1925: Australian Kong
"Apart from the fossil footprints of manlike beings, there are also fossil tracks of giant creatures that appear more ape-like than man-like. Could these tracks be those of Gigantopithecus, the giant manlike ape that reached mainland Asia and Java half a million or more years ago?"
"Much smaller, although still quite large ape-like tracks are preserved in mudstone (shale--J.T.) near Jenolan Caves south-west of Katoomba (New South Wales) and resemble much larger Gigantopithecus footprint fossils."
"Townsville (Queensland) Aborigines claim the huge fossil track found there in 1925 was made by a member of the 'Narragun' race." "Huge fossil tracks said by Aborigines to have been left by the Narragun giants near Mount Gambier, South Australia, come from volcanic deposits which could be anywhere up to one million years old."
"The most extensive series of giant- and smaller- sized, volcanically-preserved fossil hominid footprints so far discovered at any single Australian location are embedded in mudstone (shale) deep in the Carrai range, which rises up to 1,300 metres (4,200 feet) above sea level, 60 kilometres (36 miles) west of Kempsey on the New South Wales north coast."
"Aborigines who have seen the fossil footprints and handprints say they were made by two different races of giant beings: the giant 'Goolagah' and the half-man, half- animal forebears of the yowies (the Bigfoot of Australia-- J.T.). The evidence suggests that giant hominids shared this region with Gigantopithecus-type creatures at the beginning of the last ice age when volcanic eruptions were commonplace in northern New South Wales."
The Goolagah of the Aborigines is a virtual twin of filmdom's King Kong.
"Blue Mountains Aborigines claimed the Goolagah wandered the mountain-tops hunting the giant kangaroos, giant monitor lizards and other creatures, killing them with spears and stones. They were said to inhabit the New England region of northern New South Wales where fresh campsites could be found."
Wullagun, an Aboriginal tribal elder, was quoted as saying, "When giant fellas alive, them big animals still bin walkabout this country. White men say they all dead, but we savvy one place where him (Goolagah--J.T.) still live. Ground shake when he walk. He eats people."
Could a Kong or two still be hiding out in the remote Australian bush? Gilroy notes, "I know of stories, even from Europeans, telling of giant-sized stone and wooden tools and weapons found in north-western and northern New South Wales today--such as one freshly-abandoned campsite found by a prospector near Brewarrina in 1973."
"Giant man-beasts with large wooden clubs have been claimed seen in the Tweed Valley on the Queensland side of the NSW-Queensland border even in the 1970s."
Interestingly, the "giant ape" legend has also been found in Vanuatu and in New Caledonia, 800 miles (1,280 kilometers) east of Australia.
In 1887, three Boulangists who had been exiled to New Caledonia by French prime minister Leon Gambetta--Roland Chiche, Paul Delieux and Albert Rouleau-- decided to hike overland from Ponerihouen on New Caledonia's east coast to Kone in the west. As they were hacking their way through the tropical rain forest that covers the island's mountainous spine, the men reportedly encountered "a monstrous ape, 6 meters (20 feet) in height, which roared at us and made threatening gestures.
" The trio held their ground until the ape picked up a boulder and threw it at them. The boulder, which "three of us could not lift," missed the Frenchmen but splintered a coconut tree. The trio fled into the jungle. "The bellows of the beast haunted us for a few kilometers, but then we heard no more of it," Delieux wrote, "We slept in the trees that night but not easily or well."
Perhaps the film's fictional "Skull Island" (Palau Tengkorak in Bahasu, the language of Indonesia--J.T.) really does exist among the yet-unexplored islands of the southwest Pacific. (See Mysterious Australia by Rex Gilroy, NEXUS Publishing, Mapleton, Qlnd., Australia, 1995, pages 186 to 191. Also Les Boulangistes en Nouvelle-Caledonie by Jean Tillier, Editions Populaire, Noumea, 1955.)
(Editor's Comment: I first saw King Kong at a Saturday matinee at the Strand Theatre in Taunton, Mass. in the summer of 1956, when I was six years old. The film didn't give me nightmares, as my mother feared. Instead, it kindled a love affair with Earth's prehistoric fauna that burns as brightly today as it did nearly half a century ago.)