Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

October 28th 2008
Houdini croc visits Picnic Bay

The croc at Picnic Bay with Sunferries cat in the background At 7.30am this morning, the 3.5 metre estuarine crocodile, which has been visiting Magnetic Island beaches for over three weeks was spotted just off the beach at Picnic Bay. Magnetic Times was called and we were able to take the best photos yet of the croc we call Wighty Houdini.

The call came from Ms Carol Pemberton of Picnic Bay who reported that our W. Houdini was now just seven or eight metres off the beach at the bottom of Granite Street.

Mr Don Simpson of Picnic Bay took this shot of W. Houdini as it
swam down the beach from about 7 metres out.

With such excellent support from the community the EPA was quickly advised and by the time this reporter arrived a small party, including EPA Rangers, MI Police and locals, were gathered at the end of the famous heritage jetty watching the water intently for surfacing of W. Houdini.

It wasn't hard. Within a minute of arriving our croc rose to the surface perhaps 20 metres away towards Hawkings Point. Displaying the nonchalant bravado of a member of his particularly fearsome lineage W. Houdini was defying all attempts by the notoriously territorial seagulls of Picnic Bay who circled over him crying the gull equivalent of, "Bugger off!"

Don't mess with the Picnic gulls

The Island's EPA Rangers were as busy as they could be monitoring W. Houdini's every movement with their radio tracker which makes an intermittent sound perhaps not unlike a croc clearing its throat.

Magnetic's EPA Officers (right) Michael Johnson and Patrick Centurino keep watch with MI Police Constable Tony Parsons in attendance.

Island Officer in Charge, Patrick Centurino, said that the EPA would continue to track the restless reptile throughout the day and hoped that their croc catching crew would be able to follow up this afternoon and, if conditions were suitable, harpoon their quarry and complete the mission.

Is W. Houdini considering a Townsville visit?

Harpooning in this instance is unlike anything the Japanese whale scientists might employ in the southern oceans in their ongoing research to find out what each whale tastes like. Instead, the harpoon in designed to hook in just beneath the croc's tough hide. As the EPA's Wildlife Manager, Mike Devery told Magnetic Times, "The harpoon is not conventional. It has a short barb. When hit behind the neck the barb sticks. A rope is attached and the idea is to let the animal be played like a fish. They have big bursts of energy but then burn out." The croc crew then try to stay with it until it eventually tires. "Then you can work it gently up to the boat, get the sharp end taped up, then into the boat."

Weather conditions are apparently critical in the whole operation with any amount of chop on the water making the process a little harder.

Croc watchers

After a very entertaining round-the-jetty swim-by this morning the cruising croc headed back towards Cockle Bay and out of sight.

While opinion varies hugely about the impact of the croc on the Island as a holiday destination, with some ignoring Wall Street and calling this a "Croc Crash", locals are clearly discussing a future that needs to factor in croc visits. This morning's watch at the jetty was, for those who attended, a very absorbing and not-to-be-missed experience.

With luck and favourable weather the EPA may get lucky this afternoon but given the wiley ways of W. Houdini, we suggest that no breaths be held - particularly under water.

Story & photos: George Hirst (& Don Simpson)

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Houdini croc visits Picnic Bay
October 28th 2008
my goodness, there's even paparrazzi on Magnetic Island! Can't a celebrity of my caliber just go for a morning dip without people taking more photos of my hardware?
October 28th 2008
I love the ad's underneath this story. In particular the one of the couple walking into the water with the title "Island Alternative Health". I would have thought they'd be running out of the water. It looks as though the woman is pointing to something...could it be W. Houdini?
George Hirst Ed.
October 28th 2008

Magnetic Times has just been requested to provide the mobile number for Mr Mike Devery, the EPA's Wildlife Manager in charge of the work to catch W. Houdini our elusive croc. Anybody who has made a sighting is asked to call Mike's number at any time to register the croc's latest movements. Mike Devery's number is 0429344238.
George Hirst Ed.

October 28th 2008
In response to Juanita's observation of the add below the story. I would have thought the "Eating out on Magnetic Island" may also apply to the couple above it. Cheers to all. David J
Rear Commodore Houdini
October 28th 2008
Look "Whitey", you are clearly a fake. Whitey would never brag about his caliber (sic). It's just not on.
Also, if you think a couple walking into the water at sunset is "alternative", take a look at the Magnetic Island Artist's Directory. That'll really get you going.
Lorraine & Derek
October 29th 2008
Well, what a crock (or croc!) of fibs we seem to have told during our recent 2 months overseas. After reassuring all potential visitors that we're NOT overrun with creepy crawlies and larger predators we've returned to news reports of bird eating spiders and our very own croc. Won't be getting the spare room ready any time soon as most people we spoke to freaked out at the thought of geckos! Our bathroom on our return was not really user friendly either to those from foreign climes, as our usual three resident frogs apparently invited their mega-gang of Picnic Bay rellies to join them while we were away. Love it!!
Patricia Oates (Pedersen)
October 29th 2008
When I lived in Maningrida (N.T.) in the early 80s I went out a coupla' times with a research group run by Graham Webb called "Crocodylus."

The aim was to capture saltwater crocs in the Liverpool River, do required measurements and study, then release them back exactly where they were captured (a large piece of coloured plastic tape was tied on a nearby mangrove limb to mark their local habitat).

We used the short-barbed spear that remained in the croc's heavy back scales whilst the wood shaft was lifted out, once placed. A thin rope stayed attached to the barb.

The croc would usually sink down (this all was done in the pitch dark with millions of mosquitoes to keep one alert), and the boat did it's best to stay directly above the croc. Eventually, it would surface for air, and the capture would begin.

Sometimes, it became every-man-on-board attempting to get a large croc into a 17 foot aluminium boat without turning it over. We usually arrived back at Maningrida as the sun rose with two or three crocs. We'd released earlier captures the evening before.

It was a combined effort of the Crocodylus researchers, local clan members, and whomever they could ring in, including yours truly. I'll never forget those three years in Maningrida.

When I lived in T'ville in the early 60s raising a son (my husband, Niels Pedersen, worked for Hayles Magnetic Island Cruises) we often went to Magnetic Island to swim and catch fish. Never had the privilege of meeting a croc in those days, but surely met up with a coupla' grey nurse sharks whilst diving!

Those were the days! Even remember when the first traffic light was installed.
Mal Hamilton
October 29th 2008
Well, we are in crocodile territory after all. These opportunistic predators stopped evolving about 60 million years ago and at the top of the food chain in Australia, they are the world's largest crocodile. They range from northern Australia, out into the Pacific islands, up through south-east Asia as for as the east coast of India, hence the name "Indo Pacific Crocodile".(their other names are "Australian Saltwater Crocodile" and "Estuarine Crocodile"). This is truly an awesome animal, and despite their ancient lineage and primitve appearance they are a very sophisticated predator.They do not specifically hunt humans, in fact they prefer food that is fresh and bite-size, like fish, mud crab, turtles, birds and the odd fruit bat. They don't need to eat very often as they get 80% of their energy from the sun.
Human fatalaties from crocodile attack in Australia average 1 person every 4-5 years (compared with 23 per annum from horse riding)but it's all about learning how not to be food when predators are about.
If these crocodile events increase it may be worthwhile looking at a predator-safe swimming enclosure like Professor Rick Brailey's swim-through aquarium, which the dive schools could also use.
Just a thought.
ms no name
October 29th 2008
You d***heads. It wasn't relocated to a populated area, it just happened to move into one. All you southerners and bogans who have no respect, or knowledge of these animals in North Queensland, how about YOU p*** off!! This is north queensland. Are you getting rid of jelly fish? no. How about all these knob heads that cause car accidents? oh, wait. no. not them either. coconut trees? nope.
How about you start being croc aware. Look at the amount of development in North Queensland. Irrespective of whether this croc was relocated south of Townsville, there are others in the area that will come in because they are PUSHED OUT by development. You want buildings along the coast, you gotta destroy more habitats. Then where does the animal go?
People want research into certain things, but then kick up a fuss when it takes place.
How many people out there have caught a croc. Do you have any idea how hard it is, especially in this weather? How about you have a go, and then get back to me about just how supposodly easy it is.
Bateman, and the Bully for that matter, how about some decent journalism for once.
Lorraine Phillippo
October 30th 2008
Dear Ms No Name: What a load of vitriol. Southerners? Bogans? If you have so much knowledge then forget the abuse and swearing, present a reasoned argument, and have the guts to put your name. Maybe then people can get back to you as you request.
ms no name
October 30th 2008
I swear because I'm so furious and the stupidity of uproar over a crocodile, and croc research. Use a swimming pool if you want to go swimming. It's unbelievable the craze over this.
And I don't use my name for good reason, this town is to small as it is.
Reasoned arguments have been put forward, but all you bogans and southerners still keep whinging 'oh crocodile, oh my gosh, help help". Townsville wants to be, and is so far proud to be a centre of research for a number of scientific organisations. However we are now fining it hardder to conduct such research because people complain about it. How are we suppose to get data if people kick up a stink. At least with projects like this, a warning is put out that such an animal is in an area, and the risks posed if it is in area and what not to do. With medical research, there are no warning on what can happen - is there uproar about stopping those projects?
October 31st 2008
I have never seen so many house for rent at this point-in-time, ever. Exodus??? Or may it be other reasons for people fleeing the island...

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