My first evening on beach patrol.....
7:15pm - Home from dinner and settling in for a couple hour nap.
7:45pm - A call from the hatchery, four of the nests broke through the surface and were scurrying within their corral, searching for the ocean. The hatchery watch jumps into a frenzy as the first twenty hatchlings from each nest need to be gathered, measured and weighed...and this takes time. (The night before I sat for six hours and absolutely nothing happened.)
8:30pm - I settle into bed for my nap.
11:30pm - The alarm goes off and I grab a cup of coffee.
11:50pm - We jump into the truck and drive to marker 25 for drop-off.
12:07am - Nathan and I start our 1500m patrol (marker 21 to marker 6) and a call (walkie-talkie) comes in...we’ve got a turtle emerging from the water near marker 15. Time to spring into action.
12:19am - We arrive at the turtle and she has made it to her nesting spot and is well into her digging process; the body pitting is done and she is settled into a 25 degree angle. On the way, Nathan has explained the whole process to me and what I’ll be doing. The key is that nothing happens too quickly.
12:25am - Nathan digs me a pit to lie in behind the turtle. I crouch down on my belly, counter around my neck, thermacouple in my left hand and I wait. The crowd of tourists (only twelve) closed in the circle around the turtle. We wait in silence out of respect for this 900 lb creature who works so hard to continue the process of life.
12:31am - The magic happens and the lacrosse sized eggs start coming out, a foot in front of my face. She has covered her opening with her right flipper, so I place the counter in my right hand and gently push her flipper out of the way so the eggs drop clearly for me and for the tourists behind me.
12:34am - After a few eggs fall into the onion-shaped nest, I slide the end of the thermacouple into the eggs with my left hand and hold onto the connecting end so it won’t fall into the nest. All the while, my right hand clicks the counter as the eggs fall one, two or three at a time. “It’s so beautiful!” “Amazing!” “Ohhhhh!” These are a few of phrases I hear around me as I focus on my job. “I can’t see!” was another and I try to shift my body and head to accommodate.
12:45am - She is finishing up and the sags (empty, smaller eggs) are falling to create air space before she begins tapping piles of sand on top of the eggs. Scoop after scoop get piled on the 65 eggs that she laid. I watch this process for awhile and then we begins to pack up. I tie pink ribbon around the end of the thermacouple and string it away from the next so we can find it again later.
12:55am - Nathan and I continue our first leg of the patrol and immediately turn around so we can check on our first turtle on the way back.
1:10am - We arrive back at our turtle and she is in the process of camouflaging her nest. She really messes up the beach around her nest, so that it’s very unlikely to find the nest without actually seeing her in the process of laying. We continue on our patrol.
2:00am - We have arrived back at the nest and everyone is gone. We search for the ribbon, place a scrap piece of paper inside the film canister with all the pertinent information (date of laying, location, and scanned ID number) and mark the nest with a triangle of sticks. There are a hundred of these that are active on the beach right now. Their temperatures get measured every other day.
2:20am - Another turtle!!! Start the process over again.
2:40am - 4:30am - Patrolling our 1500m stretch - 20 minutes from one end to the other - 20 minute rest - back again - 20 minute rest
4:45am - We’re back in the truck heading towards the northernmost beach we patrol - Ventana - as this was not patrolled this evening.
5:00am - Nathan and I begin the walk back to the station. We see evidence of two nests; one leatherback and one black. Other than that, our 2km trip is quiet and uneventful. The sun is beginning to rise as we arrive back at the hatchery.
5:40am - A much needed shower, a bit of breakfast and more water (2 liters downed during the night).
6:00am - In bed at last. 12km of walking on the beach tonight. I’m pretty tired.
For photos and video: http://web.mac.com/dougbergstein/iWeb/Grades5_6/5th%20%26%206th%20Home.html