Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The Exploits of Arvid Blumenthal, Latvia’s “Crocodile Harry” in Australia

            Arvid Blumenthal (Latvian - Arvīda Blūmentala) was certainly one of the most colorful persons in The Land Down Under, a country renowned for its colorful personalities (see John Cann, 2014, Historical Snakeys, ECO Herpetological Publishing, Rodeo, New Mexico), in the decades after World War II. Born 19 March 1925 in Dundaga, Latvia, he fought with the Nazi-occupied Latvian army on the Eastern Front during WWII, was seriously wounded, and was later captured by the Americans.

             Blumenthal emigrated to Australia in 1951, moving to the Northern Territory where he took up crocodile hunting essentially living off the land in the company of Aboriginal peoples. Newspaper accounts, mostly based on “Harry’s” own assessments of his hunting prowess, record that he killed between 10,000 and 40,000 crocodiles, although it is hard to tell fact from fiction. Blumenthal was said to be the model on which the “Crocodile Dundee” (starring Paul Hogan) movie series was based in the 1980s, although that claim is disputed by some. In 1975, Blumenthal moved to Coober Pedy in central Australia to mine opals. As is common there, he made his home underground where he decorated his abode with what can politely be called “eccentric” mementos of his amorous conquests. His cave and its souvenirs can be visited today as Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest west of Coober Pedy. He is still admired in Latvia, and there is a statue of a crocodile in his honor in Dundaga. Blumenthal died in Coober Pedy on 13 October 2006 and is buried in the town’s “Boot Hill” cemetery.

Crocodile Harry published two books on his hunting exploits and life in the wild in Australia: Latvietis Krokodiļu Mednieks Austrālijā [Latvian Crocodile Hunter in Australia, 1957, 151 p.] and Ilgas Pēc Saules [Longing for the Sun, 1958, 159 p.] (Figs. 1-3). Both were published in Latvian by Apgāds Sauleskrasts, Brisbane, Australia. Both contain poor quality black and white images taken in the field of Blumenthal with crocodiles or going about daily life in the bush (Figs. 4-6). Latvietis Krokodiļu Mednieks Austrālijā was republished as Nacionālais Dēkainis - Krokodilu Mednieks [National Adventurer – Crocodile Hunter], updated with additional information on Australia by Rimants Ziedonis who had visited Blumenthal there (2000, Jumava, Riga, Latvia, 199 p.). Today, these books are little known outside of Latvia, and there are no English translations so that most of the world remains ignorant of this larger-than-life personality. For further information on and photos of Arvid Blumenthal, see:

Jākobsons, E. 2020. Krokodilu mednieks Arvīds Blūmentāls. 2020. Laikmeta zīmes, 3 April         2020. . Accessed 9 March 2022.

Mustillo, M. 2015. Latvia’sCrocodile Harry: Inspiration for Hollywood. The Baltic Times, 2       December 2015. Accessed 9 March 2022.

Smith, T. 2018. Crocodile Harry:The Man Who Inspired Crocodile Dundee. The Culture Trip. Accessed 9 March 2022.

Submitted by: C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr.

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