Badgery Station, 25 May 1893

As the early morning hours promise as much success as the evening ones for the platypus hunt as the animals leave their lair also in the morning emerging out of the water to eat, I asked our hunting master to let me have another go at trying my luck in hunting platypus. At 6 o’clock sharp I was ready. Unfortunately, I took nearly one valuable hour until our horses had been caught in the meadow. Even though we covered the considerable distance to a suitable spot riding hard we only arrived at the river at an advanced hour. At least the situation was eased by the dense fog over the river area.

During this ride I learned about a method unknown to me of curing devious horses. The brave fox I was foundering but still had to gallop in order to transport me in time to the hunting ground.Rittes. When the malady understandably did not get better Mr. Badgery had me switch horses with him, so that the slim fox had to carry Mr. Badgery with all his weight which must have been twice that of mine at full gallop over rough and smooth. Incredible but still true — after half an hour the animal was cured!

The location where we were to hunt for platypus was similar to the one the day before in a steeply descending gorge shaded by trees, in the valley bed a stream was flowing calmly. Mr. Badgery remained behind with the horses while I and the hunter descended to the shore of the stream. Hardly arrived I already saw a platypus emerge and swim away in the water. A happy shot killed the animal on the spot but now it was hard to know what to do as the animal was floating downriver in the deep water and nobody was eager to swim in the ice-cold water of the river in the cool morning. Finally my practical Australian had a good idea to solve the problem by throwing rocks in the water behind the platypus. The waves thus triggered pushed the platypus towards the shore. This procedure took quite some time but finally resulted in us bagging the animal which was found to be an old male. A few hundred meters downriver I saw another platypus but I only could see the animal dive and was unable to fire a shot.

Now the hunter explained that there was another good spot about 2 km further away but we had to hurry to reach it in time. We quickly jumped into the saddle and rode along the valley ridge on a rather bad stony path which would have been only suitable for goats but which the horses followed with strange skill. We climbed down the slope to the river and soon I could see a platypus emerge and swim in circles according to the visible black back on the opposite shore, still out of range. The hunter also announced with signs that he had spotted a second animal further downriver. I decided to wait behind the tree cover until one of the animals was close to this shore which would have happened soon if not fate in the form of Mr. Badgery had intervened. He could no longer contain his curiosity and had advanced with the horse to the ledge where he could survey the water and unfortunately also discovered the two platypus. In the best intention he called without interruption to point out the presence of the two animals. The hunter who was with me could not abstain to shout back despite my pleading gestures not to respond so that a loud long distance conversation developed which naturally made the timid animals quickly disappear from sight. Even though they are at a lower level of development, they hear and view extremely good so that the most distant suspicion of a danger perceived by their senses made them dive and return to their lair from which they would only emerge again in the evening.

In a not very rosy mood I climbed up the slope and sacrificed a blameless rock wallaby that crossed my path to my bad mood and could criticize Mr. Badgery’s ardor — due to my limited knowledge of the English language — only by repeating in an accusing voice „not well, not well“. Mr. Badgery replied to my words in the beginning only with a stoic smile. Then he tried to give me a longer explanation. As he was repeatedly saying the word „breakfast“ and pointed in the direction of the farm, I had to conclude that his curiosity was based on a very prosaic motive, namely a huge hunger, and that he wanted to now allay it why a continuation of the hunt was no longer possible. I made a timid attempt to repeatedly and pleadingly say „platypus“  accompanied by gestures. „Piatypus“ being the English word for „Schnabeltier“ and pointing down to the river. My hunting master remained adamant, mounted his horse, waved at me to follow him and rode towards his breakfast. On the way back I had quite some hunter’s luck and bagged two bears and a  buzzard.

After Mr. Badgery had revitalised himself with a hearty breakfast we ventured out for a rock wallaby hunt as the sun had in the mean time conquered the fog. In the same location where we had achieved favorable results the day before. Already during the first drive an astonishing number of wallabies fled but this time were evading my position and escaped on the side where Wurmbrand and Clam stood, so that one bagged 18, the other 19 pieces. As the day before a few pieces had escaped on my left, the hunting master tried to stop that this time by positioning some people to defend the critical spot. But they had failed to understand their mission and defended not up from my position but in front of my position so that the game almost always retreated before I was able to shoot. Thus my result was only six rock wallabies. A second drive ended without any result while an improvised drive at a valley crossing delivered ten wallabies for me within only a few minutes even though the drive had begun before I had taken up my position.

Now we said good-bye to the beautiful rock valley where we have spent many a good hour yesterday and today and rushed past the farm to a distant hill where we tried to do a last hunt prior to our departure. Unfortunately the attempt failed as the game escaped on the flanks so that only Wurmbrand and Prónay bagged a  wallaby each while I made do with a hare.

This was the end of a eminently successful and interesting hunting expedition in New South Wales. We had to rush back to Sydney where social engagements awaited as an afternoon party was to be hosted by me and the gentlemen of the staff on board of „Elisabeth“ to which invitations had been sent out even before my departure to Arthur’s Leigh Badgery station.

In order to prevent any loss of time due to the wagons getting stuck, they had already crossed Wollondilly River earlier and we thus found the vehicles already in good order on the other shore when we crossed it on horseback. Here we said good-bye to the kind farmers and the hunting companions and started our return journey to Moss Vale. Our mounting the wagon was greeted with three „Hurrahs“. After a drive of four and a half hours we arrived in Moss Vale.

As the train would only depart at 2 o’clock in the morning to Sydney, we arranged quickly an improvised night hunt. We found a hunter who owned three well trained dogs that could track possums and quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus), chase them up the tree and then bark.

At the spot outside the village where the hunter was already waiting for us with the dogs, they started their chase on the command of „Go on“ only to bark loudly only a few minutes later. I rushed there and saw the dogs barking and jumping at an eucalyptus tree. The moon was favorable so that my first shot already gained me a quoll that I had discovered on a branch after some search. It is also part of the predator marsupials and resembles in build our marten. Its body is slight and elongated. The neck rather long, the head is elongated and the point of the muzzle is of a fleshy red color. The tail is long and uniformly bushy. The toes at the rear legs are armed with strong pointed claws. The fur is on the back a livid brown speckled with white spots, the belly is white. A bit smaller than a possum, Dasyurus viverrinus has a body length of 40 cm and its tail length is about 30 cm. In its way of life this marsupial resembles completely that of a possum. It spends the day in holes and ventures out during the night to feed checking in also in the chicken coops and there murdering everything without mercy.

Urged on by their owner the dogs rushed on and soon afterwards barking was heard again. But this time there was a novelty, namely a possum of a still unknown possum called ring tailed possum. Hunting with the three dogs was a great joy as they found new tracks quickly and pursued it until they had found and stopped the game. Only then did they start barking and waited for the hunters to arrive and kill the piece. The brave pack also retrieved a quoll who probably had not run up the tree quickly enough. The hunter’s son, about ten years old, distinguished himself by his excellent eyes. He was always the first to spot the game among the branches and pointed it out to me triumphantly. When a shot was fired, the boy quickly ran forward to protect the kill from the dogs. Until midnight we had bagged six quolls and six possums — certainly a rare result achieved under original circumstances at night in moonshine.

When we approached the home of the hunter during our march across the woods, the dogs suddenly disappeared and all whistling and calls were in vain. Their owner assumed that they had returned home to rest as they were tired from the long hunt. We followed their example and returned to Moss Vale.

Links

  • Location: Moss Vale, Australia
  • ANNO – on  25.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Faust“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing “Der Freischütz”.

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