Another Turtle Season

“For Toy the most beautiful time on Isle of Palms was October, when the evening air cooled and the wildflowers bloom purple and gold, bringing color again after months of sizzling heat… Toy linked arms with Cara. They stood together in the middle of the room, each lost in her thoughts as the ocean’s salty air whisked in through the open windows. Outside, the palm fronds bent in the wind, scraping the frame. Beyond, the sea oats clicked. Toy thought how another turtle season was over and the loggerheads were swimming off for a winter of foraging.”  (pgs. 455, 457-458; Swimming Lessons)

This cooler weather that rushed into the Lowcountry several days ago has also ushered in a reflective time for me. October marks the end of the six-month loggerhead sea turtle nesting season. My fellow Isle of Palms turtle team members and I have witnessed both breathtaking celebrations and heartbreaking disappointments.

One disappointing moment happened near the end of this season. A few of us gathered before the day’s first light to watch the loggerhead hatchlings emerge from one of the last two remaining nests on the island. That morning, only a few hatched from their sand dune nest. Oftentimes, there are more than 100 eggs in a nest. Those few hatchlings were noticeably weak as they struggled toward their ocean home. I quietly grieved as I watched the reality of nature. Some make it. These would not and my heart can handle that.

Most tragic though, is when I witness or read about hatchlings that don’t make it to the ocean because they got disoriented by artificial light. Beachfront homes, street lamps and even flashlights can outshine the moonbeams reflected off the ocean. Hatchlings look for that celestial light but the artificial lights lead them astray.

It happens all too often. This year, the SC Department of Natural Resources Marine Turtle Conservation Program received 34 reports of loggerhead hatchlings getting disoriented. There were 23 the previous year. In other words, that adds up to the preventable deaths of thousands of sea turtles.

What can you do to help? Whether you’re a visitor or resident of South Carolina’s beaches, next time you’re on the shore think of the simple ways you can help the threatened species. Minimize beachfront lighting and avoid using flashlights, lanterns and cameras on the beach. Leave only your footprints at the beach. The sea turtles can mistake trash for food. Fill in any holes you dig to help prevent turtles and hatchlings from getting stranded in them.

To learn more, visit the SC Department of Natural Resources Marine Turtle Conservation Program website.

1 comment:

  1. That is one of the most important things I have taken from your books...the lights left on that disorient the hatchlings. You educate so many and I have learned so much. I remember the scene where the hatchlings are headed to the highway and Flo calls everyone to get them out and helping (Swimming Lessons). You write so much truth in your fiction. Thank you for that.


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