‘I'm not as obsessive a collector of tektites as he is, sometimes I just roll my eyes, but one supports one's partner. So I looked after the kids, and I would carry the pack so that he was unhindered in bending down and picking stuff up, and not falling over the edge of the cliff’ (Herta Uhlherr, 2015, Interview).
Herta was born in 1938 in a German Templer colony in Haifa, Palestine. She grew up behind barbed wire because of World War II. Around two years old, Herta remembers watching a huge tank rumble along just outside the fence. For a child it was both frightening and exciting. When she was three, Herta’s family was forcibly deported to Australia with other Templer internees. They travelled on the Queen Elizabeth to Sydney Harbour.
As a teenager, Herta lived in a private zoo, which her father managed for Sir Edward Hallstrom, the head of the Taronga Zoo Trust.
Herta Uhlherr is the wife of retired tektite collector Hermann Ralph Uhlherr who sold his tektite collection to Museum Victoria in February 2011. Though Herta and Ralph were both part of the Templer community, they didn’t meet each other till confirmation classes in Sydney. ‘Ralph was a shy boy back then and much focused on his studies… he has grown into a good man. He is intelligent, he thinks of others and he tries to do what is right’ (Herta Uhlherr, 2015, Interview). All of their life together Herta has supported Ralph in his passions and she recalls many interesting collecting expeditions.
In April 1974 when their family travelled to Port Campbell, Herta remembers Ralph stopping the car at every little bit of bare ground. ‘He would hop out,’ she said, ‘and scour the ground for anything that looked like a tektite!’ Herta would often tell him to ‘look up, not only down!’ With his eyes constantly on the ground, Herta felt he needed reminding to stop and enjoy the surroundings - the beautiful turquoise blue sea and the sun shining on the cliffs of Port Campbell, where his collecting had lead them.
Then there were the cushion bushes:
‘One of the good things down there is the cushion bushes. When they're well grown after a rainy season they're good to sit in. And the kids used to take a flying leap into them! I always hoped there wasn't a snake underneath or a dead piece of wood that would stick them in the wrong place. Sometimes I would just lie in a cushion bush and dream, or meditate; while he did his thing I did my thing. But I was around and it's always good to have someone around when you're traipsing on the cliffs’ (Herta Uhlherr, 2015, Interview).
Ralph’s collecting also meant that they met some fascinating professional scientists along the way. Herta has particularly fond memories of Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker. Ralph and Herta met them in Perth, in 1990, and she was delighted to find both were very easy to get along with - 'they were down to earth, like Aussies tend to be'. She remembers Carolyn showing them around Meteorite Crater in Arizona that Eugene had explored and where he did the Apollo astronaut training.
Like Ralph, Herta would love to see the H.R Uhlherr tektite collection promote future research in the fields of astrogeology and geology. But she would also like to see some of the collection on display so that everyone else can enjoy them.
Memories in my luggage. (2015) Stargazing, meteors and australites - Hermann Ralph Uhlherr. Retrieved from http://www.memoriesinmyluggage.com.au/news/stargazing-meteors-and-australites-hermann-ralph-uhlherr
Interview with Herta Uhlherr, 16 July 2015, 0:22:20
Interview with Hermann Ralph and Herta Uhlherr, 16 July 2015, 1:16:40