GREEK AUSTRALIANS IN THEIR OWN IMAGE: GEORGE HARITOS – CROCODILE MAN

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Greek City Times is proud to present a weekly historical snapshot
from the archives of the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek Australians’  national project
by photographer Effy Alexakis and historian Leonard Janiszewski.


GEORGE HARITOS – ADVENTURER

The need for a sense of adventure has drawn Greeks into both exploring and utilising the commercial potential of Australian waters – one such adventurer was George Haritos.

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George Haritos, Darwin, NT, 1987 (Photo: Effy Alexakis)

 

George Haritos was not only a coastal barge captain, barramundi fisherman and pearler, but also a water-buffalo hunter and crocodile shooter. His father, Efstratios George Haritos, was born in Mytilini (Lesvos) and arrived in Darwin in 1915. Two years later Efstratios married Eleni Harmanis/Hermanis. George was born in 1920 – one of eight siblings (four boys and four girls).

Growing up in Darwin during the 1930s, George considered the surrounding region was a hunting paradise: “You could shoot wild geese a few miles out of from Darwin without having to get out of the vehicle… We’d walk through the swamp as the plains dried up and spear barramundi… They were there lying side-on in the shallows… Later, we were the first to sell barramundi commercially… and established an interstate market for the fish.” Hunting crocodiles and water buffalo in Northern Territory waters during the 1940s, 50s and 60s – primarily for their skins [for commercial sale] – was for George, “thrilling and spectacular in itself”, though “I didn’t shoot anything just for the sake of shooting”. The killing of wild animals for ‘sport’ was an anathema for George. He had shot his first crocodile at 15 years of age and quickly learnt to both understand and “respect them”: “I am scared [still], yes, but I [now] know most of their reactions”.

In the 1940s and 1950s, George formed a partnership with Jim Edwards and hunted crocodiles all over the Territory, from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Western Australian border; at times they were joined on their hunting trips by reptile expert, Eric Worrell. Haritos and Edwards are accredited with the highly successful innovation of night shooting of crocodiles by spotlight, known as “spotlighting” – using this technique, the animals could be shot or harpooned more easily. During the late 1940s, Haritos and his brother Michael took Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell, “spotlighting” for crocodiles.

In 1952, Haritos and Edwards captured two live crocodiles in the Territory’s Mary River delta for Australian film director Charles Chauvel – the reptiles were required for scenes in the film ‘Jedda’. Fours years later, Haritos was asked to take the Duke of Edinburgh on a crocodile hunting expedition – the Duke was in Australia to officially open the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

George famously kept a crocodile he captured in the backyard of his Darwin home (within an enclosure). Haritos allegedly caught ‘Albert’ in 1958 at the request of a person who wanted a crocodile as an attraction at a party. After the event, the individual no longer wanted the 3.9m reptile. George considered ‘Albert’ as “not quite like my dog, but I do have a particular bond and care for the animal”.

George passed away in 1992.

 

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Returning from a successful crocodile hunt, Near Darwin, NT, late 1940s . Left to right: Arthur Calwell (who was at the time Australia’s first Minister for Immigration), Jock Nelson (Labor member for the Northern Territory), Carl Atkinson (renowned diver and salvage expert) and Michael Haritos. Photo courtesy L. and H. Haritos, from the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians’ National Project Archives.

 

George Haritos often undertook crocodile hunting with his brothers Michael, Jack, and Ningle (Nicholas).

 

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George Haritos with ‘Albert’, Darwin, NT, 1987 (Photo by Effy Alexakis)

 

Note: Like George Haritos, the authors do not support the killing of wild animals for sport.

 


Photos:  Effy Alexakis
Historical Research: Leonard Janiszewski

© In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives


Effy Alexakis

Leonard Janiszewski

Since the early 1980s, Effy Alexakis, a photographer, along with historian researcher Leonard Janiszewski, have been travelling around Australia photographing and collecting stories. They have also photographed Greek-Australians in Greece and documented some amazing histories. The images and text provide personal, diverse and powerfully moving insights, about opportunities, hopes and challenges. Collectively, these stories provide personal perspectives of a diasporic Hellenic identity. Their archive encompasses photography, both historical and contemporary, taped interviews and literary materials.

They have published 3 books and numerous articles, and their projects are ongoing. The photographs have been widely exhibited throughout Australia and in Greece.

VISIT THEIR LATEST PROJECT:  Greek Cafés & Milk Bars of Australia | Facebook

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor