Friday, June 23, 2006

Charles Darwin's tortoise dies

Taken from

THE world's oldest animal in captivity has died on the Sunshine Coast at the ripe old age of 176.
Giant Galapagos tortoise Harriet has died of a suspected heart attack.

She was a star attraction at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo since the 1980s and even features in the Guinness Book of Records for her longevity.

Her history is as colourful as the hibiscus flowers she lovingly munched on.

It is believed Harriet was one of three animals naturalist Charles Darwin brought back from his trip to the Galapagos Islands in 1835 and which led to his theories of evolution and natural selection.

A few years later, Sir Charles gave them to a Brisbane-bound friend.

For about 100 years Harriet was mistakenly thought to be a male.

At 176, Harriet was recognised as the world's oldest living chelonian - a reptile with a shell or bony plates.

Mr Irwin said he considered Harriet a member of the family.

"Harriet has been a huge chunk of the Irwin family's life," he said.

"I have grown up with this gorgeous old girl and so have my kids.

"She is possibly one of the oldest living creatures on the planet and her passing today is not only a great loss for the world but a very sad day for my family.

"She was a grand old lady."


1830: Harriet is born - and her home country Ecuador becomes independent and elects its first president.

1834: Aged four, the young tortoise is basking in the Galapagos sun when the British abolish slavery and the Tolpuddle martyrs are banished to Australia.

1843: She is just a teenager when Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol is published.

1852: When Harriet hits 22, Australia's gold rush kicks off after a half-ounce nugget is found in Queensland and thousands of prospectors flood the area.

1865: As she reaches 35, the world is shocked at the assassination of American president Abraham Lincoln at the hands of actor John Wilkes Booth.

1868: Harriet is 38 - and the last British convicts arrive in Australia.

1880: As Harriet turns 50, the infamous Aussie outlaw Ned Kelly hangs in the Old Melbourne Jail.

1882: The Aussies achieve the unthinkable - and beat England at cricket on home soil for the first time, giving birth to The Ashes.

1901: At 71, Harriet is already a pensioner when her adopted country is unified and the Australian flag flies for the first time.

1915: Gallipoli, the First World War battle against the Turks, claims the lives of 7,600 Australians as Harriet reaches 85.

1945: Harriet is pushing 115 when the atomic bomb obliterates the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

1953: The grand old lady is 123 when Queen Elizabeth II is crowned in Westminster Abbey in London.

1956: Dame Edna Everage makes her first appearance, courtesy of Australian comic Barry Humfries. Harriet is 126.

1967: Aborigines are finally given citizenship when Harriet is 137 after 90 per cent of Australians vote Yes in a referendum.

1968: When she reaches 138, Australia's most famous export, Kylie Minogue, is born... and a year later man first sets foot on the moon.

2000: She's 170, and Australia hosts the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the most successful ever."