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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

NZ: Down Central Hawke's Bay way thar be a Monster in the Marshes.

Via Chad Arment:
Roger Moroney: Monster tales from deep dark past


Down Central Hawke's Bay way there be a monster in the marshes.

A monster which (and this is not a figment of my misfiring imagination) led none other than pioneering William Colenso to offer a young witness of this beast the sum of five pounds "for the creature in any form."

Five quid, back in 1893 - the year of the sighting of the great water-borne beast, was a lot of serious dosh and I daresay the young chap could have done with it.

But then again, he probably figured risking his life was worth more than a fiver.

It is a wonderful tale, and a tale which convinced the learned and wise William Colenso that something mysterious was living in the still waters of the Weber district.

Being a champion of the unknown and the unidentified, especially creatures in deep seas and lakes and desolate forests and frozen wastes, I was delighted to receive a note from Dannevirke historian Phillipa Nelson last week.

She had spotted my words a few weeks back about the unknown creatures of lochs and lakes and it rang a bell.

For the Dannevirke Gallery of History had received a transcript, through the Friends of Colenso group, of a letter the wandering reverend had written to a close friend by the name of James Hector in 1894.

Here is part of the transcript.

"I had very nearly troubled, or surprised you, with a letter while here (Dannevirke) re a living taniwha! I closely examined the young man who saw it, and who fired at it to save his dog swimming after a duck shot in the lagoon - but as it occurred in the shooting season of '93 - and had not been seen since - I dropped the enquiry. I may however mention, that the young fellow's story was a very coherent one, he too, being respectable, quiet and of good report."

Good report ... I like that.

So anyway, as Colenso continued ... "He had told me the tale last year at the time, and now with the shooting season coming on it was revived, to warn sportsmen concerning that spot.

"It is a lagoon, or deep swamp surrounded by high cliffy banks with an outlet to the river Manawatu and not far from the bridge over that stream - the road leading to the Weber district."

On this note of location, Phillipa wonders if the "lagoon" was in fact the Kaitoki Lake which is off the Weber Road.

Locals, she said, had long spoken of a taniwha in the Manawatu Gorge, but this was a different story altogether.

Now this is where it becomes intriguing fellow creature unearthers.

For Colenso went on to describe how two other chaps, who had been out riding the same area some time before the young duck shooter had gone there, had come across a "beast" in the water.

All that poked out above the surface was a dark grey head, about 18 inches long - that's close to half a metre.

The young shooter who also sighted it said he got one shot away at it, and believe he may have struck it "about the angle of its mouth."

"It retreated to the raupo on receiving the shot, and the dog returned in fear ... sans duck."

Many people in the area had heard about it - among them (quote from Colenso) "the Rev. E Robertshawe (stout and strong), Hill the inspector of schools and Bamford, solicitor, went hither to the said haunt in search - they had a time of it!"

The intrepid trio scrambled down steep cliffs to get to the area, arriving home late. They all agreed they would never go back there again.

All very colourful and intriguing, and I am delighted to learn that there be monsters in our own backyard. Pound to a penny though - the Aussies are likely to claim it as one of their's that lost its way from a billabong up Mullumbimby way.

The aborigines spoke of such creatures - bunyips.

Only last year a strange shape was spotted, and photographed, up Darwin way in Lake Alexander.

Oh yes, there be monsters and they be everywhere ... even down CHB way.

Anyone out there also heard the stories of the sightings Colenso was on about? If you have, drop me an email. If we can pinpoint the spot then I be going monster hunting!

Roger Moroney is an award-winning journalist for Hawke's Bay Today and observer of the slightly off-centre.

--This being New Zealand it is of course entirely proper to speak of Taniwhas and incorrect to use the Australian name Bunyip, even if we would be talking about the same thing in both places. The head of the creature being eighteen inches long would be normal if it was a "Nessie" sighting (a head eighteen inches long and a foot across would correspond to a 30-foot long Plesiosaur-shaped creature at Loch Ness,according to reports of that type) BUT some people will probably prefer to say it was a large seal, perhaps a leopard seal. A leopard seal's head would more ordinarily be a foot long. So perhaps we did have an appearance of a classic "Lake Monster" type in New Zealand as of the late 19th Century?

Best Wishes, Dale D.



  1. Dale, I would be very interested in following this up. That area holds quite a few mysterious marshes and bog areas. As family commitments allow (my mother currently has lung cancer and my father dementia) as it is not too far from where I am I may go down personally and do some investigation.
    As I seem to recall from talking to an old friend, there were also some reports from down that way of gigantic Eels.
    Very much worth investigating, I let you know of any results I happen to get, then you also attach and send to me any relevant data you may have on the subject. I hope to be able to tackle this in the next few weeks.

    Kindest regards old friend.
    Tony Lucas
    NZ CFZ Representative.

  2. Thank you very much Tony it is extremely kind of you to make the offer. I have found that, contrary to many people's expectations, the Plesiosaur-shaped and Giant Eel cryptids are not ecological competetors: their mouths are different sizes and they each choose different-sized prey. Giant eels are the hardier creatures, can live in more polluted water and grub upon more meagre sustenance: and actually the both of them tend to come and go over many years but to have ancestral homes they seemingly come back to generation over generation. So it would be most interesting to see what you come up with.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.


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