The above title is the beginning lyrics of my favorite Jimmy Buffett song. I was reminded of it this weekend when I had the joy of witnessing baby turtles make their way from their nest to the ocean. They had the Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol to coax them along the way and a crowd of beach-goers to cheer them on. Sometimes they were turned in the wrong direction and the turtle patrol had to pick them up and position them toward the water. The little creatures, no bigger than a vanilla wafer, had to use their flippers to scramble as hard as they could to make it into the sea. It was frustrating to watch them navigate so close to the water only to have a big wave crash ashore and push them further back onto the beach. When they were finally claimed by Mother Ocean, we all clapped and cheered. In fact, we saw 34 turtles make it to their new home!
The tiny babies were hatched on land and yet made their way into the vast ocean water. So tiny and vulnerable. A nice meal for a bird or a crab. Many do not survive. But predators are not their only threat. Humans also pose a problem. Over development of ocean properties is one reason. The lights from beachfront homes and streetlights can cause them to be disoriented and go toward the light instead of the sea, using up all their energy and becoming easy prey. Fishing is another threat when they get caught in trawl nets. Oil spills, chemicals, and fertilizers that end up in the ocean destroy their feeding habitats or deplete the ocean of needed oxygen. Over the years, climate change will cause sea levels to rise and cover beaches where the eggs are hatched. It is interesting to note that female turtles return to the same beach to lay their eggs. The fluctuation of temperature can also determine the sex of the hatchings. You can learn more about the cycle of turtles on the Sea Turtle Conservancy website. I think you will find it as fascinating as I did. Go to: http://www.conserveturtles.org/seaturtleinformation.php.
Photo courtesy of Deidre Poles Wilson