Will they hatch tonight? That is the question sea turtle watchers on Holden Beach, NC ask this time of year. We happened to be vacationing there last week, and our beach home for the week was situated right between two sea turtle nests.
Every evening we noticed groups of people in red “turtle patrol” t-shirts settling in to supervise turtle nests.
The volunteer Turtle Patrol members were friendly, informative and fun-loving. They seemed to be having a great time while they prepared to oversee the exodus of baby turtles from their relatively safe sandy nests into the big bad ocean.
The baby turtles need all the help they can get. Survival rates for young sea turtles is anywhere from 1 in 1000 to 1 in 4000 depending on who you ask. Not very good odds. So people are moved to protect these vulnerable creatures. Turtle patrol volunteers cover the nests with wire cages to keep predators out; if possible they count the eggs and make sure they are all accounted for when the nest hatches; they prepare a smooth path from the nest to the water; and they educate vacationers. When asked what happens when the turtles make it to the water, one patrol member cheerfully said, “We wish them well!”
We never saw any turtles emerge from their nests in our evening scouting expeditions, but one morning we noticed a rather large and growing crowd out on the beach. Sure enough, one lonely turtle (first photo above) was working its way to the water. I’m not really the turtle patrol type, but I have to admit I was pulling for the little guy as he doggedly scooched himself toward the sea.
It was kind of fun to watch for baby turtles at the beach. These little turtles are the picture of vulnerability, and I understand those who desire to improve their odds of survival even just a bit.
But the picture of people smoothing the way for infant turtles to enter dangerous waters suggests some things to me about our culture. Actually, many things. But I’m out of time for this post, so those thoughts will have to wait for the next one.
But first, I’d be very interested in what you see. What does this picture tell you about our culture?