On the 20th May 1770, H.M. Bark ‘Endeavour’ sailed along the coast of what is now known as Wide Bay and Fraser Island. Upon passing the tip of Fraser Island, Captain Cook documented:
” . . . The extreme point of the Shoal we judged to bear about North-West of us; and the point of land above-mentioned bore South 3/4 West, distant 20 Miles. This point I have named Sandy Cape on account of 2 very large white Patches of Sand upon it . . . “
That very same day, Sir Joseph Banks documented in his journal the following:
” . . . 1770 May 20.
At day break the land in sight terminated in a sandy cape behind which a deep bay ran in, across which we could not see; our usual good fortune now again assisted us, for we discoverd breakers which we had certainly ran upon had the ship in the night saild 2 or 3 leagues farther than she did. This shoal extended a long way out from the land for we ran along it till 2 O’Clock and then passed over the tail of it in seven fathom water; the Sea was so clear that we could distinctly see the bottom and indeed when it was 12 and 14 fathom deep the colour of the sand might be seen from the mast head at a large distance. While we were upon the shoal innumerable large fish, Sharks, Dolphins etc. and one large Turtle were seen; A grampus of the middle size Leapd with his whole body out of water several times making a Splash and foam in the sea as if a mountain had fallen into it. At sun set a few Bobies flew past towards the NW . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks’ – by Sir Joseph Banks – Journal from 25th August 1768 to 12th July 1771
This was the very first documented evidence of a creature that was to become known as the ‘Moha Moha’. Miss Shirley Lovell, a school teacher stationed at Sandy Cape in the late 1800’s, wrote of her sighting of a ‘sea serpent’ of some 34 feet (10.36 m) in length :
” . . . “I was (writes Miss Lovell) while walking on the Sandy Island beach admiring the stillness of the sea, it being a dead calm, when my eye caught sight of the head and neck of a creature I had never seen before. I went to the edge of the water and saw a huge animal, lying at full length, which was not at all disturbed by my close proximity to it, enabling me to observe the glossy skin of the head and neck, smooth and shiny as satin. Its great mouth was wide open all the time it was out of the water. In about a quarter of an hour or so it put its head and neck slowly into the sea, closing its jaws as it did so. I then saw what a long neck it had, as it moved round in a half circle, and also perceived that the head and neck were moving under a carapace. When the head was pointing out to sea it rose up, putting a long wedge-shaped fish-like tail out of the water over the dry shore, parallel to myself, and not more than five feet from me, not touching the sand, but elevated. I could have stood under the flukes of its tail.”
The only part of the body that had marks like joints (like in size and shape to a common brick) was also on the dry shore, but resting on the sand ; the great dome shaped carapace, dull slate-grey, was standing quite five feet high, and so hid its long neck and head from my view, which before it rose I could see as a long shadow in the water. The carapace was smooth and without marks of any sort. The fish-like part of the tail was as glossy and shiny as the head and neck, but of a beautiful silver-grey, shading to white, with either markings or large scales, each bordered with a ridge of white, but if scales, not like those of a fish in position, as the fishes’ scales lie horizontally, whilst the Moha’s, if scales, lie perpendicularly, each the size of a man’s thumbnail. It had a thick fleshy fin near the end about three feet from the flukes and like them, chocolate-brown. The flukes were semi-transparent – I could see the sun shine through them, showing all the bones very forked. One of the girls asked me if a shark had bitten a piece out of its tail, and the other one wanted to know if I thought it was an alligator. The fish-like part was quite twelve feet long.
“All this time the animal was on shore it was perfectly motionless ; at last it gave [?] half-twist to the fluke part of its tail, the movement only reaching just beyond the fleshy [?], and, without disturbing the water in the slightest degree, vanished. It seemed only to have taken one breath when I saw its tail out of the water about the place where the steamer anchors, sending a quantity of fish into the air. I then saw it give a twist of its tail and it disappeared altogether. The black-boy saw it on shore the previous Monday, the 9th instant. As I was so close to it for at least half an hour, I was able to sudy its shape and colouring. In moving about, head and tail were seen alternately above water, but not even the shadow of its great body, and from the length of that, a spectator would not guess that the head and tail belonged to the same creature, particularly as the colouring is so different. The parts I did not see were the legs. I stooped down and tried, but in vain, to see them, though the Moha was only standing in a foot of water, but the black described them as being like an alligator. I wrote to Dr. Ramasy (Sydney) to ask if the Moha was the same creature as the great turtle of New Guinea of which the Sydney Museum possesses a skeleton, but he said in reply that it was quite unlike, and calls the Moha a tortoise, which I think is correct. Dr. Günther (of the British Natural History Museum) would give £100 for the entire animal, £50 for part and a fair price for the head and neck, sun-dried.” . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘The Maryborough Chronicle’ – Article ‘The Moha-Moha (Chelosauria Lovell) – A Sandy Cape Curiosity” – published 22nd September 1894
On the 8th June 1890, it was declared:
Interestingly, the tip of Fraser Island on which the Sandy Cape and Break Sea Spit are situate, lie right on the edge of the continental shelf where the depth of the ocean plummets dramatically. It could suggest a perfect location in which giants of the deep could reside.
Rarely seen, however, present in Aboriginal legend, documented by Miss Lovell, declared sighting by the ‘Sandy Cape Lighthouse’ staff and others, numerous reports of sightings from observers and fishermen since – even as recently as the 1970’s – it is not an impossibility that the ‘Moha Moha’ may be real and my even still exist . . .
The sculpture depicting the ‘Moha Moha’ is located in ‘Bill Frasers Park‘, providing viewers an awareness and insight of this intriguing creature of the sea – whether it be legend or real – as well as a reminder of the stories told and documented by those fortunate enough to have witnessed such a spectacle . . .
– Approximately 150 m West of the Town Centre – obtain Directions here
– Car Parking available along Charlton Esplanade
– Car Parking on either side of the Park
– Bike Parking available
– One of the many attractions on the Hervey Bay Esplanade Trail
– Adjacent to Hervey Bay Waterfront
– Nearby Features:
– Facilities available at Torquay include:
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