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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