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Sydney Nessie: Hunt for the Australian Hawkesbury River Monster

Nessie from the Scottish Loch Ness is probably the most famous water monster in the world, although the fact of its existence has not been confirmed.

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However, legends about monsters living in bodies of water are quite common. One of them, if you believe the evidence, is found in the Australian Hawkesbury River, which flows northwest of Sydney (New South Wales).

Dinosaur from sacred waters

A thousand years ago, the river was considered sacred by local tribes. Among the rock paintings of that time in the vicinity of Hawkesbury there are images of a mysterious beast.

It has a thick, oval-shaped body, a long neck, and flipper-like paws. From the myths it is known that the natives called being “moolyewonk”, which means “giant water snake”. But in the eyes of modern man, the creature looks more like a prehistoric lizard.

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In the 19th century, white colonists began to arrive in these parts en masse. Representatives of the local population warned them not to get too close to the river, as a large beast with huge teeth lives there.

And there were cases of attacks on people from the shore and on boats. Some settlers allegedly had a chance to see this beast with their own eyes.


Carried the bull

Cryptozoologist and writer Tony Healy, who himself made expeditions along the river in order to search for the monster, managed to collect numerous testimonies about the monster.

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His archive contains a story about how, in 1912, boatmen in the South Creek area (a tributary of the Hawkesbury in Windsor) saw a creature that looked like a huge crocodile.

Healy also recorded an episode from 1924, which was then described by the local edition of the Windsor and Richmond Gazette. Eyewitnesses said they saw a creature that looked like a seahorse. One of them, W. J. Riley, said that when he and his brother were walking along the terrace at noon, they noticed something down in the river:

“We saw a large ugly creature that was at a depth of half a meter to a meter and reached a length of 2 meters. It was yellowish-sandy in color. Whether its skin was covered with scales or not, we could not see. We watched it for 15 minutes. It had a square fishtail. It was a nasty-looking animal. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in the water for him to follow me.”

Later, “Nessie” from the Hawkesbury River became interested in another researcher, the head of the Australian Center for the Study of Unknown Animals Rex Gilroy. The latter collected many newspaper clippings and testimonies received directly from eyewitnesses, which cover a period of several decades.

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In 1945, a certain John Nelson noticed somewhere 50 meters from a yacht floating on the river a wave in the water, and then an “ugly snake-like head” rose from there. Further, other parts of the monster’s body appeared from under the water. The description roughly coincided with what has already been said above.

In 1949, a young couple watched as a monster, sticking its long neck out of the water, grabbed an adult bull grazing on the shore and dragged it with it into the river.

Loch ness

Attacks on boats

Adam Benedict of the Pine-Barrens Institute found evidence from 1950. According to him, one day, while going down the river in a light aluminum boat, one local fisherman felt that something massive was under his boat.

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The water around the boat suddenly darkened, rippled and swirled. The object below the boat then apparently hit the bottom of the boat and the boat was thrown as much as 10 feet into the air.

At the same time, the fisherman was thrown into the water. He tried to swim to the shore. He saw how the monster moved towards him, but suddenly, changing course, went under water. The man managed to swim to the shore, and he never fished in these places again.

In 1979, George and Jane Keighley, who lived on a houseboat on the river, claimed that a river monster had tried to attack them. Lying in bed, they felt that their dwelling began to rise from the water, causing things to fall from their places. Then the ship again crashed into the water.

When the couple went out to see what was happening, they saw “a huge body moving across the bay – a beast with a long neck and a snake’s head.”

“There’s Something There”

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One of the last sightings of the Australian “Nessie” dates back to 2009. Cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy said hesaw the 12m giant surface in the Hawkesbury River. Through binoculars Mr Gilroy saw a dark shadow with a longish neck near Wiseman’s Ferry.

Mr Gilroy, who has been searching for Sydney’s beast since 1965, said he believed it was a plesiosaur from the Jurassic period.

“We’re dealing with ocean creatures coming into the river to breed. There are areas of ocean … anything could live down there and you wouldn’t know it.”

After hearing of the Hawkesbury Monster in 1965 he found accounts dating back to pre-colonial times, with stories told of children being attacked by the moolyewonk.

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When fishing boats were found overturned and the occupants missing in the 1980s, the Hawkesbury Monster was the prime suspect.

“We have rock art depicting them. It seems the Aboriginal people knew of these creatures,” Mr Gilroy said.

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Jake Carter

Jake Carter is a researcher and a prolific writer who has been fascinated by science and the unexplained since childhood. He is always eager to share his findings and insights with the readers of, a website he created in 2013.