Waiting for Hatchlings, Part 4

Waiting for Hatchlings, Part 4

© Oceana/Cory Wilson

[Several days after Day 2]

It’s the end of my week here at Bald Head Island, and I think it goes without saying (if you’ve read any of the previous posts), it’s been a great trip. I’ve been especially lucky with nest #89.

I waited for it to hatch, then I saw it hatch, and several days later, it's time to watch the volunteers excavate it to look for any last stragglers who didn’t make it out with the rest.

When we arrive at “our” nest just before sunset for the excavation, there's already a considerable crowd of people, many kids included, almost all toting cameras. It's like the turtle paparazzi, Cory and myself included.

“This is nothing,” one of the volunteers tells me. “You should see it in the middle of the summer – sometimes we have 100 or 200 people out here.” Is that a testament to how adorable these tiny turtles are, or how little else there is to do on this island? I’m gonna go with the sea turtles.

The volunteers unearth six wriggling loggerheads out of the sand. By this point they could have been down there moving around for five or six days. They’re ready to swim. The volunteers place the six survivors in a bucket and, after showing them around to their adoring fans, spread them out along the high tide line, and the race to the sea begins.

Well, it's not much of a race. We watch as they're taken by the waves, then wash ashore several times until they finally get a good enough push. Reality check: I don’t think these stragglers have much of a chance of making it. Some of them have crooked carapaces and are clumsy on their flippers, unlike the feisty ones we watched in the full boil a few days earlier. Their best hope is to lodge themselves in a big clump of Sargasso and float along in the current.

And with the last residents of nest #89 in the water, I try not to think too much about the odds of their making it to maturity or the dangers facing them. For a moment I try to absorb what we've witnessed this week: The birth of almost one hundred loggerhead sea turtles, a species that has been swimming around the Earth for more than a hundred million years, and whose decline will continue unless we do something to stop it.

 

Be sure to read the other posts and check out more photos from the trip on Flickr!