To the European settlers who had recently arrived in the country, the concept of a bunyip must have been terrifying. They were in a land filled with animals which had been totally unimaginable only a few decades earlier - kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, platypus, a multitude of poisonous snakes, spiders and sea creatures and of course, crocodiles in the north, so the idea of a fearsome creature which lived in the rivers, lakes, swamps, billabongs and lagoons of this new country did not seem so far-fetched as it does today.
|Drawing of a bunyip at "Barwon Lakes" near|
However, not everyone was convinced that bunyips really existed. Some alternate explanations included seals which had found their way into inland rivers, fugitive humans hiding out in swamps, freshwater crocodiles or perhaps even a particularly large eel. If the latter is true, then I have seen a bunyip myself - by the Breakwater, dangling off the end of the rod of an elderly Greek fisherman. And an impressive size it was too!
Nor was it only the Wathaurong who claimed to have seen bunyips in the Geelong region. William Buckley, the escaped convict who lived with the Wathaurong around the Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula during the first decades of the 19th century also claimed to have seen a bunyip on several occasions. In his 1852 memoirs he recounted that bunyips were to be found in Lake Modewarre (no doubt terrifying the poor musk ducks after whom the lake is named) and that they were common in the Barwon. Whilst he never saw a complete bunyip he claimed on several occasions to have seen the back of one in the water which was covered in dusky grey feathers.
|Bunyip Pool, Barwon River|
Whilst the bunyip was very real both to the Wathaurong and to the white inhabitants of Geelong during the 19th century, this was also true of the wider community and is reflected in place names across the country. The towns of Bunyip and Tooradin, the BunyipWaa in New South Wales all reflect this belief.