Richard Turen

Richard Turen

My travel schedule will begin picking up this summer, when I will be reporting from Spain and Portugal and later Japan. But sadly, my current bucket-list trip is still on hold.

In fact, “on hold” is actually optimistic. I am trying to meet up with a specific individual who happens to live a fair distance away. His location is proving to be somewhat inconvenient. 

To meet this individual, I will need to travel to the South Atlantic Ocean, a mere 1,200 miles from the southwestern coast of Africa. To get there on a map you go to Angola, make a left and try to find Jamestown, the capital of St. Helena.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know why this individual moved there. Most of the island is unsuitable for farming, and there are no minerals and essentially no industry. Two-thirds of the island’s economy comes from a subsidy from the U.K. 

The islands of St. Helena, and neighbors Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, are overseas territories of the U.K. whose residents gained British citizenship in 2002.

The resident I’m most interested in meeting goes by a single name: Jonathan. This was before Cher or Prince made single names popular. Jonathan may have started the trend.

I read in Smithsonian Magazine that he arrived on St. Helena from the Seychelles along with three friends as a gift for the governor of St. Helena.

There is a bit of pressure for me to get there soon to interview Jonathan because, dare I say it, he is starting to age. You see, he left the Seychelles for the trip to St. Helena in 1882.

Jonathan, a giant tortoise, has been on Earth during the terms of 40 U.S. presidents. In December, he celebrated his 191st birthday. I want to meet Jonathan because he is said to be our oldest living land animal. To put it another way, Jonathan has lived 110 more years than Joe Biden.

Just imagine the stories Jonathan could share. He would, I imagine, find some of our press musings about our 77- and 81-year-old presidential candidates being “too old” to serve rather amusing.

Jonathan is doing rather well. I am told he is living the good life on the manicured lawn of the St. Helena mansion where the island’s governor resides. He is fed some lovely fruits and vegetables by hand once a week.

In 1991, the French counsel sent him a friend, Frederica, and the two, I am told, enjoyed an intimate relationship. But there were no children, which may be attributed to the fact that, as was discovered in 2017, Frederica is male. If I meet him, I will need to address him as Frederic.

I want to interview Jonathan because he is the ultimate survivor. Sure, he has lost his sense of smell, and he is virtually blind. But he has a strong appetite and what his vet, Joe Hollins, described in Smithsonian as a good libido. “He is sometimes seen mating with another tortoise named Emma and, of course, from time to time, he returns to Fred.”

But let’s put this in perspective. I want to meet Jonathan simply because he has outlived nearly every creature on the planet. I also think he may be well qualified to put this age issue of ours in its proper perspective. 

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