In 1978, author Martin McAdoo related to me the experience of friends of his on a dirt road in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, back in1970.
His mates were in a four-wheel-drive vehicle at the time. As they travelled along the dirt road in a remote area, they were suddenly forced to stop when an enormous goanna appeared on the road ahead of them and rose up on its hind legs a good eight feet from the ground! The creature's tail was about 16 feet long. The reptile then turned and ran off on its hind legs at about 20 miles an hour!
Martin McAdoo learnt at the time that giant monitors of lengths up to and exceeding 20 feet were frequently seen by travellers in remote parts of Arnhem Land and the Gulf country.
One day in early January 1979, Mr Bob Pike, then 25 years old, was driving his four-wheel Land Rover through some rough country near Pindara. He was on a remote dirt track when he saw, emerging from scrub onto the track barely 50 feet ahead of him, a “monstrous lizard’ walking upon two powerful pairs of legs, fully four feet off the ground.
“By now I had pulled up, and the reptile eyed me off as it crossed the track a mere 15 feet away from the vehicle. I quickly wound the windows up. Secure inside the vehicle, I watched as the long body and tail passed across the track and into the opposite scrub. I lost no time in driving off. As I did, I could see the reptile vanishing deeper into the bush. I reckon it had a body almost two feet thick and was about 25 feet length in total”, he informed me two years later.
Two Aboriginal men reported seeing a 15-foot long lizard in the same area in February that year. Obviously, more than one of these giant-sized monitors existed in that region at that time, and present indications are that others still inhabit the area.
Back in late 1979, Western Australian press and radio publicity about my researches into the giant monitor lizards (or goannas, to give them their Aboriginal designation), resulted in many letters from people over a wide area of the state. Not all these letters concerned reptiles of enormous size, but creatures ranging between 10 and 15 feet in length. Typical was the letter of Mrs Phyllis [last name witheld] [15/11/79]:
Dear Mr Gilroy,
The following incident happened about 47 years ago when I was 10 years of age. I lived
with my family on farm situated at Gorge Rock, a small district near Corrigin. Our
place was about 11 miles from the town of Corrigin which is in the wheat-belt area..
One day when I was out in the bush, I jumped over a log and nearly jumped on a large
reptile I virtually jumped right over it. I got such a fright I ran home and told my
parents I had seen what I thought was a type of crocodile. I did not know what else it
could have been because it was unlike anything I had seen before, such as the racehorse
goanna as we called it..
It appeared to be about 12 feet long, thicker-set like a crocodile, rough skinned and a
similar colour to the log. It was apparently resting so I did not see how high it was. I
didn't stop around long enough to observe it any more.
My parents said I imagined the size, and dismissed my views, but I can still see it in
my mind today. Perhaps, with fright, I could have imagined it was larger than it was.
No one ever believed me, and over the years I have mentioned it but no one ever
suggested it could have been one of these monitors. Crocodiles would not be in that
dry area. It was not long, and with a thin tail like the racehorse goanna we knew in
that area. It was not a little bobtail which we used to pick up and make a pet of.
Mrs Phyllis [last name witheld]