Forget the Big Banana and the Giant Koala. When it comes to oversized-for-no-good-reason Australian things, they’ve got nothing on the Marree Man. Etched into the ground near South Australia’s Lake Eyre and best seen from the air – he was first spotted by a pilot in 1998 – the big fella is 4.2 km tall and is thought to be the world’s largest single geoglyph.
How he got there is anyone’s guess; theories include involvement by aliens, a local artist or the U.S. military.
The discovery in a nearby pit of a U.S. flag stuffed into a jar, a satellite photo of the geoglyph and a weird note about the Branch Davidians reinforce the idea that Americans had something to do with it. Over time, floods, shifting sands and plant regrowth played havoc with him; a few years ago, only the point of his throwing stick was still visible. In 2016, two local pub owners, missing the tourist business he brought, took it upon themselves to bring the Marree Man back to life. Almost certainly not qualified in restoration, the duo used a grader to retrace his outline, which took a week of 12-hour days. The SA environment department was not impressed, and launched an investigation into illegal land clearing.
Local entrepreneur Dick Smith recently launched his own investigation too, offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who can identify the Marree Man's creators. Supposedly he's a fan, and is happy to keep the secret to himself if that's what the creators want. For now, the mystery continues.
A version of this story features in Smith Journal volume 27, on sale now.
Photo: Phil Turner