Sea monster off Australia, the Exmouth Gulf


Mr Alfred Morris writes the following to Nature from Sydney, New South Wales, under date August 4th:-

A friend of mine, Captain W. Hopkins, of the schooner Mary Ogilvie, who has just returned from a voyage all round Australia, has given me the following information, which I forward you for publication, not so much because of its interesting character, but in order that other travellers may throw some light upon the character of the animal, which, if an octopus, must be of much larger dimensions than those usually met with. On June 15, when in S. lat. 21 deg. 37 sec. and E. long. 113 deg. 49 sec., about five miles off the Exmouth Gulf, on the western coast of the continent, he saw an immense creature which he took to be a species of octopus. His attention was drawn to it by a perfect cloud of sea birds, and at first he naturally thought it must be a dead carcase. On approaching it, however, he found it was alive, and sluggishly disporting itself. In shape it was like a violin, but of immense size, with some six feelers about the greater diameters of the violin. It lay almost flat upon the water, was of a dark grey above and lighter grey below, and was continually elevating one of its feelers, apparently twice the thickness of a man's arm, to a height of six to eight feet. It appeared to be vomiting, and as the birds were evidently feeding, that accounted for their presence in such numbers. Its size was so great that, had it grasped the vessel, it could easily have capsized it. The captain, therefore, got out of the way as quickly as possible, and without making definite measurements; but a large whale in the vicinity looked quite diminutive. It is a pity that something more exact as to size is not available, but I think the description is sufficient to convey an idea of the nature of the monster. all along the northern and western shores of the continent vast shoals of pumice, in portions varying in size from ordinary gravel to about a foot in diameter, and completely covered with barnacles, were passed through.

From the Dundee Courier, October 3rd, 1884.

Part of the Exmouth Gulf, by Jon Hansen