‘Not the least of the wonders discovered is a mysterious animal of gigantic size and fearsome aspect, whose tracks have recently been reported in New Guinea. This animal at present goes by the name of Monckton’s “Gazeka,” its presence in the mountains having been first indicated by Mr. C. Monckton, a former explorer in New Guinea. According to a native report of the appearance of the animal, it has a nose like a tapir’s and “a face like the devil…”‘
The year is 1870. A group of intrepid explorers are venturing into the unknown, the remote, wild and unexplored northeast coast of Papua New Guinea. They were expecting to find strange and new animals to record and, probably, kill to bring home to the gawping eyes of the common masses. ‘Come one, come all, to see the magical beasts from a tropical island on the other side of the world!’ However, they were not expecting to find evidence of a large and unknown quadruped mammal, what they suspected was a rhinoceros. But there are no native rhinoceros there. As was reported in 1875, such an animal should not even have existed on the island.
“I agree with you that the presence of rhinoceros in New Guinea must be seriously questioned, but I would like to mention a description of [a] very large quadruped in New Guinea,” reported naturalist and zoologist Adolf Bernhard. “While I was hunting wild pigs with the Papuans, they told me, before I asked, a very large pig, as they called it, fixing its height on a tree trunk over six feet,” he continued. “I could not obtain other information from them, except that the beast was very rare, but they were very accurate in their assertion. I promised lots of beads and knives to the man who would bring me something [of] this big animal, but none did.”
It was these natives who dubbed the mysterious beast the ‘Gazeka’ or the ‘pig devil.’ It’s often described as having a long, proboscis-like snout, an animal believed by many to resemble a tapir or a giant sloth. Such was the power of the magic of this beast that, in the spring of 1906, one Charles Monckton, a British explorer, set out to hunt for the beast to capture it…
He headed out to Papua New Guinea with a group of natives by his side. They ventured deep into the mountains. One day, Monckton sent two of his team ahead to investigate a track discovered the previous day. Ogi, an army private, and village constable Oina, somehow became separated. Whilst looking for Oina, Ogi came across two extraordinary creatures grazing nearby.
Ogi described the animals as being between three and five feet tall, with a very dark, patterned hide, cloven feet, a long snout and a hairy tail. Ogi was overcome with fright upon sight of the weird creatures, so frightened he shot at one but missed. He described them as ‘devil-pigs’, convinced they were demons in disguise. What happened next is unclear, but when Ogi was found by Oina, he was taken back to camp, stricken with a severe case of shock, unable to recollect anything further.
However, a British newspaper at the time reported this encounter with great embellishment. In their version of events, Monckton and his group discovered the monster attacking a small settlement of pygmies. During the mêlée of blood and screaming, Monckton fired a shot from his rifle. ‘The huge Gazeka at once turned upon him. As it reared upon its hind legs and pawed the air, it looked to the hunter as big as a house, standing fully 25 feet high. Two of Monckton’s bullets seemed to take effect, as a stream of blood flowed freely from the animal’s shoulder, but before Monckton was able to reload, the animal turned and fled. By that time, it was too dark to follow him, and Monckton never had another opportunity to renew his pursuit.’
Between 1909 and 1910, another British expedition, under the leadership of William Goodfellow, headed to the south of the island. The hardy group consisted of many of the leading scientists of the day. In 1910, the Steven’s Point Wisconsin Gazette reported that the expedition had made ‘one of the most remarkable scientific discoveries ever made.’ A ‘prehistoric monster,’ larger than an elephant, had been discovered by ‘scientists.’ Interestingly, they described a ‘marvellous race of pygmies seen for the first time by modern science.’ Further embellishment, or was there truth to their words?
In 1911, this group went back for more, this time under the leadership of Dr. Hendrik Lorentz. He had tried in 1907 to find the Gazeka but his search was fruitless. His second attempt, in 1911, this time with Goodfellow’s team by his side, didn’t go much better for him. Not only did three of his porters freeze to death, Lorentz fell off a cliff and broke a rib. Some people have no luck.
Since this heyday, little has been heard of the Gazeka since. So, the question remains as pertinent as ever. Just what is it that people claim to have seen?
Mammals, such as the rhinoceros and tapirs, just don’t exist in Papua New Guinea. Goodfellow’s story seems too fantastical to believe, especially considering that the island is not known for its pygmies, and there is confusion over the account of Monckton. Although his account appears more realistic than that reported in the newspaper, the great size stated in the latter has led some, such as William Matthew, to suggest in 1910 that the beast could be a Diprotodon, the largest known marsupial ever to have lived, growing up to 10 feet from nose to tail, or perhaps a descendent.
Then again, maybe all this is little more than a story, from long, long ago, when humans and Diprotodons walked side by side on the island of Papua New Guinea. A story of fear that became a story of legend. With conflicting accounts and descriptions, it’s hard to ascertain just what people have and have not seen, and, therefore, what it could be. There’s no denying that large areas of the island are shrouded in mystery, with its jungles home to extremely rare and newly discovered creatures. Perhaps it is nothing more than a story of legend. Or perhaps there is no more perfect an environment for the Diprotodon to have survived…
So I’ll give this cryptid a 124 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it 23rd in the list of 54, with Gef the Talking Mongoose still bottom and Beast of Gévauden still holding top spot.
The Gazeka. A fascinating cryptid indeed.
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