1875 Henry Smithurst – first documented sighting

For years I have tried to locate the original report put forth from Mr. Henry Smithurst who first reported a very large bird in Papua New Guinea while on the Baxter River.  The “Baxter River”  is no longer  a name for any river in present day Papua New Guinea.  Just yesterday, I located an article from 1876 which told the actual longitude and latitude of the river which Smithurst had claimed to be the “Baxter” river.  As in many other occasions the name given by one person is not necessarily the correct name known officially. The  longitude and latitude coordinates put the river and name of it to be the Fly River of present day Papua New Guinea. This  is directly south of the new area of research I would like to continue to pursue researching.

Now, the following article is the closest to the original that I have been able to locate to date.  I would love to locate Mr. Smithurst’s actual journal, but as he is not a well known person that is very doubtful.

The Daily News Nov. 24, 1875    (London, England)

From the account furnished by Mr. Henry Smithurst, who was the engineer of the steamer in which the stream was explored. …” We often heard the natives speak of a large bird which could fly away with a kangaroo or a large turtle, but I scarcely credited the statement until I saw two of the birds myself. One was seated on the trunk of a large tree, and rose as we approached. The noise caused by the flapping of its wing resembled the sound of the locomotive pulling a long train very slowly. When it had flown away we heard another coming, with just the sound of an approaching goods (freight) train. I had a good opportunity of observing it, and it appeared to be sixteen or eighteen feet across the wings as it flew; the body dark brown, the breast white, neck long, and beak long and straight. Our guns had no effect on it. I feel sure I struck it, but flew on as unconcernedly as ever.”

 

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Bio

Paul Nation is one of the few white men some of the indigenous people of Papua New Guinea have ever seen. When native children are brought to see him, they scream in terror until they get used to him and lose their fear. That fear is justified as traditionally in parts of Papua New Guinea, adults coerce children into obeying by telling them a white man will eat them if they disobey. White skin is so unusual and out of place that one elder even asked him, “Why are you so ugly?”

Paul lives near Ft. Worth, Texas, with his wife of 34 years and two grown sons. However, his exploring wanderlust has always kicked in and drawn him out into the world looking for adventure. His mother always accused him of leaving good jobs to take up an “exciting job way out in the middle of nowhere.”

His early years included many outdoor activities which well suited him. He has always loved working with animals, including birds, dogs, cows, and horses. Because his In-laws are ranchers, this gave him many opportunities to work with and take care of many different kinds of animals.At the age of 16, Paul and five other young men canoed the Boundary Waters Canoe area in Canada for two weeks. During summer breaks while in college, he worked for a boys’ camp in Hinkley, Minnesota, teaching horseback riding and leading horse trips of up to a week into the remote Minnesota woodlands. After marriage, Paul worked as a youth camp manager near Houston, Texas, where he organized canoeing, cycling, and camping trips as well as teaching rock climbing and rappelling.

In 1976, Paul received an Associate Degree in Science in Aviation Technology from LeTourneau College, in Longview, Texas. He has a private pilot’s license and became proficient in flying acrobatically. He served as a helicopter mechanic when working on offshore oil platforms.

When a friend in West Texas caught two ostriches while trapping exotic deer for a rancher, Paul bought the two birds, and operated his own ostrich farm. In 1994, his experience with ostriches resulted in his being invited to join the first expedition to Papua New Guinea in search of the mysterious flying creature that is reportedly seen there. The expedition leader recognized that his expertise in handling ostriches would be a great asset to the group in case a live specimen of the flying creature would be found and captured. This first trip into the jungle was a scientific expedition where Paul gained much experience in the many situations that arise on such an endeavor.

After that first trip, he began organizing and leading subsequent expeditions to the jungles of Papua New Guinea. On these trips, Paul looks for empirical evidences, those that are gained by observation and experience in his search for the elusive flying creature. Once these evidences are fully documented by Paul, he will then encourage scientists with expertise in several fields to continue study of the creatures based on the foundation he has laid. Because the creature is reported by eyewitnesses to look like a huge pterosaur and exhibit bioluminescence, the discovery and documentation of the creature would generate worldwide scientific interest.

At first, Paul’s interest was sprinkled with a healthy dose of skepticism about the actual existence of this unusual flying creature. However, after only one month of exploration in the jungles of Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, Paul became fully convinced that there actually is some kind of strange creature that the natives were actually seeing. What natives call the creatures varies among the several tribes, but the more common names are Indava Bird, Ropen, and Demon Flyer. From that time, finding and documenting this creature became a passion with Paul and he will not be satisfied until he answers the questions in his mind about the existence of this unusual creature. One of Paul’s discoveries so far is that in this lost and strange world of Papua New Guinea, almost anything is possible.

In 2009, History Channel’s MonsterQuest approached Paul to see if he would lead an expedition to Papua New Guinea to do an episode on the MonsterQuest series. Due to obligations in Iraq, Paul was unable to lead that expedition, but MonsterQuest sent a camera crew to do a two-day film shoot with Paul while he was on leave in Texas. That program aired in June 2009 as Episode 9 in Season Three.

Paul continues to teach himself skills that will be useful in the pursuit of the Indava Bird. Do the jungles of New Guinea intimidate him? Although he has contracted malaria, jungle rot and a staphylococcus infection while there, he declares that once you get used to the jungle environment, a big city feels less secure than the jungle, and the jungle becomes almost boring. Yet he does not underestimate the many dangers that explorers encounter in that environment. Much planning is required in preparation for an expedition. Caution is always the rule because if someone gets hurt, medical help is no closer than two weeks away.

Paul worked in Iraq in 2007 resupplying combat outposts on the east side of Baghdad. He drove tractor trailers on “Combat Logistic Patrols” with the Army. Every day, he drove outside the wire and completed over 300 missions. These convoys were often shot at, and some vehicles were blown up by IED’s He has had stones thrown at him and survived numerous mortar and rocket attacks. It was unusual for a civilian to go outside the wire, but to Paul, it was an adventure, especially driving through the cities and local villages. He enjoyed working with the military and drove convoys for over two and a half years.

Today, Paul is still satisfying his desire to travel and see the world by working on Camp Leatherneck Afghanistan, supporting the United States Marine Corps. His duties often require him to travel to other small and isolated bases in Afghanistan.

Paul is available for radio and television interviews and conference presentations. For information on scheduling Paul for an interview or speaking, he can be reached at… Indavabird@yahoo.com or calling 817 573-4216 (CST).