For a change of pace, here are some photos of me and “Rabe,” well, photos taken by me, of “Rabe,” at a turtle nesting shore. As you can see, it’s covered in Sargassum. Rabe likes to frolic in the Sargassum, although those are moments when I’m usually too spellbound to snap a shot. Maybe I’ll lack the presence of mind one day to get a picture of it.
A lot of people don’t like the Sargassum, complain it is dirty. But it’s a natural phenomenon. It’s the namesake of the Sargasso Sea, which, incidentally, is where the baby green turtles that hatch here spend their youth.
Rabe hunts crabs but not sea turtles, if anyone wonders. She does offer her assistance to the scientists who mark, sample, and track the turtle nests. It’s politely declined, and she occasionally bestows kisses instead.
All kinds of sea turtles nest and hatch here. Green, loggerhead, leatherhead, you name it. Rabe will sometimes find a straggler and bring it to me. I’ve called Wildlife about it; they say to put it in the Atlantic. I’ve done that, but the thing is, a straggler is usually already exhausted. It just keeps getting washed back up onto the beach.
I’ve since read up—a straggler will probably die of exposure. It’s very important that the baby turtles make their way through the surf quickly, before exhaustion and dehydration set in. It’s sad to watch and one reason why it’s important to eliminate light pollution around the beach. At the same time, turtles lay a lot of eggs, because survival of the species is a numbers game. Most of them don’t make it. Maybe one in a thousand, or one in ten thousand.
So when a turtle returns to her birthright to nest, she’s representing a whole host of her kind.
Her eggs will rest safely a few feet beneath the sand, if they’re not dug up by a predator or a hurricane, after a couple months or so, we’ll have baby sea turtles make way to the ocean. And out of all the nests on this stretch of beach, maybe a few who hatch may one day return.
I don’t live particularly close to the beach, but I can get here in 20 or 30 minutes. It’s off-leash, so Rabe can run around, smell the smells, do her thing. We trek maybe 3 or 4 miles almost every morning. They’re never the same miles, because the beach is never the same. Day by day, I see a small stretch of the world live, die, transform, all by the light of dawn.
And then I’m back home, showered and ready, by the time the rest of the world catches up to morning.
Although the beach closures in 2020 put a dent in things, the experience of trekking out there, questioning the sea turtle scientists, watching the tides, seasons, migrations, sand movement, well, it puts a perspective on the whole affair that a book just can’t help with. I’ve seen finger mullet so thick that the tide drops them flopping on the shore, stretches of surf whorled with churning sharks, things I hadn’t imaged were possible, or imagined were lost.
They’re not—they’re still here, and we have a chance to keep them.