Three Moreton Bay Yarns with Bob Bartlett

1.The Sea Monster 

I used to take my two boys fishing from virtually when they first could talk. I had a small cabin boat and we used to go fishing every weekend. We always went down to Jacob’s Well where we’d put the boat in and go off around the islands. We’d always take something to eat and cold drinks. On one such occasion in about 1967/68, we were fishing just north of Jacob’s Well in about 3 or 4 metres of water, and not doing much – just sitting in the boat with hand lines, when suddenly – it wasn’t a head – this hump came out of the water, and behind it was another hump! And the first hump moved further along. So I said to the boys, “Put your life jackets on straight away!” 

Bob indicating the position of the sea monster sighting at Jacob’s Well

I’d never seen anything like it in my life – almost a foot (0.3metres) in diameter, but we never saw the bottom of the humps under the water. So the boys put their life jackets on, and both remember it starkly to this day. Young Terry who was the baby then is now 47 and it has stuck in his mind ever since. His brother Graham is now 55 and also remembers it. 

I have drawn a picture of how it appeared to us: 

Bob’s sketch of the sea monster

There were several humps and they were all in a straight line behind each other. We never saw the head. They couldn’t have been dolphins because there were no fins, and dolphins stick their nose out. Dolphins also blow. This was just a series of humps that kept going through the water. It was just like a worm wriggling along but instead of wriggling sideways like a snake it was doing it vertically. No fins on its tail, and we didn’t see its tail at all. It was a dirty grey-brown colour. 

It just kept going until it disappeared out of sight. I have never seen anything like it before or since. When we got back home, the boys immediately told their mum, and she said, “Oh! It’s no good telling anyone – they would never believe us.” 

But the boys said, “What would happen if we did tell people?”
I told them, “People would look at you and say you were crazy!” Anyway I told a couple of blokes at work, and they said, “Have you 

been drinking, Bob?” so I said to myself, “That’s it. I’m not telling anyone else about it.”
Unfortunately we didn’t take a camera round with us in those days. 

They weren’t digital like now. But if we had taken a picture of it then, it would have been wonderful. If this had been in Loch Ness, it would have caused a sensation! What we really needed was somebody, independent of our family, to have also seen it. 

Any takers? 

Editor: – By a strange coincidence, just after I had interviewed Bob Bartlett about the Moreton Bay sea serpent, I was reading Mark Twain, A Biography by Albert Paine in which Mark Twain made a similar observation on a visit to Australia: 

On the night of September 15th – a night so dark that from the ship’s deck one could not see the water – schools of porpoises surrounded the ship, setting the water alive with phosphorescent splendors: “Like glorified serpents thirty to fifty feet long. Every curve of the tapering long body perfect. The whole snake dazzlingly illumined. It was a weird sight to see this sparkling ghost come suddenly flashing along out of the solid gloom and stream past like a meteor.” 

They were in Sydney next morning, September 16, 1895… 

I had mentioned such an occurrence to Bob, but he was adamant that there were no heads, fins, or tails visible, which would have been the case if the serpent had been a line of dolphins (or ‘porpoises’ as reported by Mark). 

The mystery deepens. 

2. An Unfortunate Chain of Events 

I tipped a boat over once. I was in the water for three and a half hours – without a life jacket. I was chugging along in the dinghy off Coochiemudlo picking up crab pots when the propeller got caught in one of the lines and pulled the boat backwards. I went to the stern to try to release it, but what happened was that the stern went under water, the boat filled with water and turned upside down. I went in the water, and the life jacket floated off. So did the oars. 

I thought the easiest thing would be to ditch the motor so that I could get the boat the right way up again. So I undid the clamps. However, when a motor is upside down, it won’t ditch, and you can’t push it forward to let it go. So I swam around to the bow of the boat and held on by putting my finger through the eyelet used for pulling the boat onto the trailer. 

I wondered what on earth was going to happen. It was during the day, but there was nobody out on the water because it was a weekday. The ferry came by, and I kept waving, but they didn’t look. 

I kept drifting and drifting towards Redland Bay. Fortunately, my wife and I had a waterfront property and she was looking out. She realized the boat was upside down, but she couldn’t see me. So she rang my son in Brisbane and he rang his brother. They rang the Air Sea Rescue. They weren’t manned. They rang the Water Police. The Water Police were busy somewhere else. She ran over to our neighbour who was my age. He took his trousers off and was going to swim out but realized it was too far for him, so he ran down to Thompson’s Beach and took one of the fisherman’s dinghies with all their nets and fishing gear in it. They spotted him pinching it, and got one of their boats. So he’s heading off to find me, and they’re chasing him

Talk about a circus! He arrived where I was to pick me up, and they arrived at the same time ready to beat the hell out of him. When they saw me in the water, they picked me up. My neighbour couldn’t have picked me up anyway because he was in his 70’s and unfit – like me! 

So the fishermen got my boat, turned it up the right way, and took me back home. By then the Air Sea Rescue bloke had arrived; the local police had arrived; and the Air Sea Rescue bloke wanted to book me for not having a life jacket. I explained that my life jacket was now out in the bay somewhere, and the local copper used some very colourful language telling the Air Sea Rescue fellow where to go! 

The fishermen got our wheelie bin, tipped all the rubbish out, filled it up with water, put my motor in it upside down, and said they’d take it out the next day and it would start. This they did, and they were right. It did start! 

3. The Room 

On the farm property we had bought was a very old house and we had modernized it and put in air conditioning etc but there was one particular room at the end that was always cold. People would come to stay and they could feel the cold there. 

One day some friends of ours called in for a visit, and one of the women was sitting where she could see down the hall, and she suddenly said, “Oh I’m terribly sorry we called tonight. I didn’t know you had visitors.” 

“There’s no one here,” we assured her.
“But I saw someone going across the end room.” What followed was a VERY pregnant pause. 

On another occasion when our English friends came to visit, we said, “Look, the farmhouse is empty. You can stay in there.” 

So I put things in the fridge and made the place up nicely for them. 

Now Sally had contact lens, which she used to have to soak for an hour before she could go to bed. Her husband, Ray, had gone to bed and he was asleep, but Sally was sitting waiting for the hour to pass, when suddenly she heard loud music. Now we were on acres of land and were very isolated and when she mentioned it next morning nobody else had heard it, so where did it come from. Odd? 

“Oh, not again,” we groaned. 

Bob and Irene say that they had lived in the house for a while, but it never happened to them, but Bob adds, “I’ve got to admit that sometimes when I walked into that room, the hair on the back of my neck used to bristle!” 

When our daughter Trish stayed, she used to sleep on the put-up bed settee down in this room which we called the billiard room – Bob had this billiard table there – and when she stayed there she used to keep the light on all night – we didn’t know about this – because she was so worried. 

“I’d wake up at night and feel like someone was standing right there beside me.” 

I think the house has been pulled down now. 

Bob Bartlett
23 September 2010 

(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)