A century ago, Tom Cole – often called ‘the original Crocodile Dundee’ –
came to Australia. He spent 52 wild years in northern Australia and PNG.

Story Paul Myers  Photo NT Library

Mustering on Ord River station in 1930, 24-year-old Tom Cole was in a team of ringers gently pushing 2000 bullocks alongside a steep bank towards a narrow river crossing. Suddenly, “with a sound like distant rolling thunder”, the mob took off in a tremendous cloud of dust, galloping over a 10m cliff. Surprisingly, all but 11 survived. It was a scene none of the ringers or those to whom Tom later related the tale had known to occur in good daylight conditions.

This was just one of many extraordinary incidents in Tom Cole’s adventure-packed life that took him through northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, living rough and dangerously, chancing his arm with buffalo shooting and crocodile hunting, growing coffee and spying during WWII. In retirement he recorded his exploits in 5 books, the second of which, Hell West and Crooked, became a bestseller. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #151

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2023