1912 - Sydney Morning Herald Article
The Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd October 1912.
The poet Sydney Wheeler Jephcott (1864-1951) spent most of his life in the bush as a cattleman and dairy farmer.
The following account is from a letter sent to the geologist Edgworth David, portion of which was printed in the Herald, referring to some prints Jephcott had found on the Bombala River, and which he believed belonged to an unknown animal. "I may say", he writes to Professor David, "that I took especial care on my first visit to observe any indication of human agency, and could preceive nothing of a suspicious nature.
Indeed, the character of many of the persons who claim to have seen such an animal during a period of at least 30 years precludes any likelihood of a hoax.
Already I have chosen a dozen names of reputable witnesses who have had experiences." [Jephcott sent the following account of his discovery to the Herald] After nearly 50 yeasrs spent in the 'bush' with every sense alert to catch the secrets of the wilds, up till a few days ago not the faintest scintilla of first-hand evidence had reached me that any animal of importance remained unknown in our country.
But about 10 days ago, when riding through the jungle which lies on the eastern slopes of Bull Hill 9a trig, site, about 12 miles south-east of Nimitybelle railway station), I noticed on a white gum trunk a series of scratches such as could be made with a point of a dessert spoon.
These scratches were in series of three on one side meeting a single scratch coming from the opposite direction, being exactly such as would be made by three fingers and the thumb of a great hand with abnormally strong and large nails. Beginning at a height of about seven feet.
All these scratches were made by a right hand, suggesting that the craeture which had made them shared a peculiarity of mankind. From these indications I judged that some anumal unknown to science was at large in this country, but took no further action in the matter.
However, on Sunday (October 12), I heard that George Summerell, a neighbour of mine, while riding up the track which forms a short cut from Bombala to Bemboka, had that day, about noon, when approaching a small creek about am ile below 'Packer's Swamp', ridden close up to a strange animal, which, on all fours, was drinking from the creek.
As it was covered with grey hair, the first thought that close to Summerell's mind was: 'What an immense kangaroo'. But, hearing the horse's feet on the track, it rose to its full height, of about 7ft, and looked quietly at the horseman. Then, stooping down again, it finished its drink, and then picking up a stick that lay by, it walked steadily away up a slope to the right or eastern side of the road, and disappeared among the rocks and timber 50 yards away.
Summerell described the face as being like that of an ape or man, minus forehead and chin, with a great trunk all one size from shoulders to hips, and with arms that nearly reached to its ankles. Hearing this report, I rode up to the scene on Monday morning.
On arriving about a score of footprints attested the truth of Summerell's account, the handprints where the animal had stooped at the edge of the water being especially plain. These hand prints differed from a large human hand chiegly in having the little fingers et much like the thumbs (a formation explaining the 5-7 series of scratches on the white gum tree.)
A striking peculiarity was revealed, however, in the footprints; these, resembling an enormously long and ugly human foot in the heel, instep and ball, had only four toes - long (nearly 5 inches), cylindrical and showing evidences of extreme flexibility.
Even in the prints which had sunk deepest into the mud there was no trace of the 'thumb' of the characteristic ape's foot. Besides, perhaps, a score of new prints, there were old ones discernible, showing that the animal had crossed the creek at least a fortnight previously. After a vexatious delay, I was able, on the Wednesday afternoon, to take three plaster of Paris casts - one of a footprint in very stiff mud, another in very wet mud, and a third of the hand with its palm superimposed on the front part of the corresponding foot.
These I have forwarded to Professor David, at the university, where, no doubt, they can be seen by those interested. Anyone acquainted with the nature of mud will not expect to find a cast taken therein three days after imprint as technically perfect as a casting from a regular model, but I believe that any reasonable being will be satified by an inspection of these three casts that something quite unknown and unsuspected by science remains to be brought to light.
Since this matter had made such a stir that people in this district have felt that they could attest their experience without further fear of ridicule, an astonishing number of confirmatory cases have come to my knowledge ranging over the country between Cape Howe and Wee Jasper.
Such of these accounts as seen of significance I hope to collect. [Neither the casts themselves nor any accounts Jephcott may have collected seem to have survived]
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