Sea Turtle Roll Call (150th new thing).

September 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Day One Hundred Fifty’s new activity was suggested by Patrick’s mom. She had clipped out a local newspaper article about the hundreds of sea turtles that had come to nest up on coastal South Carolina. I read the article and found the South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (S.C.U.T.E.) Facebook group where the group would post when and where they were doing inventories and invite the public to watch. Inventories occur three days after the nestlings have hatched, when SCUTE certified volunteers dig up the hatched nest to count the eggs and help out any weak straggler babies left behind. Spectators can watch the process in the hope that some little sea turtle hasn’t made it out and thus needs help making its way to the ocean.

The Hills and I were invited over to DeBordeiu (pronounced “Debbie-Doo”) to have dinner with Patrick’s cousin Carrie and her family, so working around a sea turtle inventory on Pawley’s Island could prove difficult. However, DeBordieu also had a volunteer sea turtle group, and sure enough, they also had inventories to do that evening. We texted Carrie to see if it was something she and the kids would be interested in doing, and of course they were…who wouldn’t want the possibility of seeing a baby miniature sea turtle??

The Boys' Cart

We arrived at the sprawling home Carrie, Mark, Eleanor, and Thomas were staying at and all piled into the golf carts to head towards the beach. Once we arrived, the first inventory was completed with no turtles left behind. We were just in time for the second  inventory and stood front row as two women started digging with their hands.

Once they reached a couple feet down they began to pull out hatched eggshells, and placed them into various piles. Another lady sort of described what was going on, but I, having extensively perused the facebook page, was fully informed. I was just waiting for any babies.

And I wasn’t disappointed. One little straggler was found and rescued. One of the volunteers picked it up with gloved hands and placed it in a sandy bucket with which she could walk around and show everyone. The rest of the volunteers continued digging and counting, lining the hatched shells in groups of ten against a sticks of reed protruding from the sand as counters.

Once the group determined there were no more sea turtles to free from the nest, the bucket lady had us all form a corridor to the water, lining up on the two sides so the mini sea turtle could make its way in between.

The lady picked up the turtle and placed it on the sand, but it quickly became clear that this baby needed more help. Its tiny back left leg didn’t seem to be working in unison with its other three. As it moved across the sand, he kept coming toward the right side of the group instead of following the appropriate middle course. Several times the volunteer would pick up the little bugger and place it a little closer to the water’s edge.

Eventually she kind of laid the babe in the surf and the water may or may not have carried it out to sea. The lady and her teenage volunteer companion searched the water until the younger one shouted that she had seen it, way out in the waves. “He made it!” she exclaimed excitedly. The volunteer led a smattered round of applause for the triumph that most of us doubted. I sure hope the little turtle made it out to sea to continue its journey, even with all the odds and a lame fin against him. If he didn’t, at least we were able to see a baby sea turtle up close.


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