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Turtle Riding : Great Barrier Reef

Date: before 1954
200 x 254 mm
Medium: Paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from McIlwraith McEacharn Limited
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: ANMS0850[143]

User Terms

    Photograph depicting a beach scene with a young woman sitting astride a turtle wearing a rope harness.
    SignificanceMcIlwraith McEacharn Limited was one of the largest and most successful companies operating in Australia during the 20th century. The company was a pioneer of frozen and refrigerated sea transport and was also involved in mining and passenger shipping. After forming in 1875 the company operated for over a century, creating a significant social and economic legacy.

    HistoryThe unique sport of turtle riding was popular in Australia primarily throughout the 1920s and 30s where, during turtle nesting season, visitors to the Great Barrier Reef could observe the docile animals laying their eggs. Once on land and having laid their eggs, the turtles would be overturned, rendering them immobile for later sport. When the rider was ready a turtle could be turned upright, mounted and ridden into the sea with the most skilled riders being those who could control their steeds once in the water. A key aspect of this was the ability to keep the turtle's head up so that the creature could not make the deep dive that would allow it to swim away and unseat the rider.

    Because of a lack of tourism infrastructure, turtle soup canneries such as those on Nor’West and Heron Islands served as a base for these activities. Visitors could also join scientific expeditions in order to access the more remote areas.

    Turtle riding remained popular in Australia in the early 20th century where it was one of the few ways in which people observed and actively engaged with marine life. The odd pastime disappeared by the 1950s with changing attitudes in conservation and declining turtle numbers. Additionally, developments in scuba diving, snorkelling, glass-bottom boats and waterproof cameras all opened up other ways by which visitors could interact with and observe marine life.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Prints and photographs relating to McIlwraith McEacharn Collection.

    Web title: Turtle Riding : Great Barrier Reef

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