That a form of marine reptile from the age of dinosaurs could still survive in the Hawkesbury River must, understandably, seem absurd to many people. Yet, when one considers the often enormous widths, the great depths, the length of the river (up to 120 kilometres) and its many branches snaking off in all directions, there is more than enough room for such creatures to have survived and bred undisturbed for centuries, as the following case histories suggest.
Old Aboriginal tales from along the river speak of canoes and rafts having been caught in whirlpools created by Mirreeulla's turning about beneath the surface. While many people might dismiss such myths, others are not so sure.
There are other mysteries, too: strange slide-marks along the Hawkesbury River's shore - the marks of often massive creatures who have presumably left the water to rest on the banks. Such marks have periodically appeared along the tidal bank near West Head at the Hawkesbury River's mouth.
These marks appeared with some regularity throughout 1982, the year that saw several mysterious events take place. Among these was the incident in which a three-metre-long aluminium boat was lifted out of the water off Bobbin Head and tossed
three metres into the air, dislodging its occupant, a stunned fisherman. Later, he told police he had been sitting fishing when "some large object or creature" had surfaced beneath him.
Further inland at Coal and Candle Creek there was yet another mysterious disappearance, this time of two young men and their girlfriends. Their 200-horsepower, six-metre-long boat was found floating, overturned. About this time, several fishermen and
joyriders reported having been bumped or overturned by some large mysterious creature moving about in the water beneath their vessels.
Just prior to all these incidents, a 50-foot long-necked reptilian creature was observed near Dangar Island as it swam upriver toward and beyond the Hawkesbury River Bridge. Its similarity to the plesiosaurs of dinosaur times did not go unnoticed among eyewitnesses.
Near The Hawkesbury River Bridge in broad daylight early in January 1980, fishermen observed a large
dark shape below the surface. It displayed the characteristic long neck and serpentine head,
large body with two sets of long flippers, and long tail. Although the creature did not surface,
the eyewitnesses judged it to be about 30 feet or so in length.
During April 1980, two fishermen in a four-metre-long aluminium outboard-motor boat were on a fishing excursion near Brooklyn. They had left the Brooklyn boat ramp and turned eastward into the river when, after a few minutes, they saw ahead of them a long, dark shape surface up to two feet above the water. One of the men, Trevor Kirk, later told me what then happened.
“We stopped our craft and sat there, thinking it must be a whale (whales have been known to penetrate the river for some distance). The body was a slate grey colour and there were two humps about 10 feet apart and a few feet each in width.
We were at this stage about 40 feet from the animal. Suddenly a massive-looking paddle-like flipper rose up out of the water, and then another, each a good seven to eight feet in length. As they came crashing down onto the surface, there was a commotion as the rest of the animal plunged below the surface.
But it was then that we caught sight of a huge, two-foot-long or so, almost dinosaur looking head rearing up out of the water for a moment before it vanished. We were too shaken to continue our fishing activities and returned to Brooklyn. Later that afternoon we met other boat owners who had also been out on the river that day and who reported having seen the monster."
In May 1980, another houseboat was said to have been completely tipped over in Broken Bay near Fisherman's Beach, but nobody was in residence at the time. Locals blamed "the monster" for the incident. Boats have been found drifting hereabouts over the years, their occupants having vanished without trace. Similar disappearances have been reported right along the river as far as the Windsor-Richmond district.
In November 1980, Tony Carroll, a young skin-diver, was in nine metres of water off Palm Beach one day when he saw, at a distance of 15 metres, the murky dark outline of a strange creature. "It looked like a big serpent of some kind with its snakelike head and long neck, but for its bulky body, two sets of long flippers and a paddle-like tail. It was 20 feet from head to tail and it swam into Broken Bay," he told me later.
Some people have got too close for comfort to these creatures on occasion. Take the following case of Mr Brian Fishburn. In December 1980, he and two other mates were in a four-metre-long motor boat off Juno Point on Broken Bay.
"The time was 6pm, on dusk, when we saw a large object with two humps on the surface ahead of us. The humps were up to four feet in diameter and one foot above the surface. As we approached it close enough, I prodded the body with an oar, thinking the animal was perhaps dead - a whale? Then, to our shock, the animal began to move, submerging before us. It then headed off against the current toward Brooklyn at about two to three knots' speed," he told me a year later.
Even in the 1990s there are fishermen who avoid this part of the river, largely because of all the eerie happenings that have taken place there. As one of them told me some years ago, "Many fishermen I know refuse to go out on the river. You don't know what you'll catch on the end of your line! "
As recently as September 1990, people picnicking late one afternoon on the east bank
of the Nepean River near Regentville claimed to have seen a large, long-necked,
hump-backed serpentine animal swimming north toward Lapstone Gorge on the east bank
of the Nepean River near Regentville; and in January 1991, horseriders on the north bank of
the Hawkesbury River near Gonderman claimed to have seen a six-metre-long “sea serpent”
with a bluish-grey body.
Spencer was once again the scene of a 'long neck' sighting in mid-1989 when people
on a cabin-cruiser, journeying west from the Hawkesbury River Bridge, claimed their vessel
had been passed by a monstrous blackish shape, perhaps two metres below surface, which
was a good 14 metres in length and appeared to have a long neck and large body with
flippers and a tail. It did not surface.
The report that people on a yacht just off Patonga saw a plesiosaur-type creature of
12 metres' length one morning in December 1990, revived a few old stories of a similar
animal claimed seen swimming between there and the backwaters near Moonee Moonee