Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chance encounter on the beach







No one was suppose to be on the pier so early in the morning but as the last day of vacation was about to begin I simply could not sleep and needed some fresh air. Standing on Disney's Vero Beach resort pier jutting out rather high over that Florida beach I looked out at the ocean and despite the light pollution coming from asinine landscape lighting illuminating the ornamental shrubs and fancy lawns of nearby homes I was actually able to make out a little of the stars of the Milky Way stretching out above me. Just moments before I had left stuffy the room I was sharing with my wife and daughter and sought escape from the dehumidified air and a few minutes to myself before the new day begun.

Only a few short hours separated me from my daughter, Miss Wiggles, waking up and demanding one last trip to the resort pool. A few hours after that my wife, Dragonwife, would be up and racing time itself to have everything packed so we could be back on the road. Admittedly, we did have to drop by her parent's house on the way home to pick up our son who had elected to stay with his grandparents instead of going with us to Florida. Being totally cut off from his friends and forced to walk the streets of Mouse Land with nerdy parents and a six year old sister was something he just could not handle.

Despite my best efforts I just could not find any joy in returning home. The last couple days had been spent next the blue Atlantic ocean and I could actually feel my soul again connecting with the ocean surf, soft warm sand, and salty breezes that shared so much in common with the area around my old hometown, Georgetown, South Carolina. I had also found the people of the Vero Beach area laid back, warm, and friendly. Now living in Columbia, South Carolina, both the distance from the coast and the demands of job and family left me as landlocked as some poor fool trapped in the middle of a dry and desolate continent thousands of miles from the ocean.
Making things more interesting the tightly packed and controlled conditions associated with suburban sprawl, traffic overloading the roadways, and general frantic pace of life in the Midlands of South Carolina made it a strange place that I never have felt comfortable in or at home. So using all five of my senses I did my best to soak up all that was around me so I could have memories to cling to when the promise of modern American life started to ring hollow again.

It was still very dark and I don't remember the moon being up but after several minutes my eyes adjusted I did begin to notice some sort of movement on the sand below me along with hearing muffled sounds. It was very easy to notice over the last couple of days that the resort had played host to several newly married couples on their honeymoons. They had made quite the spectacles of themselves with their amorous behavior around the pool and I figured that I had stumbled on a very early morning fling in the sand. As I was about to back away to give the couple their privacy some deeply sad moan caught my attention, almost demanding I come closer to the source of the movement. I walked down the handicap access ramp of the pier, climbing over the security gate, to the bottom as quietly as my rubber sandals walking on the windblown sand scattered across the wooden slats would let me. I questioned the judgment of my actions but whatever sound I heard was not that of orgasmic joy but something more akin to someone in deep mourning. Coming to the end of the ramp I found the source of the sadness.

At the very base of the ramp a female Leatherback turtle was filling in the nest in which she had just laid her eggs. Despite my attempt at being as quiet as possible I'm sure Mama Turtle had heard my approach but she continued to calmly fill the nest in. We had been fully briefed upon arrival to the resort that disturbing, or even coming near, one of these endangered animals could get someone in serious trouble. But curiosity had the better of me and I slowly moved closer. Mama turtle paid me no mind and I watched her huge flippers scoop sand back into the hole below her. She was at least six feet long and her skin was a shiny black. Her motions as sand was moved were slow and deliberate and she seemed as tired as she seemed ancient.

It was then that I felt a strange kinship with the creature in front of me. We would both soon leaving a place we would rather be. Millions of years of physical evolution and deep instinct were pushing Mama Turtle back to the sea and away from her children. I, on the other hand, would soon be forced away from the ocean I felt so much a part of because of the need to return my children to the place they call home.

All during this I had not moved a muscle, hell I was so transfixed I barely breathed watching her. However, once the hole that now protected her nestlings was covered Mama turtle seemed to collapse in exhaustion. I knew there was nothing I could do for her no matter how much the kid in me wished I could load her up on some sort of cart and give her a ride to the welcoming ocean.

Just when I started to get worried I caught sight of her making very small movements with her flippers trying to get some traction in the loose sand. Mama Turtle seemed like some train moving out of a station building up steam as she moved along. Straining to move forward she lifted her head in such a way that the gleam of some far off light reflected off her eye facing me. Somewhere deep down I could feel she was appraising me, trying to figure out if I was a threat to her or to the eggs she had just laid.

"Rest easy old mama", I said. " I won't bother you or your children." She hesitated for an instant, whether it was out of fear or surprise I have no idea. Whatever the case, she turned her head away from me and slowly crawled back to the shore and in the darkness slipped into the water and swam away.

***Author's note: What brought me to write about this encounter was a recent story that was ran across several sources about how Leatherbacks are being killed due to ingestion of plastics. Plastic bags, spoons, monofilament line, candy wrappers and more. These creature have been on the planet for one-hundred fifty million years and the arrogance and ignorance of hairless primates with delusions of grandeur now seriously threaten them. Please read the linked article and for God's sake clean up your freaking trash from off the beaches that so many leave blowing in the wind.***


Plastic Found in One-Third of Leatherback Turtles

April 9, 2009 -- Leatherback turtles are ancient creatures with a modern problem: Plastic.

A new study looked at necropsy reports of more than 400 leatherbacks that have died since 1885 and found plastic in the digestive systems of more than a third of the animals. Besides plastic bags, the turtles had swallowed fishing lines, balloon fragments, spoons, candy wrappers and more.

Plastic was probably not the cause of death in most cases. Nevertheless, the study is an important wake-up call for a growing garbage problem.

"Eating something that is plastic can't be good for you, whether it leads to death or not," said Mike James, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. "It's not what they should be eating. And it's kind of scary that it is showing up in their diet to the extent that it is."

Leatherbacks are also popular for what they eat: namely, large quantities of jellyfish. The problem is that plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish, and plastic often ends up in the oceans, piling up in areas where currents -- and turtles -- converge. That led James to wonder how much often the turtles were swallowing plastic in their hunt for yummy jellyfish.

17 comments:

Colonel Colonel said...

Beautiful story, and yet another wake-up call about trash, especially plastic trash. Around here here is a push on to get plasti bags out of grocery stores- even Stop & Shop (NE chain) is selling re-usable canvas bags very cheaply ($1), and at our Co-op you get a small % off your bill for bringing your own re-usable bag for your groceries. Small steps (turtle steps?) but it all helps, I suppose.

Leigh of Bloggeritaville said...

How awesome.....and sad at the same time. I wish people would realize the great affect they make on the world with a piece of trash. It is devistating.
The turtle though, how cool to have been a witness.
Hope you are well!

Leigh of Bloggeritaville said...

Ps, I have said before but I will say again, you are an amazingly gifted wrtier. You really can paint the story.

Randal Graves said...

Another great story, perfect foil to the Evils of Man you ended with. Look people, PICK UP YOUR TRASH. It really isn't difficult.

I think of that tale of the giant vortex of garbage in the ocean that got about 8.2 seconds of airtime. Out of sight, out of mind. Terrible.

MadMike said...

I loved this story, but like your other readers, found it immeasurably sad. The destruction of our earth by man will only end when man himself is destroyed. If the polar icecaps do indeed melt completely as predicted, and a lot sooner than anyone thought, that destruction is certain indeed.

lime said...

what a magical encounter, what an amazing opportunity. there is a beach in trinidad that is a known sea turtle spot. years ago people used to go to watch. i don't know if that has been restricted or not. years ago it was also an unspoiled beach with no amenites. i hope that has not changed either.

Beach Bum said...

Colonel: We are trying to get into the habit of using reusable bags here. But really ticks me off is to see people come to the beach, have a picnic, then leave all sorts of trash mixed in the sand. Can't tell you how many times I've seen people just try to bury it then walk off.

Leigh: Mama Turtle was quite the sight. I must add that the picture is one I got off Google. Didn't bring my camera and even if I had I wouldn't have used it, might have scared her.
Thanks for the compliment about my writing. I'll be honest and ask to be excused for the typos. I reread the thing three times, corrected what I found, went to bed and found more. Drives me crazy.

Randal: Yeah, if it ain't garbage its all the chemicals flowing into the ocean from little suburban shits absolutely wanting that pretty green lawn to show off.
It still the same thing, no air time on the nightly news. But you sure as hell will hear the latest on Octomom.

MadMike: I think Mother Earth will cull us down a great bit before long. Bird Flu, a nasty contagious Ebola, or some renegade gene engineer with delusions of Godhood will let something loose.
I really have no desire to see humanity walk like a dinosaur into oblivion, it would be nice though if we pulled our collective heads out our asses and realize with almost seven billion people on the planet you can't continue with the same social and economic paradigm. Oh no, does that make me a socialist? Glen Beck will be come burn my house down in one of his tea parties. I may need to go borrow one of my brother's AK's.

Beach Bum said...

Lime: From what I've read Leatherbacks and other turtles (I guess) eat jellyfish helping to control there numbers. So even Limbaugh and Beck types should be able to figure out that destruction of breeding habitat for sea turtles will cause their numbers to fall even faster allowing more jellies to sting their sorry asses.
It would be in the best interest of most for large sections of beaches to be restricted so sea turtle numbers would have a better chance to increasing. Now I understand this does not take into account dangers turtles face like plastics on the seas, pollution, and Joe Numbnuts drunk on the high seas fishing.
But I know from first hand reports most coastal developers don't give a damn about the environment, just closing a deal.

Keshi said...

u wrote it so beautifully BB! I got all teary.

On this planet, there r only very FEW ppl who truly care abt one another let alone animals! So Im not surprised, yet I feel very sad.


Keshi.

Dusty said...

I got weepy reading this..and then outright bawled when I read about the fucking plastic killing these noble creatures.

Beach Bum said...

Keshi and Dusty: It is beyond my ability to write to properly describe what it was to be next that magnificent creature. While I have no delusions of their intelligence as compared to humans I still felt something was "there". Then again I have serious questions at whether humans are actually an intelligent species.

Keshi said...

I agree BB.

Humans may be intelligent but I cannot say that they r any more intelligent than animals. Cos it's humans that do all damages to the environments and nature. Not animals.


**I still felt something was "there".

I like how u put it! u gave a voice to the poor creatures' thoughts while living in the midst of human madness.

Keshi.

Beach Bum said...

Keshi: It still really puzzles me that how a creature that has out lasted the dinosaurs now so suddenly faces extinction because of us. It hard not to feel that we will pay a price for how badly we have screwed the planet up in our very short time on it.

giggles said...

Hey.... I've missed your comments over at Utah's place....but when I saw ya there, I had to jump here...and look what I find! We vacation in Oak Island, NC and they have nesting turtles there... They have a very active protection program there...and my daughter is doing her 6th grade study project on sea turtles....(big deal...lots of research, talk for 45 minutes...!)
I wasn't sure from your post if this experience was recent or in the past, but I am wondering if it was recent.... Could you notify some kind of watch group that might be monitoring the Vero Beach area? Let them know where she laid her nest? I can imagine there might be some kind of conservation group you could contact??!!

One of my bucket list goals is to watch sea turtles hatching....We will be in Oak Island the end of July for 2 weeks... I'm very hopeful...and what an experience for my kids, too....

Very cool story!

PS. Does your wife know your nickname for her??!!

Beach Bum said...

Giggles: These events happened about two years ago. The resort we were staying at is owned by Disney and they control about a half mile strip of the beach the property sits on.

They actually have at least a staff of two people whose responsibility it is to identify nest sites then restrict tampering by posting signs and taping off the area around the nest.

As I wrote in the post about two hours later I was up and going to the pool with my daughter. The turtle staff had already found the nest and marked it off.

As for my wife knowing her nickname the short and uncomplicated answer would be yes. The longer answer would be yes as well but she never reads or has shown the slightest interest in my posts. For her and my in-laws who are unrepentant conservative republicans WASP's who last had an nonconformists thought about twenty years ago I am a strange Neanderthal-like curiosity they rarely admit to knowing.

giggles said...

Good to know about the turtle conservation team..

Funny about the spouse... Someone on her blog refers to her husband as DH.... Now I have a step-sister who refers to her ex as DH as in dickhead...so when i read that blog I'm thinkin dh in a bad way..but no! He's "Darling Husband!" How sweet!

There are names I would like to call mine, and I would love to talk about some marriage stuff.... But, even though I don't think he has any interest in my blog whatsoever, I cannot bring myself to do it.... I have a few friends IRL who visit and it would be way tmi.... I live vicariously and get support from others blogs.....

Melvin said...

Really ....you are an amazingly gifted wrtier. You really can paint the story......



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Melvin
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