On a rock platform in Ticehurst Park at Faulconbridge an Aboriginal rock engraving holds the memory of a long vanished inhabitant of the Blue Mountains. Three emus are portrayed, possibly in the course of being hunted. There are tracks depicting movement and one emu lies in a prone position.
Among the First Fleeters the emu (or 'cassowary' as it was called) was, said Watkin Tench, "the bird which principally claims attention". It was shy, fast and difficult to shoot and its flesh tasted like beef.
In 1790, in the wake of exploration by Tench and fellow Marine officer William Dawes, a survey party "saw three Cassowaries" in the vicinity of the Nepean ford and Emu Plains was christened.
Though emus in the coastal regions soon fell victim to the gun and dog, they were still surviving in the less accessible terrain of the Mountains when Gregory Blaxland camped near present-day Springwood in May 1813 and had his sleep interrupted by one "on the other side of the gully calling continually in the night".
From this time on, however, the record traces clearly the emu's retreat before the advance of settlement, with colonial observer and naval surgeon Peter Cunningham forecasting in 1827 their demise as a species, "possibly spoken of hereafter … as part and parcel of traditionary [sic] history".
Even on the Bathurst Plains where Evans had found large flocks and declared them "numerous" in 1813, their numbers soon declined; so significantly that Charles Darwin (1836) was constrained to lament that "the emu is banished to a long distance", a view reiterated three years later by Louisa Meredith who, while staying with her sister in Bathurst, wrote that "now these noble birds have become unknown, except in the almost untrodden districts of the interior".
Known to the Aboriginal people, the indigenous importance of this feature is attested to by the survival of a legend – "The Crushing of the Emu" – one of two emu legends collected in the 1940s by journalist and bushman Frank Walford from Gundungurra man Jimmy Shepherd (see Jim Smith, Legends of the Blue Mountains Valleys, Den Fenella Press, 2003).
Another reminder of what's been lost!