Today rock wallabies were to be hunted. In a dense fog and severe cold we stopped at the shore of the meandering river where the day before the wagon had been stuck, as I wanted to go and have a look with one of the hunters at a remote spot where it was said platypus happen to be seen. Sneaking through a small pine forest we arrived at the edge of the river but could not see any game except for a duck. Thus we were soon back on horseback and crossed the river and ascended the heights on the opposite side until we reached a deeply cut rocky valley with steep faces in whose bed a spumous river formed a path through the stone. The valley or better the gorge presented a picturesque view thanks to the rocks in the water and the trees and bushes that were growing between them.
This gorge was a favorite spot of the rock wallabies and would serve as the location of today’s hunt. At first, Mr. Badgery had assigned me to a not very well chosen position and the drivers started their drive too early so that, when I finally managed to climb into a better position, rock wallabies already were fleeing towards me at great speed. As their name indicates, they live on rocky ground where they are hiding during the day below projecting rocks or in rock holes while they emerge to feed in the surrounding areas during the night. They do not dare to go out from their hiding place, as they can not flee were well on the ground. The speed they jump around on the rocks, their element, is as surprising as the size of the jumps they execute. While the movements of the kangaroos may be very funny, those of the wallabies are even more so. I have killed some of them in the midst of them jumping. The rock wallabies are rather small but have the most beautiful fur among all kangaroos as it is of a rich brown, and on the belly yellow. Older animals have glittering silver gray streaks in the fur.
The first pieces I bagged jumped like chamois alongside the river from rock to rock. After the first shots the timid animals quickly had discovered the direction out of which peril threatened as I was standing in an open clearing. Therefore I chose another spot and stood deeper down in the gorge behind a rock, so that I could thus kill one piece after the other. This hunt was very lively. Along the line of shooters the shots rang out without interruption like at a good hare hunt and the echo reverberated from the walls of the valley. The drivers also assisted with their whips as they could advance here only on foot. Soon we had bagged 51 rock wallabies of which 26 I accounted for personally.
A second drive took place further downriver in the same gorge after we had waded across the water on horseback and taken up position on the other shore. My position was the furthest one in the gorge. In front of me lay a wild mixed pile of dead trees and to my left a deep water pool reflected huge giant trees. The silence was only broken by the noises of the river. The lovely scenery of the location fascinated me so much that I had almost forgotten to hunt, being lost in thought. There was not only much to see for any friend of nature but also much to do for a hunter. The game appeared at the same time at my position out of two clearings. Even though the drive ended much more quickly than the first one, the result was very satisfying — 33 rock wallabies of which I personally bagged 10.
A quick ride brought us back to the farm where we enjoyed a quick noon break due to the hunting success which we used to sort the numerous furs.
It merits to be noted that the horses of this farm also excelled by their endurance and their skill in moving in very difficult terrain. This can be best exemplified by the brown horse that carried Mr. Badgery’s respectable weight of 160 kg the whole time and galloped at quick speed without falling back once behind the other horses.
In the afternoon we hunted in the same area as the day before and saw much game even though we had hunted intensively there the day before. I shot five wallabies and my gentlemen 17 as well as a kangaroo.
As it had been my most burning desire to bag one of the rare platypus whose killing had been achieved only by a few European hunters I rode with a burning ambition even though there was only a small chance of success after 4 o’clock with my guide to the river to take up my position. On the way I shot an Australian bear who sat high up on eucalyptus tree. The river that otherwise splashes over the rocks is rather calm for some distance where the platypus should be found, so that one could believe one was at a standing water The heights enclosing the river valley dropped in stony faces down to the shore. Trees at the edge reached out widely into the water. Silence marked this place.
We carefully sneaked up but could for the longest time not see any game until my companion tapped on my shoulder and pointed to a spot below the overhanging shore where I could only distinguish a small black moving line at the surface of the muddy water. I fired and to my greatest joy I saw a dying platypus turn over. With a pole we fished the rare prey out, a fully grown large male of Ornithorhynchus paradoxus.
This animal is indeed very strange. For a few years one has known that the platypus in fact is laying eggs — this was once been deemed a fairy tale — which are then kept in a nest to be hatched. The platypus reminds in its build as well its behavior in the water most closely of an otter or a beaver, attains an average length of 50 cm and possesses webbing between the very sharp clawed toes on its short feet. On the front legs it even reaches above the toes. At the rear legs the male has also a very large moveable claw about whose precise function nothing is known. Earlier is was assumed that it was poisonous and used as a weapon.
Strange is the duck bill which is soft at the edge. The animal uses it to catch insects living in the water. The tail is smooth similar to that of the beaver and mostly not very hairy. The fur is especially beautiful as it consists of dense beards of a dark brown color with a silver white shading. On the neck, the breast and the belly the fur feels like silk. The eyes are very tiny. The ears barely visible. The platypus lives mostly in calm spots of running water and constructs a lair at the shore that is often up to 10 m long and ends in a chamber. It usually has two entrances, one above the water surface the other below it. In the morning and the evening the animal goes fishing in the surrounding calm water, diving from time to time and reappearing in short intervals on the surface as it can not stay for long under water without catching air. Extremely timid and cautious the platypus returns to its lair at the slightest suspicious noise or hides under bushes and water plants. Usually one can see bubbles rise to the water surface before the animal emerges first with its bill and head then with its back.
My companion urged to visit a spot a bit upriver where he hoped to find other platypus. Here I indeed saw soon, covered by a tree, that rings formed in the water and then a bill, the head and the back of a platypus emerge but the distance was rather great and the animal was not facing me. When it was calmly swimming further away like an otter I tried on the advice of my companion to fire a low probability shot. The grain hit in the right direction of the platypus but it dove below the surface and, appearing again for a fleeting moment, then disappeared for forever. I did not have more luck with a second platypus that I had discovered from the same position also at a considerable distance. As it was already getting dark and thus it was unlikely to catch another prey, I risked a shot that hit well as the hunter assured me but the animal must have sunken or swam into its nest as we did not see it again.
Having reached the farm Mr. Badgery very lively congratulated me for having bagged the platypus and assured me that bagging a platypus was a great rarity and only one in a hundred hunter is able to boast about such a prey.
At the dinner which took place in very animated mood of all participants I offered a toast to the Queen’s health whose birthday today was celebrated everywhere in the country. Mr. Badgery then gave a long speech in my honor which was kindly replied by me.
The evening was splendid, the moon was up in the sky in full splendor — thus the program could be completed with a hunt for possums. I hunted in the opposite direction as the one the day before. In three hours we circled around the farm in a great arc and returned with good results of ten possums and then after this so successful day in any dimension fall quickly into a refreshing sleep.
- Location: Badgery Station, Australia
- ANNO – on 24.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
- The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Aus der Gesellschaft“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Die Walküre“.