Monday, June 15, 2009

World Sea Turtle Day and Dr. Archie Carr

NOTE: This is a repeat of a 2009 posting celebrating World Sea Turtle Day. Today is the day, the CCC has changed its name to Sea Turtle Conservancy, but Dr. Carr's legacy and the beauty of the sea turtle remain unchanged. I've also added a couple of links in Reference Links.

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of Dr. Archie Carr's birth. His legacy includes the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, named in his honor. Fifty years ago, Dr. Carr was the founding scientific director of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), and the CCC has issued an excellent Centennial Tribute to him, penned by folks that know what they are talking about - David Godfrey, Executive Director, Caribbean Conservation Corporation; Charlie Pelizza, Refuge Manager, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge; Paul Tritaik, Refuge Manager, J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The CCC web site also includes a brief biography about Dr. Carr written after his death in 1987. (See Links below - both are fine reading.) As a further honor, CCC has designated June 16 as World Sea Turtle Day. (Photo from CCC web site.)

I went on a sea turtle walk with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society (STPS) last Tuesday night. We met at the Melbourne Beach Community Center at 9:00 p.m. and watched a very informative slideshow for 45 minutes. There were about 20 visitors, most of them a group from out of town, and several volunteers. While we were getting educated, spotters were out on the beach with their night vision scopes looking for sea turtles preparing to nest. As soon as Dave Hochberg, our STPS guide, heard that a nester had been located, we all drove a few blocks down to Ocean Park. We walked down the beach a ways, waiting until the spotters were sure the turtle was fully engaged in laying her eggs so that we would not spook her, then gathered in nature's delivery room under a full moon to watch. There were several children in the crowd, and they hunkered down close to the nest in awe. (I know they were in awe, because they were quiet and didn't move - that's awe!) Flash photography is not allowed during night nestings, but Jim Angy's photo shows a daytime nesting Loggerhead (be sure to click to enlarge).

It took about 30 minutes for our Loggerhead turtle to complete dropping about 100 eggs into the hole she had dug. I took my videocam with night video to test it out - it actually worked quite well, considering my skills. However, I did not get a good shot of the hole full of eggs, so Donna kindly provided this STPS photo to show you what it looks like. (Jim has just gotten some great new daytime nester photos that he's bringing over tomorrow, so there will be plenty of sea turtle pix in the days to come.)

When the egg laying phase was complete, we all backed away and watched as our turtle covered the nest, turned around, and headed back to the ocean. There was applause as she eased herself into the water, and a lot of smiling faces (including the turtle's, I would think). The folks from Ohio and Indiana will have a good story to tell when they get back home.

So as we honor Dr. Carr on Tuesday, let us also honor the organizations and volunteers that work in behalf of these "ancient mariners." The Centennial Tribute included these words: But to truly honor Archie Carr, one need only take up the cause for protecting wildlife and wild places. With a little effort to darken the beach during nesting season, to support land and marine conservation efforts, and to support research and education, we can all contribute to sea turtle conservation. Archie would be very proud.

My thanks to Dave, Roger, and the STPS volunteers who made Tuesday night so special for a bunch of folks, including me. Archie would be very proud.


Cactus Jack Splash said...

Amazing, for some reason I find sea turtles some of nature's more glorious creatures...well actually all turtles.


Thanks for the work trying to save the sea turtles. We have similar programs here on the Texas side of the Gulf for the Kemp Ridley's and it is so interesting! Beautiful creatures and so worth every effort! I will have to visit your refuge someday on my east Florida travel route!

Misti said...

I volunteered with STPS for a summer about six years ago. I loved it! I always wondered if Dave was still there!