“Hello, turts! That’s what turtles is for short.”
Turtle day had been much anticipated, especially as it had been postponed. After a lecture and a few glimpses (and the case of mistaken identity when we temporarily caught one in our ray net), we were eager to see one close-up. The weather seemed fair as we left in the boats, but by the time we arrived at our target creek, the clouds had rolled in.
It began to rain heavily. Usually, we’d be running for shelter or huddling under waterproofs, but on this exposed beach dressed in wetsuits, we let the rain fall where it would. With lightning flashing in the distance, it was deemed too dangerous for us to go out looking for turtles. We were left on the beach while the crew went hunting without us.
All things considered, we were in pretty good spirits. We did a spot of beachcombing in the rain, collecting shells and litter, then played a sandy game of duck-duck-goose. A few times, we saw a turtle swim by and all crashed into the water to try and catch it with our bare hands. Thanks to our “stingray formation”, we often came close enough to touch them, but sadly couldn’t wow the boat crew with our very own turtle!
They eventually returned triumphant with two turtles! Both juvenile greens, these got the standard treatment of being measured and weighed. These two were already tagged, meaning today’s data can be added to information already existing on these individuals. Biodegradable tape was added to the tags, to signify that they had recently been caught. This will prevent them from being captured and measured again, until sufficient time has passed for them to have grown enough for this to be worthwhile.
Further data collection was planned with the drone. In future, this will monitor the distance at which a turtle gets spooked and swims away from snorkelers – this can influence guidelines helping tourists to minimise disturbance to wildlife. For now, it recorded the turtles swimming away after we released them. We headed back to the boat and returned to campus before the next storm hit!
Cape Eleuthera being a zero-waste campus, we had to find a way to dispose of yesterday’s dissected ray. The sharks at the marina seemed an obvious choice, especially since many people were still hoping to tick bull sharks off their lists! We cycled over, with buckets of fishy remains hanging from handlebars. Our old friend the nurse shark was there, and a few remoras… then, there was a bull shark! Far chunkier than the nurse and a more typical ‘shark’ shape, this was an exciting addition to our species lists!
This evening’s entertainment was a documentary called Chasing Coral. It followed a team of scientists and cameramen trying to document coral bleaching, so as to better communicate to the public the catastrophe that is happening in our oceans. Studying marine biology, the threats to coral reefs – rising temperatures and ocean acidity caused by excess production of carbon dioxide – are very familiar to me. This documentary still managed to surprise me, though, with just how dire the situation is. They very reasonably predicted that most reefs could be lost within the next 30 years, and managed to show corals dying as we watched. Moving past the gloomy outlook, though, it was an engaging documentary well worth a watch. We left with a renewed determination to help save our reefs.