Townsville Bulletin - 17 AUG 2000


"Deep in yowie territory" By John Andersen



'When the SAS sergeant returned he handed in a patrol report and a sketch of something he had seen, a sniper he presumed, while laying silent and still in his camouflaged hideaway on top of the ridge.'


HANDS UP ALL you who have seen a yowie? Look at all the hands come up around Tully. Yes, quite a few folks from Tully way have seen the hairy man.

A learned archaeologist from up that way told me just the other day that there was in fact talk of a hairy woman raiding fruit farms in the Murray Upper valley. And it wasn't some hippy chick with armpit hair down to her toe rings. It was a yowie sheila who happened to have a taste for mandarins.

Who knows? In yowie land she might be super model material, a regular Naomi Campbell who gets to go on dates to a different waterfall every night with some of the biggest names in the rainforest.

Seriously, why is it, you may well ask, that so many people from Tully and its environs have seen the hairy man. No, it isn't because they've puffing away on the "leccy lucerne".

Everyone knows there's none of that stuff around Tully. It's because the mountains up behind Tully which run just about all the way to Cooktown are tailor-made for yowies -- inaccessible, plentiful food, water and cover. No one goes there. No one, except maybe the SAS.

Jirrabel elder Ernie Grant says his father, brother and nephew came face-to-face with a yowie in scrub alongside Davidson Creek not far south of Tully way back in 1956. This is the same vicinity as the old Tully River Station which was taken up and developed by King Ranch of America. Work started in 1963, using bulldozers with huge scrub pulling chains strung between them, clearing thousands and thousands of hectares of virgin rainforest. The bulldozer drivers at the time spoke of seeing gunyahs made from grass and leaves.

The gunyahs turned to dust under the weight of the chains. They saw the short rainforest Aborigines running from the roaring machines that were bringing their world to an end.

These were the Negrito or rainforest-dwelling Aborigines and they fled deeper and deeper into the mountains, away from the machines and the sounds of crashing trees.

After listening to stories told to him for the last 15 years by his Aboriginal patients, Innisfail medical practitioner Dr Rod Catton is convinced the hairy man exists. Aboriginal people have told him they can smell the hairy man. His own theory is that the hairy man is arboreal, living in the canopy where he can't be seen. (Does this remind you of Predator)?

Dr Catton has collected a wealth of stories. Accounts of pig dogs, terrified, running back to their masters, yelping with fear, their tails between their legs.

These are dogs with brains the size of caraway seeds. They are so dumb they fear nothing. What is it they've seen in the rainforest that makes them tremble? A yowie? If not a yowie, perhaps a marsupial wolf, panther or lion? We've got them, too, apparently.

One of the most convincing yowie stories I've heard comes from Tom Floyd, a former instructor at the Land Command Battle School at Tully and now a corporate trainer, based in Townsville.

It was in early 1987 and they were running a course for Special Air Service soldiers. Tom sent one guy, a sergeant, up on to a ridge where he had to maintain an observation post (OP) looking down into the upper reaches of Liverpool Creek.

This was in the middle of nowhere, right up in the ranges, deep in the jungle. He stayed there in the same position, looking down into this top section of Liverpool Creek for three days. It had taken him three days to walk into the OP. "His job was to observe enemy movement," Tom said.

What Tom hadn't told the sergeant was that there would be no enemy movement because no "enemy" had been sent into the area. The sergeant was entirely on his own.

When the SAS sergeant returned he handed in a patrol report and a sketch of something he had seen, a sniper he presumed, while lying silent and still in his camouflaged hideaway on top of the ridge.

In the Australian military the special suits worn by snipers to break up their silhouette and to provide camouflage is a called a "yowie suit". He told Tom when he returned he had only seen one person the entire time he was on the ridge. He said the only person he saw was a sniper in a yowie suit.

Tom told the sergeant there was no else there. That he was alone. No one else had been sent into the area. What he had seen was not a sniper in a yowie suit. There were no snipers, no soldiers, no "enemy" anywhere near that ridge or along Liverpool Creek. The sergeant had been entirely on his own. The SAS sergeant, taking it all in, looked down at his sketch and said "this is what I saw". This was in 1987.