The Devil’s Pool is a natural pool at the foot of three streams that run through the Babinda Boulders in Queensland. It’s a beautiful destination for a hike, and swimming pools in the area are clear and inviting.
However, venturing into the Devil’s Pool itself is a recipe for disaster - 17 people have drowned in the deceptively lush waters since 1959, and even more fatalities have been unearthed in earlier newspaper clippings.
“He came for a visit and stayed forever” is written on an eerie plaque commemorating the death of a bather who was lost to the waters of the Devil’s Pool. Another man named Peter McGann was 24 in 1979 when he slipped jumping a gap between two rocks and simply disappeared. It took experienced divers five weeks and five days to finally locate and free his body from the depths of the pool.
Another tragedy occurred when a young couple were swept up by a flash flood that had come barrelling down the river without warning. The woman managed to survive, but the man was swept away by the flood. The most recent death occurred in 2008, when a young Tasmanian naval seaman was swept into the pool and drowned. A report from the Townsville Bulletin even claimed that “his friends saw him get pulled backwards [into the pool], as if by an invisible hand”.
The history of the Devil’s Pool goes back long before all of the documented drownings, however. A Cairns tourism website gives the legends supposedly told by the local Yidinji people:
According to legend a beautiful girl named Oolana, from the Yidinji people, married a respected elder from her tribe named Waroonoo. Shortly after their union another tribe moved into the area and a handsome young man came into her life. His name was Dyga and the pair soon fell in love. Realising the adulterous crime they were committing, the young lovers escaped their tribes and fled into the valleys.
The elders captured them, but Oolana broke free from her captors and threw herself into the still waters of what is now known as Babinda Boulders, calling for Dyga to follow her. As Dyga hit the waters, her anguished cries for her lost lover turned the still waters into a rushing torrent and the land shook with sorrow. Huge boulders were scattered around the creek and the crying Oolana disappeared among them. Aboriginal legend says her spirit still guards the boulders and that her calls for her lost lover can still be heard.
Some expansions on the tale even say that the spirit of Oolana actively lures men to their deaths at the Devil’s Pool.
Of course, a number of the natural features of the waterways around the Babinda Boulders lead to dangerous conditions for swimming. The water runs fast and can often pin people underwater, trapping them in jumbles of rocks and logs. The white water is also highly oxygenated, making it difficult if not entirely impossible for even the best swimmers to stay afloat.
However, the fact that 16 of the 17 people who have died at the spot were male lends an eerie bit of credibility to the tale. The only woman included among the total allegedly drowned further upstream from the fateful pool.
A no-go zone was eventually declared around the dangerous pool after the most recent death in 2008, and since then the pool has claimed no more lives. Other mysterious events have been reported, however, such as the tourist who claimed to have snapped a picture that captured the face of an Aboriginal woman peering up from the waters.
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