waiting for hatchlings
[Several days after Day 2]
Itâ€™s the end of my week here at Bald Head Island, and I think it goes without saying (if youâ€™ve read any of the previous posts), itâ€™s been a great trip. Iâ€™ve been especially lucky with nest #89.
Day 2 (later that day)
Out on the beach the haloed moon is astonishingly bright, and seems to be directly in front of the turtle nestâ€™s sand runway. Thereâ€™s no question that if the turtles make it out alive, theyâ€™ll know where to go. By 8:30, a crowd of 15 people or so has gathered around the nest.
The two women from Kansas and Colorado are here again, and there are some newcomers, including a couple from Wisconsin. â€śHow do they breathe under there? Theyâ€™re buried alive!â€ť the wife cries. Around 9, the sand starts to move.
Every few minutes, Donna the nest monitor says, â€śDid you see that?â€ť The sand is moving, or â€śsimmering,â€ť in sea turtle-speak, a reference to what happens when all the turtles come pouring out of the nest â€“ a â€śfull boil.â€ť I find it strange that we use cooking terms for this.
[Day 1 refresher: abandoning Cory on the beach around midnight, I drive the golf cart home sleepily and collapse in bed, filling my sheets with sand because Iâ€™m too tired and lazy to wash off my feet.]
At 5:45 my alarm goes off. Itâ€™s already time to go back to the beach, only this time thereâ€™s almost no chance Iâ€™ll be seeing any live sea turtles. Iâ€™m going to see Maureen (Bald Head Island Conservancy's head naturalist) and several volunteers perform two nest excavations, which are exactly what they sound like â€“ digging up nests to see whatâ€™s inside.
In this case, the nests are long overdue to hatch, and Maureen says itâ€™s not worth wasting any more of the nest monitorsâ€™ time and energy â€“ itâ€™s time to find out whatâ€™s going on under the sand. She warns Cory and me that it probably wonâ€™t be pretty (read: dead babies), but that weâ€™re welcome to come along.
At the moment my alarm goes off, I think, â€śSleep - or dead baby sea turtles?â€ť I nearly choose the first, but force myself out the door. Itâ€™ll be like digging for buried treasure, I tell myself. (Except with the potential to be heartbreaking.)