"The bell-bird seemed to be calling them back".

The call of the Crested Bellbird as recorded by Basedow on the 1903 Government North West Prospecting expedition; "SATURDAY, JUNE. 27TH. We are up with the melodious call of the bell bird, (Oreoica cristata). The rhythm of the principal call, regardless of its several variations in fullness and quality might be represented numerically by 1; 2. - 1,2,3. And just this characteristic has appealed to the Aluridjas who call the bird "ban-ban-balele".

There are several Aboriginal names for the bird, mostly based on the rhythm of the call such as, 'Burn-burn-boolala', 'Pan-pan-boolala', 'Pan-pan-panella', etc, the Pitjantjara name the bird 'Panpanpalala' and Bunbunbililila. The Bellbird intruded on Coote's solitude during his enforced stay at Ayers Rock, "…now there came that familiar ' klonk-ker-lonk-ker-lonkylonk' - the bellbird was commencing his mournful Angelus. Soon it would be dusk and their calls more frequent".

Basedow is apparently the only writer who mentions the name Ban-ban-balele until Idriess titles chapter 25 in Lasseter's Last Ride, "Ban-ban-balele". This chapter recounts Lasseter and a small band of Aboriginals setting out across the desert to search for yams. "As they stepped out on the desert proper, behind them a bell sounded, sweet, pure, and lingering. The liquid notes rang out again. "Ban ban belele!" The bell bird seemed to be calling them back. Instant gloom settled on the tribe".

Basedow's unique record of the aboriginal name for the bird and Idriess choosing this as the title for chapter 25 give some indication of the degree of Idriess's research, he was noted for 'ferreting out the facts' and becoming familiar with his subject before putting pen to paper, although not necessarily using these facts in their right context, it would seem that Idriess was familiar with Basedow's record of the 1903 Government expedition …. Basedow wrote the forward to Lasseter's last ride.

The Crested bellbird, (Oreoica gutteralis) is ubiquitous through the arid and semi arid parts of Australia, favouring mallee, mulga and eucalypt woodlands, the MacDonnell and adjacent ranges provide an ideal habitat. It is a noted ventriloquist and calls frequently throughout the day, one bird can give the impression that there are many birds in the vicinity. The bird has the unusual habit of lining the rim of it's nest with partially immobilised caterpillars, apparently by squeezing them around the middle with it's beak, there is some conjecture as to whether this is done for decoration or as a food supply for the young birds, usually three in number.


R.Ross. 1999-2006

Basedow Herbert Journal of the Government North West Expedition 153. Coote E.H. Hell's Airport 207. Cayley Neville What Bird is That. Groom Arthur I Saw a Strange Land Idriess Ion L Lasseter's Last Ride Chapter 25.