Thursday, November 11, 2010

Creepy Outback Cryptid Critters...

Nearly every country has at least one story of a mythical or unexplainable creature. Having been separated from any nearby land some 48,000 years ago, Australia is naturally a place of exotic and bizarre animals many of which are found nowhere else on earth. The kangaroo, koala, and platypus were demystified by European colonization but there are other mysteries based on stories passed down by Aboriginal peoples which today remain unidentified beasts of legendary proportions.

Probably the best known cryptid said to roam across the continent is the Yowie: Australia's very own version of Bigfoot (a.k.a. Sasquatch). Named Narcoonah by natives in what is now South Australia this large hairy ape-like creature has reportedly been sighted by white settlers since the 1840s. As more towns sprung up across the country sightings continued to increase and still happen today. It is believed there are at least two "species" of Yowie ranging from the small 4-5 foot tall hominids to enormous 6-10 foot varieties. Yowie researchers believe it's possible that these creatures are some distant ancestor to Gigantopithecus which was native to China around 1 million years ago, intermingled with ancient man, and may have crossed a land bridge to arrive in Terra Australis.

As with reports of Bigfoot, Yeti, and similar creatures scientists say it's impossible for such a large creature to remain unknown and not result in at least one discovery of a carcass over the past few hundred years. That hasn't stopped countless people and researchers from trying to track the elusive animal. Australian Yowie Research and Australian Yowie Research Centre are a few of the many organizations dedicated to collecting reported sightings and hunting for evidence. Josh Gates of Destination Truth even went to Queensland in 2008 to try to hunt down the creature. But so far the only evidence anyone has produced is footprint casts, odd audio recordings, and unidentified images. You would be hard pressed to even find one of the Cadbury variety these days.

But mysterious creatures are not only confined to land. To the north of Sydney lies the Hawkesbury River, known by Aboriginals as Deerrubbun. It has been a popular spot for thousans of years where the Ku Ring Gui and Dharug tribes believed the Dream Time was found. Prized for its abundant seafood the Hawkesbury might hold another aquatic animal. It's said to be the home of a prehistoric monster.

Similar to Scotland's Loch Ness Monster, the Mirreeulla (or "giant water serpent") was introduced by the Dharuk to early settlers through stories of capsized canoes and vessels blamed on a monster of the deep. It's been described in cave art and recollections as a large bodied animal with two sets of flippers,an eel-like tail, and the head of a snake mounted on a long neck—like a living plesiosaur would be envisioned. Reports of the creature happened throughout the 20th century. More recent sightings have occurred in August 2009 and March 2010.

But there are so many others. The legend of a very peculiar creature called the bunyip. Reports of black panthers. Sightings of extinct animals in Tasmania. Australia is a land of oddities, both known and unknown. Who knows what the next fishing line will pull out of a New South Wales waterway? Or what glint of an animal will be caught in car headlights?

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