The Crocodile Who Became Famous
Max Rutledge of Yamba worked for the Beach Mining Company at Angourie. On November 30th 1939 he was driving his train of empty trucks to the beach. He saw what he took to be a log laying near the line. He stopped the engine to investigate. He saw the log rise from the ground to reveal itself as a 15-foot crocodile. Thinking the huge reptile was about to charge the train, he started the engine and left in a hurry. The report he made to police sparked great excitement in the district. Not to mention a media frenzy. Especially after a police search found and took plaster casts of paw prints in the mud of a nearby swamp. After sending them to the Sydney Museum, they said. “It could be the left hand paw of a crocodile about 12ft long”.
Over the next few months many attempts to locate the crocodile failed. Locals started to report strange booming and bellowing noises from the swamp. Businessmen fearing the effects on tourism offered a reward for the capture – dead or alive.
There was much speculation on how the crocodile came to be so far south of its normal habitat. The most popular theory being that it had escaped from a circus. When bones of a known former circus crocodile were dug up this theory was laid to rest.
By Christmas to attract and entrain visitors people organised ‘crocodile hunts’. One hunt flushed out a large goanna. It ended up stuffed and on display at the Pacific Hotel as “The Angourie Croc”.
Not to miss out on an opportunity Zeitsch’s Cordial Factory in Grafton began producing a blue drink called “Crocodile Tears”. It was soon withdrawn from sale because it looked too much like kerosene (also blue in colour).
Fresh tracks found near the golf course proved not to be from a crocodile.
By March 1940 the Police Department had called off any further searches. Reasoning that the crocodile might move to the Angourie Pool in the dry season, they advised council to build a wire fence around it.
Many put the sightings down to “Wooloweyah Whisky” and the booming noise to Bittern (bird). Songs and poems composed during the 1940s kept the story alive. While George Weily, a notorious prankster, and received a rousing reception during Jacaranda parades and concerts.
In 1954 the story appeared in a newspaper series on Animal Mysteries of Australia.
Still the mystery of the famous Angourie Crocodile, alas ‘Joc the Croc’ remains.