The Great White Yowle Hunter
In northern NSW, on the Newell Highway running through the desolate scrub between Narrabri and Coonabarabran, truckies have erected a sign: "Beware yowies for the next 121 km".The sign was put up as a joke, but Coonabarabran police say some of the truckles heading for Queensland are afraid to sleep by the roadside.
Yowie stories began soon after the first settlement of Australia. One a giant man, the other short, with a luxuriant beard. The smaller convict would sit on the other's shoulders and by crouching allowed his beard to cover his mate's face. Local Aborigines were confronted by a man-monster with long beard and four arms, dancing about emitting a blood-curdling shriek. The Aborigines bolted, leaving food which sustained the terrible twosome. Well, that is the suggestion.
As settlers moved slowly into the forests of the Blue Mountains in the second half of last century, yowie sightings continued. In 1964, a girl feeding chickens reportedly was confronted by "an enormous hairy man-like beast with ferocious eyes set deep behind big eyebrows. Large teeth showed in the partly-opened mouth".
Scientists, as is their wont, are sceptical. They attribute some of the early sightins to tame monkeys allowed to run wild in the Blue Mountains by early settlers. They argue that if the yowie exists, or existed, scientists by now would have unearthed skeletal remains.
But the yowies have a champion, an intense Katoomba man who has devoted his life to establishing their existence. Mr. Rex Gilroy, 35, director of the Kedumba Nature Display in Katoomba, is a self-taught naturalist. For 21 years, he has been on the trail of the yowie.
He has recorded 3000 reported yowie sightings and recently set up the "Australian Yowie Research Centre". We first heard stories of the hairy monster when he came to Katoomba High School from Cabrarri in 1959.
He admits that his campaign to place the yowie in the ranks of the living has been an uphill battle. The local lads give him a hard time, singing out "Yowieee" whenever they see him.
"I have to put up with a lot of ridicule," he says. "Most people think I'm a nut. "But no one will investigate the creature. Scientists in this country will not give me a proper hearing or investigate my evidence.
His faith in the yowle is unshakeable. He believes he saw one himself, on the Carrai plateau near Kempsey, on August 7, 1970, at 3.30 pm. Rex says he can be so exact because he wrote the details in his yowie exercise book '
He was sitting on a rock eating some sandwiches, he says, when he had 'the feeling of being watched. Then he saw a hairy "apelike manlike" thing loping into thick bush. By the time Rex had dropped his sandwiches and gone to the spot the yowie was gone. But a strong smell lingered and from marks on the bush he estimated its height at 750 cm.
As talks, he fondles what he says is a molar from a giant prehistoric wombat. One of his proudest possessions is a plastercast of what he says is a yowie footprint found in the Blue Mountains. It is large and certainly foot like, But a yowie? -
All one can say for sure is that the of it would give a chiropodist nightmares. Rex believes the yowie is related to the Himalayan yeti and American Biofoot and crossed from Asia to Australia on land bridge in prehistoric times. He estimates there are 400 to 600 left in Australia.
Rex says the yowie is nocturnal, vegetarian and not at all dangerous which is why he is against any yowie shooting expeditions. He hunts the yowie with a camera, accompanied by his wife Heather and baby daughter Elizabeth. He has been as far as Cape York.
Outside his museum, he points to the forest of the Blue Mountains: "There are yowies out there; it's yowie country". Maybe the yowie is like Peter Pan's fairies. If there at no Rex Gilroy's to believe in them, they all die and go away...