Where to see the oldest living things on Earth
Who needs new and improved when you can delight in old and perfected?
Planet ramblers looking for adventure might consider spending time with these 10 living ambassadors from the past, including a bird with millions of flight miles, a rose that survived an aerial bombing, a tree linked to Buddha, green globules in the Andes and massive poriferans in Antarctica.
These and other amazing paleo-pilgrimages await the dedicated traveler.
WILD BIRD: About 68 years
Wisdom, the world’s oldest confirmed bird in the wild, turned at least 68 this year. Since she was banded in 1956, the Laysan albatross has logged more than three million flight miles, six times the distance to the moon and back!
In between oceanic migrations, the frequent flier returns in the autumn to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge to raise her chicks. She’s survived a tsunami and hatched an estimated 30 to 40 eggs on the island.
With persistence and permits, one can see Wisdom and her fellow Phoebastria immutabilis on their Pacific paradise. Midway Atoll is located on the far northern end of the Hawaiian archipelago.
LAND ANIMAL: About 187 years
Jonathan, the most beloved resident of St. Helena, a tiny island in the South Atlantic, was born about 1832, five years before the coronation of Queen Victoria. Since then, the giant tortoise has lived through 39 US presidents.
He never met the other notable to live in the island, Napoleon, as the French emperor died in exile there in 1821. The gentle reptilian giant originated from the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, but made the move to the Atlantic as a gift to the then-governor of St. Helena in 1882.
Since then he’s roamed about the governor’s grand island estate, where he enjoys the company of three other giant tortoises and frequent human guests.
BLOOMING ROSE: Approximately 1,200 years
Celebrated as the Thousand Year Rose, a towering rose bush in Germany is thought to have been established by King Louis the Pious in 815.
The bush grows alongside a Catholic cathedral dedicated to St. Mary in Hildesheim, a beautiful medieval village noted for its ancient churches.
Besides beauty and age, the plant exhibits remarkable fortitude. Allied bombing during World War II left the cathedral in ruins, but the rose, a Rosa canina, also known as the dog rose, somehow survived, flourished and now grows more than 30 feet high next to the apse of the restored church.
Visit anytime, but late May and early June are the best times to see the delicate pink blossoms.
PLANTED TREE: Approximately 2,300 years
The fig tree under which Siddhartha Gautama experienced enlightenment in India is long gone, but a cutting from it, carried by a royal devotee to Sri Lanka around 250 BCE, give or take a few decades, has grown into one of the most revered trees in the Buddhist world, and the oldest known tree with a planting recorded in history.
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Ficus religiosa, has welcomed the religious, the curious and the nefarious in the centuries since.
H.G. Wells marveled at it. Elephants damaged it. Tamil separatists besieged it.
Today, pilgrims of all kinds pay homage, especially on full moon (poya) days, to the tree, which sits among elaborate gardens, canals, golden fences, religious stupas and younger Bodhi trees in the Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.
WORKING TREE: Approximately 2,500 years
Whether planted by man or nature, between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago, before the rise of Classical Greece, a seed sprouted on the Mediterranean island of Crete that to this day produces a yearly crop of olives.
But the monumental tree in the village of Vouves does more than make drupe fruit. It and other ancient Olea europaea nearby, similar in wizened age and appearance, attract artists, religious leaders, Olympians and heads of state, inspired by their strikingly gnarly trunks and limbs.