Wednesday, September 6, 2006


efore and after the Drop Bear emerges!!


"... The Cedar Creek cellar door is in a plantation of poplar trees, which seems an excellent place for a large sculpture of one or more drop-bears. Admittedly the branches are not good for lying along, but drop-bears are surely adaptable, and not too picky to use introduced trees.

I wanted the sculpture to be very large, and hairy. The hair should be live lichens that grow on the bark of trees in the area. I’ve got some growing on foam plastic at our place on Mogo Creek, but it grows very slowly. Perhaps I’ll implant some on the drop-bear’s face.

There are many accounts of drop-bears on the internet, many of them embroidered for tourists. All seem to be derived from a story of two men camped in the bush. One slept beneath a tree, the other not far away. A terrifying scream rang out, and he ran down to see his mate lying on the ground shaking, with claw marks all over him. After stopping the bleeding and calming his mate down, the horrible truth was revealed. "It was a drop bear" his mate said, "I fought as hard as I could but it was just too strong and far too fast."

Goannas and Possums frequent trees and are accordingly equipped with many strong claws and an instinct to run up things (including trees and people) when frightened. Bones and specially a skull have been found of an animal now believed to be extinct. Scientists who have studied them assert that the animal was a carnivorous marsupial that lived in trees. They call it Thylacaleo. Unlike eutherian mammals, it has no ripping canine teeth, but very large cutting carnassial cheek-teeth. That is one reason to think it scavenged rather than hunted. Something very like thylacaleo gets a mention in one of Arthur Upfield’s Napoleon Bonaparte books. When mammals smile, they are showing their teeth (specially canines) as a warning. If thylacaleo showed its carnassials, its smile must have looked a little sheepish. Not that sheep smile with their molars, as though threatening their grass.

I started thinking on paper about my drop-bear. The first version on a restaurant table-paper in profile and goanna, but with a macropod long hind leg.