The Thargomindah Bunyip (1941)

In August 1941, newspapers around Australia reported several sightings of a mysterious creature at the Dynevor Lakes near Thargomindah, 1000km west of Brisbane, following a spell of heavy rain.

Cartoon of a bunyip. Published in the Sydney Morning Herald, August 30, 1941

Cartoon of a bunyip. Published in the Sydney Morning Herald, August 30, 1941

One witness quoted was postal inspector Mr J.G. Utz, who said he saw a black head about 30-45cm above the water. “I am inclined to think it must [have been] a seal, but that is only a guess,” he said. “What impressed me mostly about the animal was that it showed much shrewdness and curiosity,” he added. Utz’s was the most popular theory among bunyip watchers but witnesses came forward with others, including suggestions it was a wombat taken to water, a big platypus, a musk duck, a swimming dingo, a drowned bullock, a floating stick, a turtle, and perhaps most imaginative of all, a wild pig that had developed “amphibious habits”.

Cartoon from The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), August 17, 1941

Cartoon from The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), August 17, 1941

An official investigative expedition was planned but it had to wait on the Warrego by-election: “We can look for bunyips any old time, but there’s an election only every three years,” said the Thargomindah shire clerk, Mr W. Speedy. Concern over the safety of the “bunyip” led to two locals being appointed by the minister of agriculture as honorary protectors of the fauna in the Dynevor Lakes sanctuary (now Lake Bindegolly National Park).

Headline from The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), August 24, 1941

Headline from The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), August 24, 1941

Newspapers dubbed them “Keepers of the Dynevor Lake Bunyip”. “There’s been so much publicity about our bunyip that every so-and-so in Queensland will come along with a gun and try to shoot it,” said appointed keeper Gerald Francis Gooch, of Thargomindah Station. By mid-September, news about the bunyip had dried up.

Mr. G.F. Gooch. From Queensland Country Life, January 14, 1943

Mr. G.F. Gooch. From Queensland Country Life, January 14, 1943

Headline from The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), August 17, 1941

Headline from The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), August 17, 1941

Information on the Thargomindah bunyip was sourced from Trove Digitised Newspapers.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland