Sunday, August 15, 2010

Turtlie Turtles

Before we arrived at Oak Island Beach a turtle nest had hatched and many, many turtles pushed their way out of the sandy ground and down to the ocean. From there they swim out into their futures in hope of returning to the same shore at which they were born. They lay their own eggs at about 20 years of age IF they actually survive that long. I was told that 10% of all the turtles that hatch actually survive.

After a nest hatches the "turtle people" (Those who watch over, nurture, and monitor the turtles' nests) return to the nest and dig up the remainder of the eggs in hopes of finding any survivors.
Our closest nest was due to be dug up on our first day there so we made a plan to watch the process.

The digging started while Steve and Alix were hunting and gathering junk food. I was out with Amanda, Emma and my camera with huge and romantic hopes of seeing turtles successfully start their journeys into life. However, when we arrived I could hear the nest mother talking about how the one turtle that came out didn't make it and I saw him laying in the sand. There was a pile of broken eggs on the sand (from the earlier hatch) and another little pile of unhatched eggs on the other side of the hole. As I stood there and looked at the broken eggs, the tiny dead turtle and what seemed like very still lifeless eggs I began to worry that this was going to be bad. I looked at Emma who was now looking at me with her bottom lip pushed out into a classic boo-boo lip and my heart sank.

Its true that I am certainly overly sensitive (a common phrase others use to describe me) but at this point I was kinda panicked. The woman speaking was painting a rather bleak picture of what we could expect by the dig and the little turtle, and the broken eggs and the very still eggs and the fact that I left the house wide open... Whew! I caved and I left. I was so afraid I was going to see dead turtle after dead turtle and I just didn't want that life experience. I left and took the girls with me.

To my disappointment I found later that I missed the struggle and survival of two baby turtles! They made it to the ocean and swam away into the watery world. I chickened out and missed out. Yet another one of those life lessons learned.

This is the nest mother explaining the
process and her helper is digging up
the remaining eggs.

Broken eggs from successful hatches and the little
guy that didn't make it.

I know, he's so cute but it was really sad for me...

Here we have the little eggs that held the last hope
for this nest. Don't get me wrong, the earlier hatch here
produced about 120 other baby turtles prior to this dig.

The good news is that on our last night there, another nest hatched. Instead of the usual bubbling over of turtles we saw just one little guy make his way out of the sand. The thought of running back and getting my camera ran through my head. Instead I stayed and watched with my own eyes. This was one of those times when I wanted a moment in time to be my own. I wanted to watch him travel down the beach to the water and soak up every moment and get teary eyed and enjoy it without worrying about settings and composition. So, sorry I don't have a picture of Hatchie (Emma named him that) just the memory of his tiny legs working like a wind-up toy buzzing down the sand to his dangerous future. As many times as I walk along the Pacific Ocean I'll never see a turtle hatch so I'm thrilled to have this memory. I'm also thrilled to have shared it with my friends and my family. It was cool.


  1. As someone who is 'nature' mad this experience is something really special. I totally get why you had to leave the first time; that's definitely what Anne and I would have done to be honest.

    I guess the temptation to help 'Hatchie' along was overwhelming huh?

    Kelley this is such a pleasent 'easy going' read documented wonderfully with your photographs.

    Looking forward to reading more,
    Best wishes to you and yours,

  2. Thanks Glyn! I can tell you EVERYONE wanted to help Hatchie. He worked at the sand hole for a long time, falling back down several times. However, I think it made the final run down the beach that much better!

    If you ever run across a turtle dig now you will know to stick it out through the sad part. :-).

    Thanks much!

  3. Hi Kelley,

    Like Glyn, I would consider myself nature mad and love watching "it" in action. I'm always trying to teach my 4 year sold Luke to appreciate it too - one theme of "why" questioning I never tire of trying to answer for him :-)

    Nature can however appear to be such a cruel beast, as you encountered in your first visit when you were full of hope & expectation. Alas in that instance it was not meant to be but I'm so glad you got to experience the yang with the yin, so to speak.

    Many years ago when I was in Sri Lanka I got to visit a turtle farm, where they protect the various local species by collecting the eggs from the beach. They then re-bury them in a protected enclosure and, when hatched, keep them for several days to help them build up strength before releasing them into the ocean. Alas there were no planned releases when I was there but seeing conservation in action was good enough.

    Thanks for sharing,


  4. David, You'll like this part of the story: While we were playing games that night Miss Emma yelled out that the turtles were hatching tonight and that we needed to go see them before we left. We just laughed it off, and then her answer to the game we were playing was "the turtles are hatching." Well, we decided to check it out and sure enough two nests were active that night with hatching turtles. Sometimes I think children are more in tuned to things like that. We thought it was pretty special.

    Thank you for your comments always! Kelley