Tourists Riding Turtle at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, ca. 1930

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Turtle riding was once a popular activity among holidaymakers at the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia. In the first half of the twentieth century, it was a significant way for tourists to engage with living marine life.

The turtle breeding season offered tourists an opportunity to see female turtles emerge from the sea and come ashore to nest and lay their eggs. They could also witness emerging hatchlings scuttle from shore to sea. This sea-land-sea transformation facilitated unique forms of human-nonhuman animal interaction and was integral to visitor affection for, and affinity with, sea turtles.
The odd pastime had all but disappeared, however, 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 in which to expose marine creatures to eager eyes.

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