In the News – December 8, 1909

I’ve heard many stories of pumas living in the Grampians, but a bunyip?  In 1909, a Mr A. J. Campbell of Armadale wrote to The Argus suggesting such a creature was residing in the Black Swamp near Pomonal.

NATURE NOTES AND QUERIES. (1909, November 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 4. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from

That letter led to a report in The Argus on 8 December 1909 about the strange creature of the  Black Swamp.  An expert had arrived and an attempt made to identify the creature.  Dudley Le Souef, an interesting character from an even more interesting family, and then director of the Melbourne Zoological Gardens, got within 20 yards of it and confirmed that the bunyip was, in fact, a seal.  A seal would not be that surprising in a seaside town but Pomonal is around 150 kilometres from the sea.  Browsing through the newspapers at Trove, I found many references to bunyips, with musk ducks commonly mistaken as were wombats and platypus.  I also found many accounts of “inland seals” around the country, also mistaken for the mythical bunyip.

SEAL NEAR THE GRAMPIANS. (1909, December 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 12. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from

An explanation of how the seal could have come to be so far inland was found in The Argus on 21 December 1909.  The idea of a seal in the Grampians had created some interest and the “Naturalist” who authored the article encouraged people to visit the little-known tourist destination.  He even recommended tourists picnic beside the Black Swamp.  That would be okay if you were not scared of bunyips!

THE GRAMPIANS. (1909, December 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from

Looking at maps of the Grampians, I believe the seal’s path along the Wannon possible, but in the depths of the Grampians, where the Wannon ends, it seems the seal would have had to have travelled overland and along smaller creeks to meet up with the Mount William Creek.

At the time of his sighting, Le Souef offered a £10 reward to anyone who could catch the seal and deliver it alive to the Stawell Railway station.  Hopes were up that by the end of summer, the swamp would have dried enough to assist the seal’s capture, however, a query to the “Nature Notes” in The Argus on 20 May 1910, closed the story.  Until now.

NATURE NOTES AND QUERIES. (1910, May 20). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 9. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from

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