Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas on the Beach. 12-25-2016

Just because it's a holiday, it doesn't mean turtles are going to take a day off. It has been a skeleton crew doing turtle duty around the holidays and they needed volunteers to step up so Andrea and I took the big beach for Christmas morning. Up at 4:30, breakfast, drive to the Cape... hell, we got there a half hour before high tide, which was to come in at 8:30.

It was windy but not too cold... the car read 41° when we parked and the sun was coming in quickly. The waves were pretty heavy; we were probably going to get turtles.

The sad thing is, anything that comes in this late is dead. The day before, however, two Loggerheads were alive so we might not just be on clean-up crew. Something might be alive. Our first turtle was a Kemp's who was definitely not alive.
These little guys just can't survive this late into the season. There hasn't been a live one found in weeks.

A little past the half-way point, there was a large lump... a Loggerhead just at the high-tide line.
This big guy was supple but unresponsive. My eye-poking test didn't really yield any results that were obvious.
But we treated him like he was alive. You never know.

I'd always heard a lot about Christmas Seals and and how they raise funds for charity but I'd never seen them until this day!

We were about 3/4 of a mile from the point, about 2 1/2 miles out, when we saw this lump about 20 feet above last night's high tide line.
Pretty little Loggerhead but he was stiff and obviously dead. Who knows how long he had been there. Still, we covered him up.

About 100 yards from him, a small Kemp's that I had walked right past was half buried in sand at the high tide line.

That was that... we were at the tip of the point and it was time to head back. We had our sled with us so getting these far away turtles wasn't going to be a huge problem.
Still about 50 lbs of turtles, though. They got heavy pretty quickly.

We got a call from the sanctuary... our friends Tim and Kim were coming out to meet us to help get the other turtles. Yay! But they were still a way off and we came upon the first Loggerhead quicker than expected. There was absolutely no way I could do it. The guy in the sled already was 40 lbs or so... this other guy was easily 70 lbs. Oh well, what is turtle duty without a little bit of insanity?
OK, this was pretty dumb. I had to go incredibly slow and it was a real slog. I might have gone a quarter mile tops, but had to stop. Over 100 lbs of turtle was too much even for my tenacity (stupidity?). Tim and Kim were within sight, along with another volunteer named Charlie. We finally all got together and divvied up turtles.

Charlie headed back out to the point to see if the receding tide would reveal anyone else. Kim took the 40 lb. Loggerhead and left us in the dust! She was sick but still disappeared way ahead of us. That left me and Tim with the 70 lb fella and the Kemp's.

You know, if I'm going to torture someone on Christmas Day, it might as well be people that I like! I resisted the urge to do the "Guess what Santa has in his sack for you today... dead turtles!" Tim took over solo for a while.

Eventually, we had just the 70 lb guy on the sled, a Kemp's in my backpack and the other in Andrea's arms. It was very tough going through the wet sand. Tim and I pulled the sled together, fused at the elbow as the rope tightened, and took breaks every 100 yards or so. Luckily, both of us were well beyond the macho "I can do this with no breaks" stage... our legs were jelly and we had to stop to reoxygenate and switch sides. It took a while, but we finally made it. Kim was at the car wondering what had taken so long! A couple of wimps.

We took all of our turtles to the sanctuary to a warm(er) holding room. The big Loggerhead was still supple but I'm not going to hold my breath for its survival. Still, we'll do necropsies on these turtles come February and March, so we can still learn from them. One other (small) Loggerhead was sharing the room with our four.

So, that was our Christmas. We headed over to Malden after and got there at about 3:30 PM, ate too much, then got home and had a quiet little Christmas by ourselves.

Not a bad day, really. The aches and pains weren't as bad as expected. I hope Tim and Kim feel the same way!


  1. heros
    and i wonder if you could put a sorta v shaped rope and a wooden (large ) dowel and put the dowel across both of your or across your body to pull
    sorta like a regular harness for a draft horse to distribute the weight as to not harm one of your joints while you folks are hauling turtles in

    1. We're thinking up some ways to make it easier. Some kind of Ox harness-styled thing.

  2. Our two loggerheads were very dead the next morning. Oh well, we made a grand effort. My legs still hurt but I'm really glad we did it. Happy New Year, Tim & Kim