Tim the Yowie Man
Tim the Yowie Man
Naturalist, author, broadcaster and tour guide, Tim the Yowie Man has dedicated the past 25 years to documenting Australia’s unusual natural phenomena. He is the author of several books, including Haunted and Mysterious Australia (New Holland, 2018). Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @TimYowie
November 18, 2022
Image credit: Courtesy of Civil Aviation Historical Society
Regular readers know that this column is part of a heartbreaking monster thread. So when I first heard rumors about the Monegeetta monster, to say I was chomping at the bit to find out more would be an understatement.
Was it an incarnation of the dreaded bunyip? An inhabitant of the interior of the depths? Or was it a yowie emerging from the foothills of the nearby Macedon Ranges?
Turns out it was none of that, but it was just as exciting.
The Monegeetta Monster was actually an experimental firefighter (firefighting equipment) developed in the late 1940s by engineers at the Trials Proving Establishment in Monegeetta, about 50km north of Melbourne.
Talk about the unexpected.
According to Phil Vabre, vice-president of the Civil Aviation Historical Society which runs the Airways Museum at what is now Essendon Fields Airport, the vehicle “was unlike any other firefighter before or since…more like a cross between a armored car and a 1940s sci-fi spaceship.
Phil admits he became fascinated with the futuristic fire department when he discovered it 25 years ago.
Crafted from aluminum, the Monegeetta Monster’s advanced design allowed it to approach a burning aircraft while protecting the operators inside.
“The driver sat on the right and the protective steel shutters could be lowered over the windows, leaving only a narrow slit for vision,” Phil reports.
“A second operator sat on a raised motorcycle saddle and, when the flaps were down, looked through an armored cupola on the left front roof of the vehicle.”
It sounds like the kind of mid-20th century innovation that would have left MI6’s Q drooling.
The curious contraption was also fitted with asbestos curtains that swung on booms and rolled out in front of the vehicle.
“With the foam sprayed on the ground in front of the vehicle, the idea was that these would provide a protected area for survivors to exit,” says Phil.
Its most striking feature was arguably an extendable circular saw that jutted out of the aluminum body like a Dalek claw, cutting a hole in the side of the plane for survivors to escape.
But the Monegeetta Monster was never used operationally. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has instead nodded to more conventional firefighting devices.
“Built on a commercial truck chassis, the monster lacked the mobility a firefighter required because it bogged down easily on soft ground,” Phil says, adding, “and you wouldn’t want to be at the interior of a plane on fire when this saw breaking through the wall.” Ouch!
By the late 1950s, the monster had disappeared from the limelight. It was sent to storage at Essendon Fields Airport, where, according to Phil, “apprentice engineers used parts of its aluminum body to make chassis radio equipment”.
It was an unworthy end for any monster, real or imagined.