Our quirky stories of 2015
Sun, surf - and a seal
BALLINA hosted an out-of-town visitor in September when Leo the juvenile Antarctic sea leopard made several public appearances in Ballina, sun-baking on popular Shelly Beach.
The southern tourist attracted a range of odd looks from local people and visitors alike, and posed for photos while officers from the Ballina Shire Council, NSW Parks and Wildlife and local police roped off a safe area for the special guest.
Despite his wide smile and cuddly appearance, we learned from Southern Cross University's marine ecology research centre director Professor Peter Harrison that sea leopards are dangerous predators known to attack people.
IN NOVEMBER we discovered leaving your car unlocked is an offence, when Byron Bay resident Aria received a $106 fine for not locking his car parked near his home.
The fine came just 20 minutes after Aria was fined for not having his licence on him when he was pulled over for a random breath test on Bangalow Rd.
Aria said he had only left his car unlocked for 20 minutes while he walked the short distance back home to get his licence.
The offence is apparently recognised in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, to safeguard against insurance fraud.
IMAGINE waking up after a big night out on the town, and finding yourself trapped in the back of a garbage truck with the compactor closing in on you.
That was the nightmare scenario faced by a 29-year-old Mullumbimby man in Byron Bay in August.
Jacob had been catching up with friends in the party town until about 3am. Unable to get back to Rosebank, 30km away, he "stupidly" thought it was a good idea to wrap himself in cardboard in a commercial recycling bin to keep warm.
The aspiring chef said he slept well until he landed in the back of a Richmond Waste garbage.
The compactor began and Jacob described there only being "a foot of space between the wall and the compactor".
Fortunately, the driver heard his banging and stopped the truck.
Buried treasure real deal
CURRENCY thought to be counterfeit turned out to be an elderly man's buried treasure after $8700 in $100 notes he passed at an Evans Head club were found to be genuine.
The 72-year-old had been the subject of a police investigation after Ballina detectives were called to the Illawong Hotel in October when a Summerland Credit Union teller identified $1700 in suspected counterfeit notes.
The man was charged with using counterfeit currency and the case was investigated further by the Australian Federal Police and the Reserve Bank's counterfeit detection department.
The notes were originally suspected to be counterfeit because the ink on them ran, however it was later found this was caused by a chemical reaction resulting from the notes being buried.
NO ONE knows quite how a dusky whaler shark ended up stranded on the beach at Lennox Head in February, but many believed the wind and rough waters caused by Tropical Cyclone Marcia were to blame.
Andy and Victor Leto found the 4m shark and posted the photo on Facebook, which took off on social media as "the real Sharknado".
Their post played on the 2013 sci-fi horror film Sharknado where a monstrous storm devastates Los Angeles leaving the streets flooded with sharks.
The Lennox Head story went international with headlines like "Sharknado actually happened".
Dwayne in a drain
A PYTHON, dubbed Dwayne, was lucky to be found and rescued after getting stuck in a piece of drain pipe in Clunes in October.
Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers posted the rescue story on their Facebook page, as told by dedicated wildlife carer Rown.
"This python had ventured into a rainwater downpipe and performed a U-turn, which wedged it firmly in the pipe between the gutter and the vertical downpipe on the side of the house," he said.
"The house was having new water tanks and pipes fitted and the plumber doing the work was removing the old pipes."
The plumber cut through one of the pipes, narrowly missing the snake.
Vicious pet pig is bacon
IN JUNE, Stuart McConville's pet pig Ginger tried to kill him.
The two-year-old boar, hand-raised by the Barkers Vale hobby farmer, usually greeted his master with an affectionate nuzzle but instead decided to gore him.
Mr McConville, who spent a week "high on the hog" on morphine and intravenous antibiotics in Lismore Base Hospital, later declared irreconcilable differences with Ginger.
"I think I'll make him into sausages," he said.
At the risk of sounding "boaring", Mr McConville emphasised his near-death experience and impending execution of his boar-friend read as a cautionary tale.
"Hobby farmers need to remove their boars' tusks," he said.
Bugs on a bridge
IN February, Casino photographer Dee Hartin astounded an entomology expert with an image of a bridge on Reynolds Rd swarming with insects trying to escape rising waters and being eaten by one another.
Ms Hartin said all manner of spiders, geckos, grasshoppers, earwigs, cockroaches, beetles and crickets were crawling up through the cracks of the road under the bridge and on to her feet.
University of Queensland entomology expert Professor Myron Zalucki said he had never seen anything like it.
Casino ghost busted
IN AUGUST a Casino builder told The Northern Star the ghost haunting the town's historic court house might be that of his great, great grandfather - former Magistrate Henry Garrard.
Staff and renovation workers spoke of a paranormal presence, dubbed John, being responsible for "strange happenings" at the Walker St building constructed in 1882.
Mike Cleaver, who had worked at the building for more than a decade, said lights would turn on or off by themselves, doors lock mysteriously and worker's tools vanish.
He said the paranormal activity seemed to escalate during renovation work.