inhabit various parts of Australia such as Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia, as well as parts of northern Queensland.
There are numerous rather dramatic reports of coming across these bipedal, dinosaur-like beasts in the wilderness of the region, as well as of finding their large, three-toed footprints. One notable sighting was made in 1957 near the McArthur River, when around 50 cattle began to panic for no discernible reason. The attending ranchers couldn’t figure out what was going on, and right about at that point another rancher reportedly went running and screaming by in the distance towards a nearby river. At that moment there was reported a booming, loud grunting noise, and there was reported the sight of a tall shadow stalking off into the distance. After this incident there were found to be several dead, mutilated cattle, their corpses brutally mauled and half-eaten as if by a large crocodile.
In 1978 , a bushman and explorer named Bryan Clark was in the Northern Territory tending cattle in the remote area of Urupunji, in Arnhem Land. When they camped out for the night, two of the Aborigine guides woke up in a panic and Clark noticed that the ground seemed to be slightly shaking. They all got their things together and headed out, and a policeman who investigated the report would later claim to have heard an ominous huffing sound from the brush, as if from a large animal. The police would then cryptically warn Clark not to go into the region again because it was not considered safe.
In 1980 there was another rather incredible report, when ranchers in the area of the Gulf Coast began to complain of something carrying off their cattle. The ranchers at first suspected crocodiles, but then one of them would report seeing a 20-foot tall bipedal, reptilian beast pick up a whole cow and carry it off in its jaws. The eyewitness said that he had hidden behind some brush as the monster bounded off with its prey, and when a search party went out looking for the missing cow they found some large strange tracks and the dogs apparently became noticeably frightened. The horses also apparently would go no further and the whole expedition gave up and headed home. There was another report in 1985 by the Askey family who reported seeing a pair of 20-foot tall reptilian beasts lurking in the wilderness near the Roper River Mission.
Another reptile anomaly is a beast known as the Megalania, also known as the Giant Goanna or Giant Monitor Lizard. The creature known as Megalania prisca, which actually did exist in Australia around 40,000 years ago, and was a sort of monitor lizard measuring approximately 25 feet long, is perhaps the largest lizard to have ever lived. Although long thought to be extinct, there are some sightings that seem to show otherwise. In the 1950s there was a sighting made by a surveyor who was returning to his truck when he saw a giant lizard measuring an estimated 15 feet in length scamper off into the brush. In the 1960s there were numerous such reports, and in 1979 there was an encounter made by the herpetologist Frank Gordon, who was doing research in the Wattagan Mountains in New South Wales. As he returned to his vehicle and was preparing to leave, he claims that he saw what he suspected to be a 30-foot long log suddenly get up and scurry off into the wilderness. Is the Megalania still alive or is this just some sort of misidentification?
In addition to the remote wilderness of Australia, the waterways have their own peculiar mysteries as well. The Hawkesbury River of New South Wales has long been said to be the haunt of a mysterious giant aquatic lizard which has apparently been spotted since ancient times by the Aborigines of the area, who called it the moolyewonk or mirreeular, and occasionally created rock paintings of it. The Hawkesbury River Monster is typically described as being anywhere from 7 to 24 meters long (23 to 80 feet) long, with a head similar to that of a snake and powerful flippers on its body. European explorers first reported the creature in the 1800s, but it has allegedly been frequently spotted roaming the depths here all the way into present day, even sometimes being blamed for attacks on humans or livestock.
The seas of Australia have produced some weird, unidentified creatures as well, with one being perhaps the massive prehistoric shark known as the Megalodon (Carcharodon megalodon). Measuring up to an estimated 18 meters (59 ft) in length and possessing formidable teeth around 7 inches (18 cm) long, the Megalodon is considered to be the largest, most powerful predatory fish to have ever lived, and although it is thought to have gone extinct around 2.6 million years ago, there have been sightings well into modern times, suggesting a surviving relic population, and of which I have written of here at Mysterious Universe before , on more than one occasion. In 1918 there was one such sighting near Port Stephens, New South Wales, which was said to be a truly monstrous shark measuring over 100 feet in length, and the incident was described in the report thus:
In the year 1918 I recorded the sensation that had been caused among the "outside" crayfish men at Port Stephens, when, for several days, they refused to go to sea to their regular fishing grounds in the vicinity of Broughton Island. The men had been at work on the fishing grounds—which lie in deep water—when an immense shark of almost unbelievable proportions put in an appearance, lifting pot after pot containing many crayfishes, and taking, as the men said, "pots, mooring lines and all". These crayfish pots, it should be mentioned, were about 3 feet 6 inches [1.06 m] in diameter and frequently contained from two to three dozen good-sized crayfish each weighing several pounds.
The men were all unanimous that this shark was something the like of which they had never dreamed of. In company with the local Fisheries Inspector I questioned many of the men very closely and they all agreed as to the gigantic stature of the beast. But the lengths they gave were, on the whole, absurd. I mention them, however, as a indication of the state of mind which this unusual giant had thrown them into. And bear in mind that these were men who were used to the sea and all sorts of weather, and all sorts of sharks as well.
One of the crew said the shark was "three hundred feet [90 m] long at least"! Others said it was as long as the wharf on which we stood—about 115 feet [35 m]! They affirmed that the water "boiled" over a large space when the fish swam past. They were all familiar with whales, which they had often seen passing at sea, but this was a vast shark. They had seen its terrible head which was "at least as long as the roof on the wharf shed at Nelson Bay." Impossible, of course! But these were prosaic and rather stolid men, not given to 'fish stories' nor even to talking about their catches. Further, they knew that the person they were talking to (myself) had heard all the fish stories years before! One of the things that impressed me was that they all agreed as to the ghostly whitish color of the vast fish. The local Fisheries Inspector of the time, Mr Paton, agreed with me that it must have been something really gigantic to put these experienced men into such a state of fear and panic.
Was this report a hoax, an exaggeration, or an actual surviving Megalodon? Considering the extreme sizes reported it seems like this beast would be far larger than even the largest Megalodon, so it is hard to tell just what these men could have seen. Considering that such reports at the time were often peppered with elements of exaggeration and downright fiction, it is nearly impossible to say, and this account will likely remain just a historical anomaly. All that is certain is that if it was real it was a damn big shark. What are we to make of such strange accounts as we have looked at here? It seems clear that Australia is a wild land with plenty of mysteries left to explore.