Prince Philip once shot a Northern Territory crocodile “from a good distance” at night with a single shot, and a few years later returned the hospitality of his Top End tour guides by inviting them aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.
As the world marks the death of the royal patriarch, a Northern Territory family’s encounter with the Queen’s consort and local wildlife has re-emerged.
Days before opening the Melbourne Olympic Games, the Duke of Edinburgh departed a function at Government House to nearby Stokes Hill Wharf in Darwin where he boarded the ex-RAAF launch Marlin about 10:30pm on Thursday, November 15, 1956.
His guides and the boat’s owners were the local seafaring Haritos brothers — George, also known as “Nundi”, Nicholas (“Ningle”), Jack and Michael.
They braved a storm on Darwin Harbour en route to Pioneer Creek, where the croc met its fate.
Tour guide and crocodile hunter George spoke to NT Archives about Prince Philip’s gun skills in 1991, a year before George’s death.
“It was quite a shot — about 25 yards [23 metres],” Mr Haritos said of the Duke’s aim.
“The croc’s head is a very small target at night in the spotlight, so it was a very, very good shot.
The Duke was on the water looking for crocs until the wee hours, shooting the breeze with lifelong Australian friend and aide-de-camp Michael Parker before Mr Haritos steered the Marlin back to town about 4:30am.
“They were chiaking about the other hangers-on, and carrying on like that about their conquests,” a laughing Mr Haritos told NT Archives, according to a transcript.
Asked by the NT Archives interviewer if Mr Haritos would care to repeat anything, the transcript reads: “No, not really [laughs].”
A beverage on the Britannia
When the Duke was next in Darwin, aboard the Britannia in 1963, he made it his business to catch up with the Haritos brothers.
“He looked at the guest list and saw our names weren’t on the list and he got someone to get on the phone and invite us on Britannia for a drink the next day,” George Haritos said.
Mr Haritos’s daughter Helen was on the wharf as a four-year-old to see off the hunters.
“It was quite exciting,” she said.
“I think most of the family members were down there. There would have been wives of the brothers, and I guess, seven or eight children.
“We all felt very privileged and proud that the family was chosen.
While there were rival croc hunters who would have been glad of the opportunity, the Haritos brothers were possibly picked because they were recommended by friend, regular crew and then-NT Administrator Frank Wise.
It’s unknown if the Haritos name resonated with the Greek-born Duke.
“They knew the sea like the back of their hands,” Ms Haritos said.
Kerfuffle over a cummerbund
Ms Haritos also remembers a panic preparing for cocktail hour on board Britannia in 1963.
“I can remember that it was a search for a cummerbund, that’s the thing that stuck in my mind,” she said.
But Mr Haritos almost did not meet the Duke.
The brothers were on a reconnaissance trip on the creek with some English officials three nights earlier to make sure there were crocs to shoot.
They wanted to ensure an opportunity at a kill for the Duke.
Mr Haritos threw a harpoon at a three-metre crocodile beside the boat — and fell on top of it.
His brothers “couldn’t care less” and were trying to bag the croc while Mr Haritos panicked.
“I couldn’t get back on the boat because it was a bit high,” he said.
One of the Englishmen helped him up.
“Then he said, ‘I thought it was part of the act until I saw the look in your eyes,'” Mr Haritos said.
Mr Haritos had both skins tanned and mailed to the Duke.
Thanks for checking out this news update on Northern Territory and Australian news called “Prince Philip, the crocodile hunters and a late-night hunt in the Northern Territory”. This article was presented by My Local Pages Australia as part of our national news services.
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