Giant Bird in New Guinea


From Nature, (Nov. 25, 1875), V. 13, p. 76.

An interesting letter appears in yesterday's Daily News from Mr. Smithurst, the engineer of the steamer which made the voyage up the newly discovered Baxter River in New Guinea, referred to in Sir Henry Rawlinson's address at the Geographical Society last week. The river seems to be a magnificent one, and could evidently be made navigatable to a considerable distance inland. The exploring party found the banks to consist mainly of mangrove swamps, though, near the end of the journey, high clay banks with Eucalyptus globulus were found. Scarcely any natives were seen, though there were frequent signs of their being about. Mr. Smithurst refers to a very remarkable bird, which, so far as we know, has not hitherto been described. The natives state that it can fly away with a dugong, a kangaroo, or a large turtle. Mr. Smithurst states he saw and shot at a specimen of this wonderful animal, and that "the noise caused by the flapping of its wings resembled the sound of a locomotive pulling a long train very slowly." He states that "it appeared to be about sixteen or eighteen feet across the wings as it flew, the body dark brown, the breast white, neck long, and beak long and straight." In the stiff clay of the river bank Mr. Smithurst states that he saw the footprints of some large animal, which he "took to be a buffalo or wild ox," but he saw no traces of the animal. These statements are very wonderful, and before giving credence to them we had better await the publication of the official account of the voyage. A very fair collection of rocks, stones, birds, insects, plants, moss, and orchids has been made, which will be submitted to a naturalist for his opinion. The dates of Mr. Smithurst's communication are from August 30 to Sept. 7.