Giant egg mystery
Beaked skull enigma may mean elephant birds lived in Australia
The find of a giant fossil egg about two hundred kilometres north of Perth, on the Western Australian coast, made news around the world. The egg was found at Christmas 1992 by schoolchildren in sand dunes, about a kilometre inland. It was an egg of the extinct ‘elephant bird’, Aepyornis, known to have lived in Madagascar.
It was assumed that the egg had floated thousands of kilometres to its Australian location. It caused considerable interest because of the surprising suggestion of an egg having survived such a long sea journey.
Most papers at the time did not mention that another such egg had already been found in the 1930s.
This earlier egg was found by a ten–year–old boy, Victor Roberts, in sand dunes south of the Scott River (which is about two hundred kilometres south of Perth on the same coastline), about 100 metres from the sea.
At around 28 centimetres (11 inches) long and 22 centimetres (8 inches) wide, with a volume of around eight litres (about two gallons), it was ‘much larger than the largest fossil Giant Moa’s (an extinct New Zealand bird) egg known’.1 When he realized how heavy it was, the young finder knocked a hole in it and emptied out the contents, which were like sand. The egg has a very strong shell, about six millimetres (1/4 inch) thick.
The coastal location of this earlier egg, like its successor, is consistent with the idea that it arrived by sea, as is the fact that no elephant bird bones have been properly documented in Australia.
What is exceedingly curious, however, is the report in a 1968 Western Australian newspaper in which the finder of the egg (who had become a respected cattleman and councillor for the Augusta–Margaret River shire) describes how he clearly recalls something else in the sand dunes close to the egg. Victor said, ‘There was at least part of a skeleton just a short distance away. I distinctly remember that there was a very large skull with a beak on it.’ 2
By then 46 years old, Mr Roberts said that he could still locate the approximate site, but that searching for the skeleton of what he said ‘for sure’ was a huge beaked skull and bones would be a massive task, as the dunes shifted continually under the influence of the wind. He had looked for it again from time to time after a storm, in the remote hope that it would be uncovered again.
Early explorers reaching Madagascar dismissed stories of giant birds killed for food as myths, until fossils were found there of the Elephant Bird (pictured above). Two eggs of this bird have been found in Australia.
Did elephant birds once live in Australia? We may never know for sure. In recounting this information, we are not necessarily disputing the alternative ‘floating egg’ interpretation (which might give a clue concerning some types of flightless bird migration post-Flood). However, there is further intriguing evidence that elephant birds may have once lived here.
In the article, Victor Roberts is quoted as saying, ‘As a young lad growing up in the Scott River area ... I often heard the Aboriginal legends about when the birds were as high as the hills.’ Early explorers to Madagascar also heard tales of giant birds, which they thought were myths until fossils of elephant birds were found, which showed not only that such creatures had existed, but that this was in recent human memory.
Fossilisation needs special conditions. Creatures can live in an area for years without leaving fossils. For example, there are no known lion fossils in Palestine/Israel but there is well–documented evidence that they once lived there.
The hypothesis that elephant birds were living during the time of aboriginal occupation of the Western Australian coast explains three items of evidence: The regional stories themselves, the two eggs found (without having to postulate that they each made the same vast ocean journey), and the eyewitness report of a large–beaked skeleton next to one of these eggs.3 However, accepting all this would mean rejecting some popular, evolution–based ideas, such as the huge ages usually assigned to these eggs—up to a million years.
References and notes
- R.C. Hyslop and C.J. Spackman, ‘The Big Egg (Scott River Egg)’, in Augusta Jewel Caves and Other Points of Interest Lamb Publications Pty Ltd, 1967.
- R.C. Hyslop, ‘The Big Egg’, Weekend Magazine (supplement to Weekend News, Perth), January 6, 1968, p. 9.
- The 1968 article shows there was a distinct lack of interest in investigating the eyewitness report of the man who had found the egg and kept it in his cupboard for years. He saw the beaked skull so clearly that he still returns to search for it. However, his long–standing hope for a funding grant, for a major expedition to uncover the skeleton, had, he said, just about faded after 36 years.