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Sunday, April 11, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: The Creature of Bynoe Harbour

There is very little information about the Beast of Bynoe Harbour near Darwin in North Australia. It has been described as being like a plesiosaur. Sightings of the creature have supposedly taken place through out the area’s history. There are cave paintings said to depict the creature. A picture of a creature, nicknamed the Bynoe Harbour Monster, appeared in a Darwin newspaper after occasional sightings by fishermen. The newspaper is, I presume, the North Territory News but a search has not turned up the article. There were apparently reports claiming that a Mr Burge Brown saw three plesiosaurs swimming off Bynoe Harbour, but again I have been unable to trace the newspaper report.

An Anyuna native from the Northern Territories is said that after seeing the picture in the newspaper he realised that one of the drawings by the indigenous peoples looked like a plesiosaur. I have posted it here. The creature looks to have been disembowelled. Whether that is its intestines next to it or another creature I am not sure. Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the area and culture may know.

Without much evidence to go on I think we could mark this up to misidentification, though the cave painting is intriguing. There are sharks, crocodiles and various other large marine creatures in the waters around Northern Australia that could account for misidentifications. An unevolved prehistoric creature is a very unlikely explanation.


Dale Drinnon said...

This is a depiction which is found on many Fundamentalist-Christian Cryptozoology sites, always saying it is good proof of a Plesiosaurian survival because the Aboriginals made a very good depiction of a plesiosaur without supposedly knowing what a Plesiosaur looked like.
Yes, it is supposed to have been diembowelled, and right next to it are some other sea creatures including a large eel, a small turtle, and another fish of indeterminate sort. These would represent the creature's stomach contents, and very reasonable.
The problem is (and it is this absolutely), this is not an isolated instance, such depictions occur world-wide. Som,e very good depictions are also in New Zealand and some others in South America, and the strange part about that is that they both have the same distinctive parallel way of depicting the limbs. The skeletal structure of the limbs (flippers) and the skull are always exactly Plesiosaurian, and the skulls are always Euryapsid. Snakes and lizards have a different type of skull, as do mammals.

stormwalkernz said...

As for the depiction, the area you mention as intestine most definitely appears to be so. If you look closely you can see the figure of a man in the intestine, presumably eaten by the creature.

Dale, I was not aware of any New Zealand rock art depicting any prehistoric creatures if you could provide me with some kind of link I would be extremely grateful. New Zealand rock art is far less plentiful then the Australian aboriginal samples. Also from what I've seen it is far more cruder and seems to have been a pass time more favoured by the more nomadic South Island tribe's. I'm actually hoping among the New Zealand rock art that there may be depictions of snakes or crocodiles as fossil evidence has been found which may prove the existence into first colonisation times. I would also much prefer a crocodile with peddles to support my mosasaur research to some extent :-)

Dave said...

The 'original' account is apparently in:

The Northern Territory News [Darwin, Australia], 2 February 1980, page 1, 'Dinosaur found in NT harbour'

further reports of different sightings appeared on 15 & 20 February in the same newspaper.

This is cited in:

Cropper, P. & Smith, M. 1992. 'Some unpublicized Australasian "Sea Serpent" reports', Cryptozoology - Interdisciplinary Journal of the International Society of Cryptozoology, Vol. 11 1992, pp.51-69
[see pp.63-64 in particular]

and also reported, with a little less detail in:
Smith, M. 1996. Bunyips & Bigfoots - in search of Australia's mystery animals, Alexandria, NSW Australia: Millenium Books. pp.61-62

This second reference also cites another newspaper article:

Sunday Mail [Brisbane, Australia], 3 February 1980 [no page references given]

In both secondary accounts, no mention of an depiction as shown by Lindsay is made.

And then there's the irrepressible and legendary Rex Gilroy, who, bless his sox, published some witness accounts of the same sighting in his own self published tome on cryptozoological australiana:

Gilroy, R & H. 2006. Out of the Dreamtime - the search for Australasia's unknown animals, Katoomba, NSW, Australia: Uru Publications, pp.320-321

Gilroy references an article he got published in the Northern Territory News of 21 July 1979 which sparked the letter writing to him. Apparently, the (Australian) eastern states newspapers (where most of the population resides) followed suit over the coming months.

Gilroy doesn't mention a drawing either.

I'll see if I can hunt up the original newspaper report here.

That said, the depiction shown by Lindsay seems to be a bit strange. While it shows a typical Arnhem land type animal representation - showing all the innards as part of the drawing (I think it's called X-ray style) - in this case, it also shows a chap inside the beastie, so it must have swallowed him. (I've seen similar drawings depicting various bunyips and other nasties, but they've definitely been of recent manufacture) So, there's no suggestion of disembowellment at all! In my extremely limited exposure to this stuff, it is unusual to see human figures depicted as they are surrounding such an animal picture. This is telling me that the depiction is part of a children's story, possibly done by a local, and therefore not anything to do with a representation of any rock art as such, but there's no telling who drew this, and unfortunately that casts a bit of a shadow on the authenticity!

anyone got anymore info on this particular drawing? I can try and track it down??

Dale Drinnon said...

I would love to see any plainly obvious Mosasaur depictions from New Zealand but the closest ones are rather obscure, and there is little differentiation between what might be Mosasaurs and what might be big crocs.
We had a discussion about Taniwhas in New Zealand rock art before at my Frontiers-of-Zoology group, and I mentioned the Plesiosaur-paddles at that time. I shall email you privately about this. The photo ref is posted at the group.
I also mentioned the matter in one of my earlier CFZ blogs, together with a world map of similar occurances.

Jum said...

Can anyone vouch for the bona fides of the drawing? Such as a pic in situ, and a verifiable record of its discovery by Europeans or record of it in aboriginal oral history? Maybe a reputable opinion as to dating, the absence of metal toolmarks, etc? Perhaps the newspaper articles cover those details.

Even allowing for a bit of P-shopping of the drawing in order to heighten the contrast to improve online viewing, I have to wonder whether it's not just a little bit "too good". There are several scenarios I can conceive in which persons with various agendas would stand to gain by faking such a drawing/carving. For example, someone might profit (or might already have) from the "discovery" of such drawing, by authoring a book,lecture tour &/or increased name recognition; or one might gain the high ground in a religio-archaeological/zoological dispute in which he was vitally interested if such a drawing were to suddenly be found.

Just askin'.

Dale Drinnon said...

In re: the disembowellment: yes, that was a part of the version of the story I heard. That would be why all the little fishies got pulled out because they were trying to get to the man that was swallowed. The hole was evidently made in the side of the beast. Actually, I don't think such a creature would be capable of swallowing a human being whole, so I consider that part a story-but still there could be sightings of such beasties that the artwork is based on.

Very Plesiosaurian creatures are sometimes also the subject of wood carvings in Indonesia due North of Darwin. Ivan Sanderson noted these as "Dinosaurs" in passing in one of the books and as being equivalent to Congo Dragons, I suppose meaning that they looked like "Brontosaurus"

And I would gree that the artwork is modern and quite recent. That doen not mean anything if it is still supposed to be of "Traditional" manufacture.

Tabitca said...

The painting was in this article:Neirmann DL. Dinosaurs and dragons. Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 1994; 8:85-104
However I thought it was simply an illustration of what similar cave paintings would have looked like as I could find no original. The cave painting has since appeared all over the internet. I am glad it has provoked some interesting discussion.As I said in the article I could find no proof and certainly couldn't find the photo said to be showed in the newspapares.Some one in Australia may have better luck tracking it down.