Friday, 19 March 2021

Meteor sightings in the Casey Cardinia area

This region is world famous for the Cranbourne Meteorites which were unearthed between 1853 and 2008. I have written about them here. I have found some newspaper reports of local observations of meteors, which are reproduced below. They are called meteors when they are in space and if they make it to earth they are called meteorites. I will confess I only found this out a few years ago when I did a talk at a school in Cranbourne to Grade 2s about the history of the area and one of the boys in the class mentioned this fact.

What is the chance of observing a meteor? The American Meteor Society says that several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude occur in the Earth’s atmosphere each day. The vast majority of these, however, occur over the oceans and uninhabited regions, and a good many are masked by daylight. Those that occur at night also stand little chance of being detected due to the relatively low numbers of persons out to notice them...A fireball is another term for a very bright meteor, generally brighter than magnitude -4, which is about the same magnitude of the planet Venus in the morning or evening sky. (

So sightings of meteors are relatively unusual and it is even rarer for a meteor to fall to earth. The American Meteor Society says that our best estimates of the total incoming meteoroid flux indicate that about 10 to 50 meteorite dropping events occur over the earth each day. It should be remembered, however, that 2/3 of these events will occur over ocean, while another 1/4 or so will occur over very uninhabited land areas, leaving only about 2 to 12 events each day with the potential for discovery by people. Half of these again occur on the night side of the earth, with even less chance of being noticed. Due to the combination of all of these factors, only a handful of witnessed meteorite falls occur each year. As an order of magnitude estimation, each square kilometer of the earth’s surface should collect 1 meteorite fall about once every 50,000 years, on the average. If this area is increased to 1 square mile, this time period becomes about 20,000 years between falls. (

We will have to wait a long time before another meteorite lands in this area, but if you want to see one now, the Cranbourne Meteorite No. 13, identified in 2008, is on display at the Casey RACE Leisure Centre, next to the Cranbourne Library.

Cranbourne No. 13 meteorite, identified in 2008 at Clyde. It weighs 83 kg. 
Photographer: Angela Muscat. Museums Victoria

Here are some reports of meteor sightings in the Casey Cardinia area and a little further afield.
1867 - Cranbourne
On Tuesday evening last a very brilliant meteor was seen at Cranbourne, at about twenty minutes past eight. It shot through the heavens with great rapidity, for an instant casting a glow on the ground (Mount Alexander Mail March 2, 1867, see here)

1881 January - south west of Warragul
One of the most brilliant meteors it has ever been our lot to witness made its appearance in the south western sky at about 10 o'clock on Monday night. The meteor, which first appeared like a large, very bright shooting star, started from high up in the heavens, and fell in the ordinary manner of such bodies for a considerable distance, apparently coming straight towards the earth. After falling some distance, it suddenly burst, when it closely resembled (but was far brighter and more beautiful than) a blue
light from a rocket. The light emitted was of a light blue color and so intense that the whole southern sky was lighted up, and the meteor continued on its way earthward till lost to view behind the trees. It did not seem to be very far off, apparently not more than a few miles. (Warragul Guardian January 13, 1881, see here)

1881 August - east of Dandenong
A very brilliant meteor was observed in the eastern direction at Dandenong on Saturday night last. It resembled a hugh ball of pale blue fire being rolled through the heavens, and as it continued its career it threw a light similar to a heavy flash of lightning, lighting up the whole township. The strange occurrence left a pale blueish line behind, and it was several seconds before the effects of this meteor had disappeared altogether. (South Bourke & Mornington Journal, August 24, 1881, see here.)

1910 - Woolamai
For a few seconds on Thursday the midnight sky was lit up by a most brilliant meteor, which, after travelling swiftly in a north-easterly direction, suddenly ended in a shower of flashing fragments. (The Age, September 12, 1910, see here. Woolamai, a stop on the old railway line which ran from Nyora to Wonthaggi, is inland from Bass)

1913 - south of Dandenong
A magnificent meteor was seen in the South the other evening. It lighted up the sky during its rapid flight. The ball appeared of bluish tint, while the edge had a yellow tinge. (South Bourke & Mornington Journal, June 12, 1913, see here)

1919 - Beaconsfield
A Startling Spectacle - Meteor explodes in Daylight. 
Beaconsfield -  About 11 a.m. on Thursday a dazzling ribbon of fire was observed to suddenly appear in the western sky, and as it vanished in a flash its position was plainly marked with a column of white smoke or vapor. One spectator, in vividly describing the incident, said that happening to be looking over the Berwick hills towards Melbourne it seemed as if the sky had suddenly split in half. The only explanation offered was that an unusually large meteorite had fallen in some part of Victoria. (The Age December 27, 1919, see here The same article reports sightings of this meteor throughout the State, including in the suburbs of Melbourne as well as Hamilton and Portland.)

1948 - Dandenong
Dandenong Man Reports Falling Meteor.
Among those fortunate enough to see the falling meteor which flashed a flaming trail across the sky early last Wednesday evening, was Mr. V. Matthews, of Dandenong. Residents, as far apart as Warragul and Gardenvale also reported the meteor. Mr. V. Matthews told a “Journal” representative that he was coming along Frankston Rd. about 6 o’clock in the early evening when he saw a huge object-like a house on fire sweep across the sky. It had a tremendous tail - to him it appeared to be half-a mile long - and was dropping balls of fire in its wake. So much did it appear under control that at first he feared it was a ’plane ablaze. It disappeared in the general direction of the city - an awe-inspiring sight (Dandenong Journal, June 23, 1948, see here)

Monday, 15 March 2021

Koalas at Yannathan

In the last post, which was about a report of a trip taken from Berwick to Yannathan in 1887 (see here), the unnamed writer of the report said that Yannathan was 'swarming' with koalas or bears as they were called - At Yannathan my business was completed and left me a day to look about the locality. The place swarms with "bears.'' In nearly every other tree they are to be seen. The name "bear" quite intimidates the "new chum," but no need of fear, for they are truly harmless beasts living on the gum leaves, and I am told are rapidly killing the gum trees as effectually as if they had been "rung" (1).

Six years later there was another account of koalas at Yannathan, this one painting a far bleaker picture of their numbers. This was a letter published in the Weekly Times on July 1, 1893, addressed to Uncle Ben the editor of the children's section.
A Bear. — Yannathan.
Dear Uncle Ben,
This is my first letter to you. I am going to tell you a story about a bear. One morning early about three o'clock when my sisters were in bed they heard something scratching. They thought at first that it was the rats, but soon they knew that it was too loud for them. They looked down towards the window where the noise came from. Seeing a shadow like a man's hand, they got out of bed, went to the window and looked out. Then they saw a bear which had climbed up the wall and was trying to hold onto the window, but could not. Mother, who was in another room, heard them laughing. She asked what was the matter, and they told her, so she got up and went outside, and took the bear off the window and put him on the ground. In the morning when we got up it was in a pear tree in the garden. The bears that are about here are quite harmless. They are very scarce, but when we first came into Yannathan there was a great number.
I remain, your affectionate niece, Sarah Aitken, aged eleven years and  eight months (2).

The Koala or 'Australian Bear'
Australian Bear, c. 1880-1890. State Library of Victoria Image H29682/3

The cause of the decline in koala numbers in Yannathan can be attributed, mainly, to habitat loss due to the clearing of land for farming.  Dr Niel Gunson in his book The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire writes that early settlement in the Yannathan district started on the western boundary in 1875 and by 1878 all the dense forest country had been selected (3). Clearing at Yannathan began as soon as the settlers could undertake the work,  it has been said of this thick bush country (paperbark, tea tree, blackwood, silver wattle, musk tree and clematis) that 'when cleared it proved to be the best land in Gippsland' (4). 

The koala was also killed for 'sport'. There was a report in March 1882 about a fishing and hunting trip to the Bass [River] district which mentioned the amount of sport they were going to have! Ducks, swan,
hare, native bears, 'possoms and fish were to be got without the least exertion (5).  Given that the koala was also called the 'Australian sloth' it is no wonder that they could be got without the least exertion. 

The koala was also a component of the fur trade, not, however, the high-end garment segment of the market. This is part of a report from 1880 -  Another numerous marsupial is the native bear, or Australian sloth, possessing a short matted wool, and a thick pelt unamenable to softening influences. These inoffensive creatures are most tenacious of life, and when they are killed, sorely test the patience of the skinner. The best of the skins are made into carriage rugs, but the majority are only fit for mats (6)

The 'Australian Native Bear' was considered cute enough to feature in this postcard from c. 1908, even if some people still thought they were only fit to become a mat.
Australian Native Bear. Study by Muir. State Library of Victoria Image H42748/12

In Victoria, koalas gained some protection in December 1898, when they were deemed to be native game and thus protected (7).  This gave them year round protection, though this was objected to by the Fur Buyers' Association who thought koalas should only have protection for part of the year. As a matter of interest in 1899 the Fur Buyers' Association spokesman, Mr Coles said that last year on the London market a total  of 176,000 skins were offered. New South Wales sent 134,000 and Victoria and Queensland 51, 600. This showed that there was not such a slaughter going on here as there was in New South Wales (8).  The Government did not alter the year round protection for koalas and in 1938 strengthened their protection by including injuring and molesting the animals as well as destroying them within the scope of the bill (9). 

Of course protection from slaughter did not protect the koala from habitat loss, and one solution for this was to re-locate koalas from one area to another such as in the 1930s from French Island to Quail Island.  Quail Island is at the northern end of Western Port Bay - I have written about the Quail Island koalas, here.

(1) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, June 8, 1887, see here.
(2) Weekly Times July 1, 1893, see here.
(3) Gunson, Niel The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire (Cheshire, 1968), p. 112.
(4) Gunson, op. cit., p. 114
(5) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, March 15 1882, see here.
(6) The Argus, December 9 1880, see here.
(7) Victoria Government Gazette, December 9, 1898, p. 4238, 
(8) The Herald, July 11 1899, see here. The Fur Buyers' Association was also referred to as the Furred Skin Buyers' Association (The Herald, July 3, 1899, see here) I am not sure which is correct, and it doesn't really matter now, 120 years later, however I do like to be historically accurate.
(9) The Argus, December 14, 1938, see here.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

A trip to Yannathan - 1887

This interesting article of  a trip from Berwick to Yannathan is from 1887. The route taken was the Berwick-Clyde Road, the South Gippsland Highway, through Cranbourne, then through Monomeith and to Yannathan. The trip was taken before the Koo Wee Rup Swamp, called here the Great Swamp, was drained. The article was in the South Bourke & Mornington Journal of June 8, 1887, see here.


My last expedition was "over the hills and far away," mid fairy-like bowers of fern trees, flowering eeries and trinkling streamlets of crystal water. No such beauties in this trip, but flat swampy country, ti-tree and mud are the only thing one finds to relieve the tedious monotony of such a journey. Starting from Berwick along the Cranbourne road the broad acres of Mr. Gibb's property (1) , stretching away park-like as far as the eye can see, impresses one with the care he bestows on his land. My guide  informs me that if a branch happens to fall on the ground, men are immediately  sent to clear it away, and I quite believe it, for, out of the Riverina district, the country about Sale or Maffra, or the midland counties of Tasmania, I have seen no estate kept so clear of fallen timber as that under notice.

Next to Mr. Gibb's is Taylor's estate (2), also well kept, where we shall shortly have one of the largest land rooms of the period. The estate having been cut up into handy allotments on which our city magnates may be expected to erect country residences at no distant date, a more beautiful or more salubrious position to which they may retire from the worry and turmoil of city life, it will be hard to find, some of the sites commanding magnificent views of the Beaconsfield ranges on the one hand and the bay on the other. Berwick people must surely be asleep, dead to their own interest, in that they make no effort to educate the Melbourne taste into an appreciation of the beauties of the district. They may not boast the grandeur of mountain sublimity, but they possess the equally beautiful, if less striking,  grandeur of rural simplicity so acceptable to the tired and weary brain of commercial workers.

Berwick in 1887, where the journey to Yannathan started.
Berwick 1887 (28 miles from Melbourne). Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria photograph album.
State Library of Victoria Image H2012.114/2

Onward still, until we reach the abode of Mr. Martin (3), not long since the scene of a sad fatality which no doubt casts a shade of sadness o'er the place, but why the room in which the accident occurred  should have been removed I cannot understand. Death comes to all, soon or late, and whether by accident or from nature, I fail to see that the house can be responsible. On, past Patterson's Estate, (4)  down to the Rev. Mr Duffs farm (5), where extensive alterations are being made, with a view to future contingencies. "Parson Duff, the contractor" seems to be an old identity in the district, having been settled at Cranbourne when Berwick was a wild, and the hut in which he first held divine service is still in existence in that town. It is said that he contemplates an early retirement from the ministerial work, and that he will spend the evenings of his days on this farm descanting on his treasures in heaven, by making his abode a heaven of rest upon earth.

Not far beyond this we enter on a veritable glue-pot, black mud everywhere; to do more than walk our horses is an impossibility, down into a lane through which no track has ever been made, we had to 
force our way into a dense patch of ti-tree, at the end of which we found the lane blocked by a wire fence. Nil desperandum and ever forward is our motto, so over the fence we go and find ourselves face to face with some navvies engaged in the construction of the Great Southern line.

From them we learn that we are on the Moy-Glass Estate, the property of Mr. Peers (6) not him of soap celebrity, but of the locally celebrated firm of Peers and Frew, tailors, Melbourne. We subsequently ascertained that the estate is let at an annual rental of 10s. per acre, which, considering its distance from a railway station and its proximity to the "Great Swamp," is, I think, a very good rental indeed. We were told that on moonlight nights deers are plentiful in that locality, and have no doubt but that the local Shakespeare may often be found guilty of illicit deer stealing. The flesh is weak, and the sporting instincts are strong in most men, and no law will restrain them.

From the junction of the Moy-Glass lane and the Main road as far as Monomeith, with the exception of a few miles formed and made of "burnt earth," the road is simply execrable, slush and mud everywhere. I suppose it is a sort of Hobson's choice with many people in the district, but certainly I shall never  voluntary take up my abode in a part of the country where nature has failed to complete her work. Years ago, before the days of the Moama and Deniliquin railway, when "Jenney," of Cobb and Co was boss of the road, a road to where metal was a stranger, I made that resolve and have so far adhered to it. When you require to burn clay to spread about your house, or along the roads to make them passable I do not think such parts were intended for human settlement. I once heard the Rev. Thos. Jones find fault with the plan of creation, because things were not so arranged that men in their journies could avoid the sea, or that their stomachs were so constituted that mal-de-mer would be unknown, but I think residents where all is clay can more justly find fault with creation. 

Apart from its roads, and where the surface is not broken, Monomeith is a pretty place. Last December it was cut up and sold. The railway goes right through the estate, and a station being located there greatly enhances its value. Glasscock, of "Kirk's Bazaar," (7) well known to all horse dealers, has a magnificent estate at this place, containing some 1500 acres of splendid grazing country, only rather sloppy in the winter in parts, but as the Yallock creek runs close by his property there is surely fall enough to drain it. "That costs money," is the reply; "why there's Macgregor, (8) he spent £10,000 in draining his land; I can't afford that." What's £10,000 to Glasscock? How  much did he "net" out of his shipment of horses to India per the "Melomope"? (9) And look at the increased value of his land as winter grazing country once it has been drained. In less than ten years it would repay itself and interest. 

When horses were King - Kirk's Bazaar, on the left, and E. Brown's Horse Bazaar on the right. 
George Glasscock traded at Kirk's Bazaar.
Horse Market, Bourke Street West, 1862
Published in the Illustrated Melbourne News, September 13, 1862. Publisher: Charles Frederick Somerton. 
State Library of Victoria IMP13/09/62/1

While on the subject of draining I may give as my opinion that individual effort is not what is required. There must be a uniform system adopted and carried out under the auspices or control of the State, otherwise there will be a waste of money and the result will always be unsatisfactory. I have no doubt that the completion of the Southern railway will give the drainage of that part of the country a greater national importance in the eyes of the "powers that be." Railways must be made to pay, and when the holdings are large and the carrying capacity comparatively small, through excess of water, the necessity to carry that water off becomes imperative.

Adjoining Glasscock is McMillan's estate of 5000 acres. These McMillans,
(10) in the years that are past, were well known to me. Poor Godfrey, the last time I saw him, Sheep Bills, by Horsham, I think had just been sold to Carter Bros., and he told me he was bound for New Mexico. The next I heard of him he had gone to the New Jerusalem. William had gone into a large squattage on the back blocks of the Darling, and Archie, he had just disposed of Arcadia, I believe, to Jacobs, and Alex. (the present owner of this estate) was at Glynwylln on the Doctor's creek. How things change in a few years. Lancox, the Brighton head quarters of the McMillan family, has, I hear, been subdivided and sold. Death, too, has been amongst them, but where is it not busy? I did not see Mr. Alex. McMillan or we might have spent the day in talking over the "brave days of old."

At Yannathan my business was completed and left me a day to look about the locality. The place swarms with "bears.'' In nearly every other tree they are to be seen. The name "bear" quite intimidates the "new chum," but no need of fear, for they are truly harmless beasts living on the gum leaves, and I am told are rapidly killing the gum trees as effectually as if they had been "rung". Sport, in the shape of hares, I was told is fairly plentiful, with an occasional deer, which sometimes come out to the clear patches after feed; ducks, too, and on the Westernport Bay swans may be shot, so that on the whole there would appear to be lots of shooting. Fishing is also said to be good in the Lang Lang river, a few miles further on. 

Regarding the uses to which this country is now put, grazing appears to the principal feature at present. Butter is the staple product, which is gathered weekly by various hawkers who perambulate the district, and I have no doubt that when the line of railway now in course of construction has been completed much more will be done in that direction. The land when worked and cleared is certainly good for grazing, but for the water which seems to lay wherever it falls, and as it rained most of the time I was there, the place resembled a morass about as much as anything. But it has grand future before it, and those who can live there and escape rheumatism will, I am sure, reap an abundant harvest, and having a railway they will in some degree be independent of the roads which are simply abominable.

As bearing upon local efforts at Narre Warren to obtain a school near the railway station, I may mention that at Yannathan there are two State schools (one full time)
(11) not more than about two miles apart, while according to the admission of the people one school would have been sufficient, only they could not settle where to locate it so the Department gave them two and gave a post office to one.

(1) Mr Gibb - James Gibb (1843 - 1919) was a farmer, Shire of Berwick Councillor and politician. He owned Melville Park (later called Edrington). In 1905 it consisted of 830 acres. You can read his obituary in the Weekly Times, March 8 1919, here

Sale of Gibb's Melville Park Estate in 1905

(2) Taylor's Estate - I believe this is G. W. Taylor, listed in the Shire of Berwick Rate books in 1886/87 as owning 600 acres. His occupation was Auctioneer. He was a City of Prahran Councillor and Mayor, you can read about him in this article in the Weekly Times of July 23, 1887, here, where he was  described as a 'land speculator'. There are various newspaper reports on Trove about people taking legal action against him, he sounds a bit dodgy. 
(3) Mr Martin - whose place was the scene of  a sad fatality. I haven't worked out who this is or what the circumstances of the fatality were.
(4) Patterson's Estate - Referring to Alexander Patterson, of Clyde and Cranbourne. You can read about him on the Clyde History website
(5) Reverend Alexander Duff, I have written about him, here
(6) Mr Peers - F. W. Peers - purchased 426 acres in March 1875, which was part of the Great Swamp run, previously leased by John Mickle, John Bakewell and William Lyall.  (Niel Gunson, The Good Country: Cranboure Shire, p. 125.) His land was in the Dalmore area. When the Dalmore Railway Station opened in August 1889, it was known as Peer's Lane (read more on the Great Southern Line, here.) Frederick William Peers died in St Kilda in 1896, aged 53. 
(7) Kirk's Bazaar - a horse bazaar ( or sale yard) in Bourke Street, between Queen and Elizabeth Streets. It was established in 1840 by James Kirk. George Glasscock had a stall there and later owned it. He died at the age of 59 in 1891. George purchased part of John Mickle's Monomeith Estate in December 1886 (Niel Gunson, The Good Country: Cranboure Shire, p. 129.)  The reference to George owning Kirk's Bazaar came from the obituary of his son, Herbert, see here. George's short obituary was in The Age of November 14, 1891, see here.
(8) Duncan MacGregor (1835-1916) , read his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry here. In March 1875 MacGregor  also purchased part of the Great Swamp run, previously leased by John Mickle, John Bakewell and William Lyall. His land holding was  3,871 acres in present day Dalmore (which was named after MacGregor’s property). MacGregor was instrumental in establishing the Koo Wee Rup Drainage Committee which from 1876 constructed channels to take the water from the Cardinia Creek and the Toomuc Creek to Western Port Bay at Moodys Inlet.
(9) Glasscock's horse shipment on the Melomope - it is actually called the Melanope. There a many reports of Australian horses being shipped to India. Glasscock's shipment took place in 1885.

Report of George Glasscock's shipment of horses to India in 1885.
The Australasian, May 23, 1885,

(10) The McMillans -  Archibald McMillan (1789-1863) purchased land south of Koo Wee Rup in 1856, and called it Caldermeade (hence the name of the town). Alexander McMillan (1825 - 1897), who was the fifth son of Archibald purchased the Caldermeade property in May 1881, when the property was put up for sale after the death of Archibald's widow, Katherine. At the time the Caldermeade property consisted of over 3,000 acres; there was also another 1,300 acres at Lang Lang (Niel Gunson, The Good Country: Cranboure Shire). Godfry was another son of  Archibald McMillan. There is an interesting account of the family in the Horsham Times August 27, 1926, here.
(11) Yannathan State Schools - State School No. 2510 opened at Yannathan South in 1881. It amalgamated with No. 2422 in 1890. State School No. 2422 opened at Yannathan in 1882. State School No. 2492 opened at Yannathan Upper (also called Lang Lang North) in 1883 and State School No. 3225 opened as Protector's Flat in 1895, later became known as Heath Hill and then Yannathan South. I presume the article is referring to the first two mentioned schools. The reference to Narre Warren - the Narre Warren Railway Station opened in 1882 and the people who lived in the town which developed around the railway station had to wait until March 1889 until the Narre Warren Railway Station school, No. 2924,  was opened. No wonder the writer thought that two schools close together in Yannathan was noteworthy. School information comes from Vision and Realisation : a centenary history of State Education in Victoria, edited by L.J. Blake ( Education Department of Victoria, 1973).