June 24, 2006


Harriet on her 173 rd birthday

Harriet the tortoise, one of the world's oldest living creatures, has died in Australia during her 176th year.

Harriet spent her first one hundred years being mistaken for Harry, before her gender was sorted out (and you think your parents messed with your mind: huh!)


  1. I find it conceptually amazing that it was probably born in the same year as Emily Dickinson and died with George W as American president. Poor old Darwin would be rolling around his grave if he knew that his theories were still competing with 'intelligent design'.

  2. It is amazing, isn't it. But I'm always amazed when I read of some wonderful 100 plus man or woman (mostly women) remembering when they were little, before trams, or phones, or running water, so impossible for us to imagine, yet not very long ago - astonishing really.

    If only Harriet had been able to leave behind an oral history of all that she had witnessed in her 176 years.

    As for poor old Darwin: I find it galling that most people still don't even understand what he wrote, they have no idea what his theories consist of. (Journalists, collectively, seem to have missed those lessons at high school too, since they insist on perpetuating the most clap trap about evolution.)

  3. Anonymous2:20 PM

    I remember Harriet well.

    She was an institution at Fleahy's Fauna Reserve on the southern Gold Coast for years.

    Quite literally every kid who grew up on the Gold Coast knew her. All the local schools organised field trips to the the reserve at least once a year. She used to sit in this big paddock shared by kangaroos and wallabies and always had a crowd of people around her. At one time she used to give kids rides on her back but they stopped that. She seemed always to be looking at the people with as much curiousity as they looked at her. Not the slightest bit afraid.

    David Fleahy and his reserve were an institution in themselves. A true naturalist, he was an acknowledged world authority on Australian fauna. He always dressed in brown and wore a trademark hat. A real gentleman and quietly spoken, he was enormously and widely respected. A real contrast to certain, perhaps better known, successors in the field I could name.

    Fleahy was the first to successfully breed platypuses in captivity.

  4. Anonymous4:07 PM

    176 years. Wow, Harriet must have seen it all.

  5. I remember seeing her a few times at Crikey Mate's place (Australia Zoo - say what you like about him but I think he's a top bloke even though I've never met him).

    Harriet apparently had a 'thing' for going for walks and just going over the fence or rocks or whatever was in the way. Last time I saw her, I heard that she felt like a swim in the small enclosure next to hers that had these little tortoises in it with a shell about the size of your hand.

    I wonder if the smaller ones were going: "Do you really think that I'll get that big someday?" or were saying: "Hey, Kirstie Alley! Get outta our damn pool!!"?

  6. Anonymous9:53 AM

    The only time she ever "pulled her head in" was when a three-year-old approached. I guess you get to learn quite a bit after all those years.

  7. My parents told me I was a turtle. That messed me up. Or maybe it was the terrarium they kept me in. Okay, bed time.

  8. Geoff & Jai - oh wow, you both met Harriet, I'm envious!

    Drunka - pull your head in.

  9. I never actually got to meet her but I saw her a few times and thought on every occasion that she shouldn't be penned up like that and maybe needed a bigger enclosure.

    Of course, I balanced that thought with the way the people are at Crikey Mate's - they seem to really care for the animals and that is important to me. I'm no zoologist so I have to bow to those who are as the place seems to be designed with the animals in mind.

    One day I will get to meet Mr Irwin. People say that he's a dickhead but he's just passionate about what he does. I reckon he could spin some good yarns.
    Not enough Aussies around like him anymore... :(

  10. Ah, Jai, but you did see her passing by ... which is closer than the rest of us got.

    I'd don't mind Irwin, I think he is a total dickhead at times (and hasn't he had more than his share of "oops, I'm a total dickhead" moments). But, he's the genuine article, not some pouncy pretender, and his enthusiasm, while over the top, always elicits a smile and a laugh. Ya gotta luv him for that and for his good work.