Categories


AUSTRALIAN FISH STORIES

We shall start off the page with a few Australian fish stories taken from "THE WORLD'S BEST FISH STORIES"  by Ken Byron  (Published  in Britain in 1994 by Tynron Press Ltd, Unit 3, Turnpike Close, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, LE17 4JA, ENGLAND, Price 5-99 Stg.:  Distributed in   Australia by Stafford Books, Suite 25, 71  Chandos  Street,  St. Leonards, N.S.W. 2065, AUSTRALIA.  Price $14-99)


FISH LAID ON

 A man at Concord railway station, Sydney, in March, 1947, could hardly believe his eyes when he turned on a water tap and saw a fish 6 inches long  and three-quarters of an inch thick emerge.

 Water Board officials said that fish eggs sometimes got into the pipes and hatched there.

 

AND WHEN I OPENED IT...

 Some fish seem to have stranger appetites than others.   One that seemed to have been happy to swallow practically anything it could get its mouth around was a grouper that was caught off the coast of Queensland.   It was a big specimen, 7 feet long and 6 feet in circumference at the thickest part of its body.   The head weighed 80 pounds.   Its stomach contained two broken bottles, a quart pot, a preserved milk tin, 7 medium-sized crabs, a 3-inch piece of earthenware triangular in shape and encrusted with oyster shells, a sheep's head, some mutton and beef bones and a few loose oyster shells.   The spine of a skate was embedded in its liver.

 

MAN   V   CROCODILE

Harry Summerfield, a farmer in the Northern Territory, showed that he was an extremely resourceful man when he survived  a fight with a large crocodile.*

Summerfield's property was situated on the Alligator River (a misnomer from the early pioneering days for there are no alligators in Australia) and he was standing with his back to the river one day in May, 1922, when the monster crocodile came quietly out of the water, seized him by the leg, and dragged him into the river.   Summerfield was unarmed and had nothing to fight with  but his bare hands.   This, he proceeded to do most effectively.   He jammed his thumb into the crocodile's eye, forcing it to release him.   But, before he could escape, the crocodile seized his right arm, breaking his wrist in the process.   Summerfield then drove his left thumb into the crocodile's other eye.   Blinded in both eyes, the reptile released him and he was able to escape to the bank.

Doctors later reported at Darwin that Summerfield had been badly mauled  on the arms and one leg but that he was on the road to recovery.

* When selecting the stories for this book, the author interpreted the term "fish" very loosely to cover all aquatic animals.

 

THE RAT FISHERMAN

Wandering along a river bank  in the Burragorang Valley during May, 1935, Mr C.G. Christie was fortunate enough to witness a most strange and interesting series of events.   It began when he saw a bush-rat clambering out of the water with a small trout in its jaws.   The rat lost no time in killing and eating his prey;   then he climbed into the branches of a bush overhanging the water, and took up a vigil.

Enthralled by the spectacle, Mr Christie stood quietly and watched the drama for some considerable time.   The rat sat patiently, his beady eyes scanning  the gently flowing stream beneath him.   Then, suddenly, he leaped into the water and emerged with another fish gripped between his teeth.   By the time he finished his meal only the bones and head remained.

One would think that his hunger would have been sated by now, but no.   He took up his post again.

The next prospective victim was spotted well out into the stream in shallow water and the rat leaped down from his perch, jumped from rock to rock for part of the way, then swam the remaining distance, arriving in quick time at a spot just downstream from his quarry.

He approached the fish stealthily and, when about a foot away, he leaped.   This time, however, the rat was not successful in his quest.   The trout wriggled and plunged about desperately until it managed to reach deep water and quickly disappeared.

The disappointed rat made his way back to the bank where he resumed his vigil  in the bush.

 

MIRACULOUS ESCAPES

A native named Iona , diving for pearls near Thursday Island, in August, 1937, had an amazing escape from death when his head was seized  by a 10-foot shark.   He jammed his thumbs into the shark's eyes and forced it to relinquish its grip on him.

Iona was in shallow water, only about twelve feet deep, when he was attacked.   As soon as he broke free from the shark, he shot to the surface and was pulled aboard the lugger.

It took a doctor two hours to stitch up the wounds in Iona's face, neck and chest.   There were two rows of teeth marks and they required almost 200 stitches.

This was the second time that a diver survived such a predicament in these waters.   Some years previously, another native named Treacle found his head inside a shark's mouth and he freed himself by the same method.

 THE PLATYFISH

A group of workers on a cattle station in North Queensland once pulled off a very successful scientific hoax.   They prepared a fake composite fish which comprised the body of  a mullet, the tail of an eel and  the bill of a  platypus.   Then they cooked their little monster and served it up to Mr Carl Staiger, the former director of the Brisbane Museum, for his evening meal. 

Mr Staiger reacted exactly as the hoaxers had hoped.   He was sucked in, hook, line and sinker, and forwarded a sketch and description of his unique find to a famous ichthyologist, Count Castelnan of France.

Count Castelnan named it Ompax spatuloides and it remained on the official list of Australian fishes from 1872 until 1930  when the hoax was discovered.

 

 THE GLOBSTER

In a book called  "LIVING WONDERS" two English authors, John Michell and Robert Rickard, suggest that Australia may be the home of the monster to out-monster all monsters - and it lives in the sea.   They call it the "globster."

They claim that the globsters were first discovered on the west coast of Tasmania in 1960 when the body of one was washed on a beach by a storm.   A cattleman named Bill Fenton came across it.

The carcase measured 18 feet to 20 feet  across.   It was almost circular in shape and was covered by soft fur.   It had a large mound in the centre and what appeared to be a set of gills.

Bruce Mollinson of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, who examined it,  said he had no idea what it was but hazarded a guess that it was a monstrous ray-like animal  that lived deep in subterranean caverns off Tasmania.

The authors claim that other globster corpses have since been washed up on the Australian coast, some of them as big as houses.

A diver in the South Pacific is believed to be the only person to have seen a live globster.   He described it as a great black mass, about an acre in extent, which rose up out of a chasm.   The globster devoured a shark by "absorbing" it into its body.

 

 THE UNINVITED GUEST

Two men and a woman were in a 16-foot fishing dinghy off Seaholme, Victoria, in December, 1949, when they were unceremoniously joined by a  9-foot grey nurse shark which leaped into the boat with them.

The unfortunate people concerned were Doug Miller, Fred Gay and Edna Martin.   Even before their terrifying experience began, two members of the party - Miller and Martin - were unhappy.   They were sea-sick and were not enjoying their day out on the ocean waves at all.   Doug Miller was so sick that he was lying on the bottom of the dinghy.   Then, a shark plunged over the bows of the craft and landed on top of him.

He suffered a badly-bruised arm and a few cuts during the ensuing affray.   Said Miller later, "One minute I was lying there wishing I was dead.   I felt terrible.   Suddenly I heard a scream from Edna and a yell from Fred, and the shark landed on me.   I didn't know what it was for a second.   I nearly blacked out.   I fought to get to my feet and as soon as I did, I was knocked down by its tail.   Three times I stood up and each time I was knocked down.   I felt like going overboard, but I knew I couldn't leave the other two.   While I was fighting to get  my balance, Fred was belting away at the shark with the smashed tiller.   He was hanging on to Edna with one hand."

Fred Gay was an experienced fisherman and he said he had heard that the best way to stun a shark was to hit it on the nose.   "Thank heavens it worked this time," he added.

Edna Martin said, "It was horrible seeing the shark threshing around on top of Doug , but it cured my sea-sickness.   I'll never go fishing again."

The final killing blow was delivered by Fred Gay, with the remains of the tiller.   A fishmonger bought the shark, which weighed 400 pounds.

 

 GIANT SHARK WAS AN EASY CATCH                     

Two solicitors from Darwin sailed to Bathurst Island one day in a trimaran to try their luck.   Initially, they were a little disappointed because their only catch in the first few hours was one small shark.   They tethered it between the hulls of their yacht, then settled back to relax for a while and have a few beers.   Their emergency craft, an inflatable rubber dinghy, was drifting at the end of a rope behind the yacht, a detail which happens to be important in this story.

Suddenly, they got the shock of their lives when the yacht was violently shaken and there was a series of splashes and loud noises.   When they investigated they discovered that a huge shark had charged in, cut the small tethered shark in two, banged into the hull of the yacht and then leapt madly into the air.

By pure chance he came down right in the inflatable dinghy and, despite his enormous size and strength, he could not get out of it.   He leapt and struggled but every time he fell back into the boat.   He was still there, dead, when the fishermen sailed home.

 

 A STRANGE MONSTER

A most intriguing report on a strange aquatic animal was published  in an Australian newspaper, "The Argus," on 26 May, 1913:-

"Hobart, Sunday - The Secretary for Mines (Mr Wallace) received from Hartwell Conder,  State mining engineer, a description of a remarkable animal  reported to have been seen on the West Coast by some of the men engaged in State prospecting work that was being carried on in the little known country between Macquarie Harbour and Port Davey.

" I have to report,' he says, 'the discovery of an animal on the sea coast, about 12 miles north of Point Hibbs, of so strange a character that it is deserving of special mention.   It is so strange that both the men who saw it and I myself anticipate quite cheerfully the smiles of incredulity of those who read this account.   No one is asked to believe it.

The animal was seen by Oscar Davies, foreman prospector, and his mate (W. Harris), who are working under myself, the State mining engineer for Tasmania.   I have known both of them for a considerable number of years, and can guarantee absolutely their sobriety, intelligence and accuracy.

They were walking along the coast on April 20 just before sundown  on a calm day, with small waves rolling in and breaking on the shore, when at a distance of about half a mile they noticed a dark object under the dunes, which surprised them by showing movement.   They advanced towards it and finally came within gunshot.   When about 40 yards off it rose suddenly and rushed down into the sea.   After getting out about 30 yards it stopped and turned round, showing only the head and a portion of its neck.   It waited there for about five seconds, and then withdrew under the water and disappeared.

The characteristics are summarised as follows:   It was 15 feet long.   It had a small head, only about the size of the head of a kangaroo dog.   It had a thick arched neck, passing gradually into the barrel of the body.   It had no definite tail and no fins.   It was furred, the coat in appearance resembling  that of a horse of chestnut colour, well groomed and shining.   It had four distinct legs.   It travelled by bounding, ie. by arching its back and gathering up its body, so that the footprints of  the fore-feet were level, and also those of the hind-feet.   It made definite footprints.   These showed circular impressions, with a diameter (measured) of 9 inches and the marks of four claws about 7 inches long, extending outwards from the impressions and away from the body.   There was no evidence for or against  webbing.   The footprints showed about 4 feet between the marks of fore and hind feet, and then a gap of about 10 feet, making a total of  15 feet.   Laterally they were 2 feet 6 inches apart.

The creature travelled very fast.   A kangaroo dog followed it hard on its course to the water, a distance of about 70 yards, and in that distance gained about 30 feet.   When first disturbed it reared up and turned on its hind legs.   Its height, standing on the four legs, would be from 3 feet 6 inches to 4 feet.

Both men are quite familiar with seals and so-called sea leopards that occur on this coast.   They had also seen before  and subsequently pictures of sea lions and other marine animals, and can find no resemblance to the animal that they saw.

Such are the details.   When the humorists have enjoyed themselves at our expense the men of science may be able to connect this account with others which have come forward from time to time of strange beasts in our oceans.

That no imprint was taken of the footprints and no marking out made of the form in the sand, no one regrets more than we do.   The next tide swept over them , and they are gone.'"