Monthly Meeting, November 6th 2015

The Sorrento Fossil Monster


Zygomaturus – pic from Australian Museum

Speakers at the NHS – David Pickering Palaeontology Collection Manager for the past 10 years at Museums Australia ( Victoria) and David Thomas ‘The Accidental Palaeontologist’ and Sorrento local who walks this beach frequently.

The two Davids told us a marvellous story of discovery and perseverance.

Bone pieces were spotted high up in the ocean beach Bay of Islands rock arch by keen eyed locals in early 2012. Chris and Allan Willox were the first to report them followed two weeks later by David Thomas who, fearing a human body, contacted police.

Museum Paleontologist David Pickering organised a meeting onsite. Another key player in this story is Bruce McFadyen, knowledgeable local Parks Vic Ranger and issuer of permits allowing exploration of the site.

The site was dangerous: access was only via a very steep rock cliff and rock falls from the arch were frequent. More paperwork for OH&S considerations for the workers was essential. Mining engineers had to be called in to advise. A big storm caused a huge rock collapse and new retrieval methods had to be devised. Masses of rock pieces had to be painstakingly examined.

But more and more pieces were identified until the skull (found by David Thomas) and jawbone with teeth proved it was the precious fossil specimen of a rare Zygomaturus.

Zygomaturus skeleton drawing

These large marsupials lived in groups. They had huge cheekbones and a big rubbery nose. This fossil is possibly 2.6 million years old. Small marks of predation can be seen on the pelvic piece – who had attacked this ‘Zygo’?

The audience were fascinated and afterwards clustered to see the actual skull of the ‘Zygo’ that David P. had brought for us and David T’s photos of the site. And we also were shown beautiful fossils of a perfect shortfaced kangaroo jaw recently found at Gunnamatta Beach.

Zygomaturus skull

Zygomaturus Skull

A great night for all … and NHS hopes to have a model of the Zygomaturus on display one day.

Note of interest – David Pickering is particularly adept at extracting minute fossil teeth. He has two extinct animals named after him a Pleistocene marsupial – Palorchestes pickeringi -and a Devonian fish from the Kimberley,  Pickeringia.


From Sorrento to Mudgee

by  Peter Munro

It is an oppressively hot Friday in March as I stood beside the grave of Trooper William Croome in the Mudgee Cemetery. Beside me stood William’s great niece Helen Shearman. As we read the inscription on the headstone, my thoughts were with William’s five mates who were buried on the Sorrento Cemetery and of the ‘Drayton Grange’ that ill-fated, ill equipped troopship who through sickness and death is the catalyst for the connection between these two towns.

Helen Shearman with Peter Munro

Helen Shearman with Peter Munro

Sorrento to Mudgee is quite a distance, even by to-day’s standards with the comforts of plane and hire car. Back in August 1902, the trip would have been considerably longer for William Croome who made his final journey from the military hospital at Fort Franklin, Portsea, to his home town of Mudgee, N.S.W. This was a homecoming poor William would never see. Continue reading

1913 In Review

It was in 1913 that the name of Australia’s capital city was launched. Our first postage stamp with a kangaroo inside a map of Australia appeared, as did the first Commonwealth banknote the ten shilling note which, in that year, was considered a good week’s wage.

1d original-stamps

In Melbourne, with its population of 651,000, it was ‘the year of the dome’, with the opening of the domed reading room at The State Library of Victoria. For the first time, lost dogs had a home in North Melbourne, The Eye and Ear Hospital was completed, and the demolition company of ‘Whelan the Wrecker’ was starting to make its mark upon Melbourne’s skyline. Daniel Mannix, who was to become Melbourne’s Roman Catholic Archbishop for 46 years, arrived in Australia, and half a million people came to visit Luna Park in its first year of operation……..”just for fun”.

Sorrento in 1913 seemed to offer more subdued pieces of news than in the previous year, which contained a drowning, a shipwreck, a hotel fire, misplaced vice-regal property and a conflict of local judicial interests.

Continue reading

1912 In Review

1912 could be regarded as the ‘Titanic’ year of the 20th Century. All other international and Australian events were dwarfed in comparison with this epic maritime disaster resulting in the loss of 1500 lives.

Melbourne saw the price of milk raised to 5d a quart because of dearer feed to the horses. A bill was introduced in the Victorian House of Representatives for ₤5 a year maternity allowance for white women. Melbourne’s new amusement park, Luna Park was opened in St. Kilda and just down the bay at Geelong, the Hills Hoist rotary clothes line was invented. Continue reading

1911 In Review

1911 revealed Australia’s census to have a population of 4,435,000 people. Which bank was established? Of course it was the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. In a personality and country race, Amundsen won the victory to be the first to the South Pole and for all those wanting to hum a tune, ‘Alexander’s Rag Time Band’ was the number one hit tune of 1911.

My three hours of Research at the State Library of Victoria into the events and happenings within the Sorrento community in 1911 was interesting to say the least. About ½ way through my research, I began to wonder just how many times George Morce, a local identity would be brought before the Sorrento Court. I had reached the month of August and already he had managed 4 appearances (3 for being drunk and disorderly with the usual fine of 10∕- or 48 hours’ default) and one for throwing a missile which turned out to be a beer bottle.

Mornington and Dromana Standard 1911

Here are a few further snippets of daily life in and around Sorrento in 1911 as reported in “The Mornington and Dromana Standard” of the day:

Continue reading