OBX Sea Turtles (2015) – Nest #5

OBX Sea Turtles (2015) – Nest #5


Remember how we have always said that the incubation period for loggerhead sea turtle eggs is generally 55-80 days? And how we always say that every nest is different and that there is always a surprise? After the surprise of seeing the female turtle laying her eggs, the second big surprise for Nest #5 was the sinkhole that appeared on Day 49 of incubation—way early!

It has been a warm summer and sea turtle eggs seem to develop faster with warm temperatures. We know with the appearance of a sinkhole that there are some turtles out of their eggs deep in the sand. Usually we have emergence of the hatchlings within a day of the sinkhole’s appearance, but a sinkhole can last for 4-7 days before the hatchlings emerge.

These turtles are playing a waiting game with us. For two days the hole has not changed. Every night Joe Tucker, a junior NEST volunteer, prepares the runway for the hatchlings. He does an incredibly great job and has even prepared a slide for them because there is a three-foot dropoff halfway to the sea. We do not want the turtles to get injured when taking a plunge. Nest volunteer Ray Griffin is busy educating visitors to prepare them for the excitement that is sure to come.

Because many of our visitors are so thrilled to be a part of this miracle of the sea, they ask how can they help. With pending emergence we have four requests of all visitors:

  • Please, no flashlights! The hatchlings are drawn to the brightest thing they can see, whether it be a flashlight, a cellphone screen, white sneakers, pants or shirts, even white hair. If they seek the wrong bright thing rather than the waves and light horizon, they will travel the wrong way, and could die of dehydration if they do not get to the sea. Or they may be stepped on, run over by a vehicle or eaten by a predator.
  • Please, no flash photography! To understand why, just see the request above. Use of a camera flash is considered harassments of an endangered species and is punishable by $100,000 in fines and/or a year in jail.
  • Please keep your feet on dry sand, as the little hatchlings frequently get washed back by the waves. If a person is on the wet sand they might step on the disoriented turtle. A size-11 foot would end the fantastic journey of a small hatchling.
  • Enjoy the show. There is no need for a camera. We promise that this memory will stay with you forever.

If everyone follows these simple rules we will have a successful emergence and all will enjoy this miracle of the sea as it unfolds.