Fact or Fiction

Words by Thiamando Pavlidis
Art by Qianjia Lin

For a country that was once a big hot jail for people who stole bread, Australia sure has some crazy stories. Because of our questionable past, some of our history sounds made up. Sometimes it’s even impossible to distinguish between fact and fiction. See if you can figure out what’s true and what’s false!                                             

  1. Captain Cook’s final expedition to Hawaii ended in him being eaten by a cannibalistic tribe.
  2. In 1832, 300 female convicts mooned the governor of Tasmania. 
  3. European settlers in Australia drank more alcohol per capita than any other society in history.
  4. Ancient Egyptians sailed to Australia and carved hieroglyphs in a stone that can be found in Gosford, NSW.
  5. The goon sack is an Australian invention.
  6. Australia’s first police force was comprised of the most well-behaved convicts.
  7. Ngambrie, the original name for Canberra, was an indigenous word for “woman’s cleavage”.
  8. Wallabies have been known to break into opium crops, get high, and run around the poppy fields to create “crop circles”.
  9. Infamous Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, carried out the first and only nuclear weapons test on Australian soil in rural Western Australia in 1993.
  10. According to the Australian Museum website, Thylarctos plummetus (also known as the drop bear) is “a large, arboreal, predatory marsupial related to the koala”, and suggested remedies to drop bear attacks include rubbing vegemite behind your ears and tangling forks in your hair.
  11. In 1930s Western Australia, rural farmers found themselves being inundated with emus destroying their crops.  It became such a problem the Royal Australian Artillery soon got involved, armed with 10,000 rounds of ammunition. The humans lost and the battle with the birds and it became known as the Emu War.  
  12. To prove that the medical condition ‘Irukandji syndrome’ was, in fact, caused by the Irukandji jellyfish (shocker), toxinologist Jack Barnes found one, got stung and made a lifeguard and his nine-year-old son observe his symptoms before rushing him to hospital. 

 

TRUE: 

2. Those ladies sure did and what followed was a “rare moment of collusion with the convict women and the women in the Governor’s party who could not control their laughter.”

3. No surprises.

5. We sure did and we’re proud. 6. With little manpower available, there was no other choice. So 12 male convicts were selected. 

7. Indeed it was because the city is between two mountains.

9. Banjawarn was the name of the cattle station bought by the cult. Exactly what they got up to in that location remains a mystery to this day.

11. The battle was won by over 20,000 emus. Major G. P. W. Meredith, the commander of the RAA, was later quoted as saying “If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world.” So, if he could, he would have absolutely strapped machine guns to the emus, something I’d like everyone to stop and visualise for a moment.

12. Yes, that man was willing to risk it all in the name of science. Thanks to Jack, one of the official symptoms of Irukandji syndrome is “the feeling of impending doom”. Jack Barnes also discovered that toxins secreted by the box jellyfish wouldn’t penetrate synthetic surfaces. This is when he started wearing pantyhose in the water when doing his research, something life savers do today to prevent jellyfish stings.

FALSE:

1. The islanders were not cannibals, but they boiled his body to remove the bones, as they believed a man’s power was held in his bones.

4. No, those hieroglyphs were more likely have been carved less than a hundred years ago, not over two thousand.

8. …at least we think it’s false. There’s no evidence to prove this event took place;

10. Drop bears are an Australian urban legend made up specifically to scare tourists! Everything else here is true!

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