Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Turtle Walk

Last night Hannah, Lydia, Miriam and I got away to learn about some of the most amazing creatures, sea turtles.

We traveled back to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for another walk on the trail where we spied an alligator and turtle. The vegetation is breathtaking.

At 8 pm we attended a workshop by the National Park Ranger about the three types of sea turtles currently nesting on the Space Coast. These are currently either threatened or endangered.
This turtle would be considered on the smaller side.

It is currently nesting season here. At night these turtles, ranging from 500 to 1500 pounds, make their way from the ocean to the shore and then up a sand dune. With their bellies they test the sand. If it is the right temperature and consistency of wet and dry then they make a "bed". They use the smooth underside of their shell to smooth out the sand and make a pit by rubbing it back and forth for about 20 minutes.

Next ,they dig a perfectly cylindrical hole with their back flippers and pile the excess sand to the side. When the hole reaches it's complete depth anywhere from 5 to 10 feet she begins to lay the eggs. Each turtle will dig the exact size hole for the number of eggs she will lay.

The eggs which look like ping pong balls are are jelly like in consistency. Therefore, they do not break on as they fall. In one night she will leave behind as many as 100 eggs. When finished, the mama turtle in an opposite motion uses her back flippers to cover over the eggs with the sand from the piles. After packing the sand down firmly, she makes her way back to the ocean to return another night to do it all again.

In about 60-70 days the baby turtles will emerge from the eggs, climb over one another, break through the sand, follow the sounds and white of the nighttime surf and crawl into the sea. From there the babies will swim for 48 hours to an ocean stream where they will protected by the sea grass and grow to adulthood.

1 in 1000 hatchlings make it to breeding age. The female turtles will return to the same shore on which they were born and continue the process. Incredible.

After the class the ranger took us down to the beach. No lights. Untouched beach. Bright moon. The Big dipper. A million biting bugs. (Note to self: Organic bug repellent tastes good to many kinds of flying bugs. Beware.)

We saw a turtle that had begun making her bed. But when digging in the sand she found it too wet. She returned to the sea. This is called a "false crawl". We waited for about another hour hoping to see the real thing only to have another false crawl. This was likely due to the wetter then usual conditions and the lightning in the distance.

Watching her going out to sea I couldn't help but be astounded by the fact that God's creation is perfectly designed. Every night all over the world in places that are unseen by human eyes, animals as these fulfill what God has created them to do for His purposes and for His pleasure.

I felt it a privilege to see last night just a glimpse of how it is that His World brings Him glory.


Heather L. said...

Wow! i would have loved to have joined you for that! How fascinating!!!

mom24 said...

Wow! The photos are great! I am never less than amazed at the wonders of God's creation. We can see His PERFECTION in everything!

Catherine said...

How neat!

Saralyn said...

Have you been reading Edith Schaffer? :~) Creation displays His glory!

Tisha said...

Simply amazing...

eally said...

We try to vacation at the beach every year normally in late July which is when the baby turtles are hatching. We have been able to witness some of them hatching and then followed their journey from the nest to the was an awesome sight seeing all these tiny baby sea turtles flopping around trying to get to the water. Sounds like ya'll are having a really marvelous time!

mindi said...

wow - that would have been amazing. You guys are having a fantastic experience!