22 October 2005
SHE might not have the most svelte figure but Harriet the tortoise sure has been photographed plenty of times.
After our report last week of her forthcoming 175 th birthday, people from Queensland to Victoria and the US sent in old photographs of the tortoise, mostly from when they were children and hitching a ride.
Robyn (Bobby) Monks, of Cornubia on Brisbane’s southside, came up with the oldest.
It was a photograph of Harriet – she was then known as Harry because people thought she was a boy – taken during Ekka week in August 1947.
Mrs Monks’ family had visited Brisbane from their home in Gympie to attend an eisteddfod when they visited what was then a zoo in the Botanic Gardens.
The photograph shows Harriet in a yard with kangaroos on what appears to be concrete and dirt, a horrid enclosure by today’s standards.
Mrs Monks will receive a double pass from Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo where Harriet now lives in rather more pleasant conditions on the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
The photograph was taken with a Box Brownie, deemed the world’s first simple camera and technology that led to women becoming the chroniclers of family histories.
Harriet is thought to be the world’s oldest living creature.
She is thought to have hatched in 1830 and was collected by English naturalist Charles Darwin. She lived in England with Darwin and then was brought to Brisbane where she lived at Government House, the Botanic Gardens and then Fleay’s wildlife sanctuary on the Gold Coast.
A book has been written about her, Darwin’s Tortoise, which will be launched next month to coincide with her birthday.
Sabine Baarskamp of Rothwell, north of Brisbane, had photographs of her children Minke, 5 and Paula, 3 in 1963 with Harriet at Fleay’s. “We have fond memories of that place and Harriet was lovely and very patient,” Mrs Baarskamp said.