Monday, January 11, 2010

My World Tuesday #65: More From Topsail Island, and another Birthday Shout-Out


"Birthplace"
North Topsail Beach, NC - December 2009 (Click to embiggen)

Be a virtual tour guide on That's My World Tuesday

Before I get into what I was gonna talk about, I want to take a moment to wish a happy birthday to a dear blogger friend from Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, . Mona ji may not be enjoying this birthday very much however. She lost her husband Charles suddenly just before Christmas which finished off a rather troubling year all around. Mona, if you're listening bahin, know that there are many thoughts and prayers -- my own included -- with you today and all days. And I hope you can manage to enjoy this day to some extent despite everything. Be well, my friend.
We now return to our regularly scheduled My World Tuesday, already in progress.

While wandering along the beach at Topsail Island just before New Year's, and I came across this curiosity that may or may not be a sea turtle nesting site. Loggerheads and other species of Sea Turtles commonly nest on the island's beaches, and the staff and volunteers at the in Surf City Topsail Beach near Surf City (thanks ) will mark known nests with tape like this. But December is well outside the time of year for nesting and hatching, so this may have been roped of for an entirely different reason. The nesting season typically runs from May through August, and the eggs take roughly 60 days to hatch, so there shouldn't have been any such activity happening when we were there. But turtles do things in their own time.

Whether or not this was a sea turtle nest, the turtles are worth talking about. They're fascinating creatures, and a study in beating the odds. The adult female will crawl out of the surf (usually) in the dark of night to a point above the tide line and then dig a nest in the sand with her hind legs. Since sea turtles have fin-like legs suited to swimming, this is a pretty labor intensive task. Once the pit is dug, she will deposit a clutch of 100 or more eggs and then bury them. Her task done, she then heads back out into the ocean, leaving the young turtles to hatch on their own. She will not return to the nest, the hatchlings will make their own way to the ocean and begin a journey of hundreds of miles to the Sargasso Sea, hitching the occasional ride on a piece of flotsam.

It will take 20 years or more for these young turtles to reach maturity, and only about 1 in 1000 will survive that long. The females that do will begin the long swim back to the beach where they were born to repeat the cycle for the next generation. How they know where to go is anyone's guess. Why they'd go so far to grow up only to return to their birthplace is another mystery only the turtles know. Or maybe they don't know. Maybe they don't need to know.

Along the way, a great many will fall victim to predation, and that fight for survival begins quite literally from the time they crawl out of the nest. Humans have complicated the process by their very presence. The lights from houses or vehicles or night fishing can disorient both the mother in her nesting and the hatchlings in their return to the sea. This disorientation can lead them into the path of vehicular traffic or -- in the case of the hatchlings -- even being trampled underfoot by pedestrians. If the young turtles head in the wrong direction they can die of dehydration and exhaustion simply by going the wrong way. But even if they head in the right direction, the perils begin immediately. The ubiquitous "Ghost Crabs" that inhabit the beaches are a natural predator, and hatching season is an all-you-can-eat buffet. Once in the water, the young are vulnerable to predation by birds and fish of all sorts, and once again humans enter the picture with trawling nets and other fishing gear. The survivors however, can live to be over 100 years old. Only about 1 in 10,000 live to their full life expectancy.

The Sea Turtle Hospital in Surf City Topsail Beach near Surf City (thanks ) takes in the wounded turtles they find, repairs the damage and gets the ones that can be saved back on their flippers. The hospital is open to the public during the summer, but I wasn't aware of it when I was there last summer so I unfortunately don't have photos to share of their work. But stay tuned, I'll be back there again you can be sure.


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16 comments:

SandyCarlson said...

Beautiful shot of that area in front of Battery Park.

I enjoyed reading your rendition of the turtle story. There is something intensely poetic about the sublime journey the ladies make back to their birth site. They impress me every time I think about them.

lisaschaos said...

HOw cool! I wondered if you and Sandy had the op to meet up since I keep seeing Topsail on her blog too. :) Glad you guys did! I hope you see some turtles!! When we lived in Texas they talked of the sea turtles but I never saw any. :(

Gwendolyn L said...

This was a very interesting post. I didn't know all the history of the sea turtles. Thanks for the picture to remind us.

Carver said...

Great post and shot. Now you have me curious. Last time I was in Topsail which was a long time ago because lately I've been going to other NC beaches where family have houses, the Turtle hospital was in Topsail Beach. It was on the sound side across the parallel streets near the Jolly Rogers Motel, I think almost across the street from a book store that was there. So my question is has the hospital moved? I guess it has if they are in Surf City rather than in Topsail. Granted not a big move but I went to the Turtle hospital 3different times when it was in Topsail which is what makes me curious about the move.

Sylvia K said...

Great post as always, Mojo, and as always I learned things I didn't know before. Thanks for all the interesting information about the turtles! Fascinating and very moving!

Have a great week!

Sylvia

Eve said...

How interesting! I wonder how many are birthed in one location?

eileeninmd said...

Great post on the turtles. You had some great information. It would be cool to see them on the beach but I am glad they are protected and the area should be roped off.

Me and my puppies said...

We did much work with turtles while I was in College. Havesting and incubating eggs of the females which had became victim of automobiles. Later releasing them back to their home.

caughtbymycamera said...

A very interesting post and a great picture.

Mama Zen said...

I was so saddened when I learned of Mona's loss. I'll certainly visit.

Turtles are amazing!

itsnotjustapicture said...

the turtle journey is a special one and i enjoyed reading about it again :) have a fab week.
hugs

Sistertex said...

Excellent and very informative. Thank you!

Martha Z said...

Wonderful post, Mojo. Nature at its most wonderous.
It seems impossible that creatures know where to go even if they have never been there (as the Monarch butterflys) or if like the turtles they were newly hatched when they left a place years earlier.

magiceye said...

the image is so well composed
and the commentary alongside is so informative.

Helena said...

Beautiful post! Sea turtles are such amazing creatures. Have a great day!

lazyclick said...

Nice shot.