letter appeared in the 'The Australian Town and Country Journal'
of December 9 1882, and was written by a naturalist, H.J McCooey,
who I am told was quite well known in Australia in the late 1800's.
McCooey's experience took place on the New South Wales south coast.
The letter, as printed, follows:
- Australian Apes
Occasionally reports reach us through the medium of the press of strange
animals of the monkey tribe being seen in different parts of the colony,
but such reports seem to attract little or no attention, and in many
instances the truth of them is gravely doubted, if not entirely disbelieved.
The general belief amongst Australian naturalists seems to be that the
nearest approach we have in this colony is the native bear.
Now I am
in a position to state, and if necessary to prove, that a more egregious
and unpardonable error does not exist.
The mere fact of no apes being
found in the Sydney Museum does not justify us in rushing to the conclusion
that there are none in the colony, for it is extremely improbable that
any ape will be foolhardy enough to present itself at the museum to
undergo the somewhat delicate operation of [staining?]; and beyond the
fact that there are none to be found in the Sydney Museum there is not
one scintilla of evidence to prove that there are none to be found in
the colony, while there is abundance [sic] of evidence to show that
they are [sic].
A few days ago I
saw one of these strange animals in an unfrequented locality on the
coast between Bateman's Bay and Ulladulla.
My attention was attracted
to it by the cries of a number of small birds which were pursuing and
darting at it.
When I first beheld the animal it was standing on its
hind legs, partly upright, looking up at the
birds above it in the bushes, blinking its eyes and distorting its visage
and making a low chattering kind of noise.
Being above the animal on
a slight elevation and distant from it less than a chain, I had ample
opportunity of noting its size and general appearance.
I think that if
it were standing perfectly upright it would be nearly 5ft high. It was
tailless and covered with very long black hair, which was of a dirty
red or snuff-colour about the the throat and breat.
Its eyes, which
were small and restless, were partly hidden by matted hair that covered
its head. The length of the forelegs or arms seemed to be
strikingly out of proportion with the rest of the body, but in all other
respects its build seemed to be fairly proportional. It would weigh
On the whole it
was a most uncouth and repulsive looking creature, evidently possessed
of prodigious strength, and one which I should not care to come to close
quarters with. Having sufficiently satisfied my curiosity, I threw a
stone at the animal, whereupon it immediately rushed off, followed by
the birds, and disappeared in a ravine which was close at hand.
not claim to be the first who has seen this animal, for I can put my
finger on half a dozen men at Bateman's Bay who have seen the same,
or at any rate an animal of similar description; but I think I am the
first to come forward in the columns
of a newspaper and give publicity to the fact of having seen it.
I may mention that
a search party was organised at Bateman's Bay some months ago to surround
the locality the supposed ape frequents and shoot or capture it, but
the idea was abandoned in consequence of the likelihood of gun accidents;
and I may further state that the skeleton of an ape, 4 feet in length,
may be seen at any time in a cave 14 miles from Bateman's Bay, in the
direction of Ulladulla.
Down Memory Lane From
the IVBC Digest, 20 June 1997
Credit Source: Paul Cropper
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