Sea Turtle Boil!

Second attempt to see sea turtle hatchlings…my sister and I checked the website that documents sea turtle nests along the coast of South Carolina.  We looked at the ones close to where we were staying, and Edisto Beach had a high concentration.  So that’s where we went!  There were 39 public beach entrances.  We randomly picked #8, and spent the afternoon enjoying the ocean.   I trekked up and down the beach, checking on nest sites.  The beaches are monitored by hundreds of volunteers, who watch for tracks from mother loggerhead turtles who drag their bodies up the sand to lay their eggs.  Then the nest are marked, and when they get close to their potential hatch date, they put up plastic runners to help steer the little ones to the sea.  Baby turtles are guided mostly by light–the moon reflecting on the water is a beacon to them.  Which means, so are streetlights,  porch lights, etc.  The runners help lessen the chance that they get lost.

We stayed and enjoyed the sunset, and then decided to call it a day.  I decided to pop over and check the closest nests one last time…and the sand, which was previously flat, was indented!  Which I knew meant that the turtles underneath were moving!  Before I could grab my sister, a lady in a Turtle Patrol t-shirt walked up with her red flashlight, checked the nest, and said, “Yep!  This one is ready!”  I ran down the beach, half laughing, half sobbing (because, yes, I am that geeky) and hollering to my sister to get up here!!!

Then we waited.   Every once and awhile, the sand would heave, being pushed up from underneath.  A small crowd gathered, and the Turtle Lady gave instructions on what to do when the boil happened.

It is very important that no one use white lights.  It is very bad for the turtles–it disorients them and messes with their navigation!  The photos you see here that are black and white were red, and were converted to black and white at home.  No flashes!!!  And remember, these are protected by law…don’t disturb the nests or babies!

These turtles stayed very still on the surface for over an hour–in fact the Turtle Lady put on a glove and touched one to make sure it was alive!  We were getting a little anxious, because a massive thunderstorm was moving in and the wind was picking up.

Then, all of the sudden, turtles just came rushing up!  Now I understand why they call it a boil.  It literally looks like a pot of water about to boil over.

I love this shot.  The photo was almost pitch black in my viewfinder.  It wasn’t till I messed with it in Photoshop that I saw there were images at all!

I heard someone exclaim, “An Albino!!!”  This is the only (sort of) shot I got of it.  In the above photo–upper left, just above center.  It was really dark, people.  I wish I had a faster camera, or night vision, or something!  And once they went, they went FAST.  I would say ten, fifteen minutes tops from the rush out of the nest to the sea.  But what a fabulous experience.  I am still in awe.

Once the nest was really going, the Turtle Lady instructed one person to take a white light and stand between the turtles and the ocean, to guide them.  She became the pied piper!

Right after they were gone, the wind and the rain and the lightning came!  Fortunately, we were able to take shelter at one of the families houses who had witnessed the hatching with us.  There were warnings on television to stay indoors!

This was a major bucket list item for me.  And whenever I emailed anyone who was involved in sea turtle conservation and preservation about witnessing this, they told me what a random event a hatching is, and not to be too disappointed if I didn’t get to see one.  Eggs hatch anywhere from 45 to 60 days from the time they are laid, depending on the temperature conditions.  I was extremely fortunate.  God is good!



~ by collidescopes on August 19, 2012.

2 Responses to “Sea Turtle Boil!”

  1. hey i was one of the guys at the hatching this was truly one of the coolest thinggs ive seen… im the one who saw thwe albino first and the son of the shepherd family although you probably dont remember me

    • I think it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen too! And I remember! You have all the pictures, right? I got to photograph some turtles during the day and I will be getting those up soon, so check back!

      Definately something I will cherish for the rest of my life!


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