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1801, June 21: Bellow of the Swan River

On June 21, 1801, Charles Bailly and several crewmen from the ship Geographe, one of two ships in the Baudin expedition of 1801-1803, accidently grounded their skiff in shallow water while exploring up the Swan River in Western Australia. The crew had to labor for thirteen hours in mud and water up to their waists, and were left exhausted by the time they freed the ship... as the night came on, the crew decided to land for the night so they could dry themselves and recover their strength. That's when a "terrible noise, resembling the bellowing of a bull, but much louder," issued forth from the reeds on the side of the river, terrifying the overworked men so much that they decided to stay in the boat for the night, going without supper and unable to sleep due to the rain and the cold. The next morning they built a fire ashore to warm up and eat, and then made their way back to the Geographe, never finding out what had issued the tremendous noise the night before.


        The account above is quoted from Charles Bailly himself, as presented in 1806 by M. Peron, who was also a member of the Baudin expedition. While no one at the time was able to explain what made the noise, an article in The Australian Museum Magazine in 1940 jokingly suggested that the noise may have been made by a bunyip, a legendary creature from Aboriginal legends in Australia. Though the mention in this source was clearly tongue-in-cheek, all sources that come after 1940 that mention this event now give the account above as if the only explanation is a bunyip.

        In defense of the idea, all most Europeans knew about the legendary bunyip of the native aborignes when they first settled in Australia was that it was some sort of large water beast that was rarely seen, but often heard roaring or screaming... and that sounds similar to what Bailly reported.