Friday, August 30, 2013

Sea Turtle Adventures at Sunset Beach

One magnificent aspect of spending time by the ocean is the daily encounters you have with the many beautiful creatures who call our North Carolina coastline home. I recently received a wonderful reminder of this from two of our former guests, Richie and Diane, who loved their time at Sunset Beach Bliss so much they came back to build their own "bliss" and settle down nearby as permanent residents. I discovered that Richie and Diane volunteer with the Sunset Beach Turtle Watch Program that is so active on our beaches, and they generously took the time to share their experiences (and these great photos) with me. And so I thought I would pass them along to our readers.

The Sunset Beach Turtle Watch Program (SSBTWP) is a private, nonprofit group who works to help Sea Turtles nesting on our beaches.  Richie and Diane have been volunteering with SSBTWP for quite a while, working hard to help patrol Sunset Beach in search of fresh turtle tracks.  Sea turtles (mainly Loggerheads) tend to lay their eggs on Sunset all through the Summer; so the volunteers are out walking the beach in the early mornings every day, rain or shine, from around Memorial Day weekend all the way through Labor Day - and sometimes even longer, if there are still some unhatched nests left.  Once volunteers discover a nest, they will mark it with wooden stakes and tape to keep others from disturbing it, and then keep an eye on it for the nearly 2 months it takes for the eggs to hatch.  Through their work as with SSBTWP, Richie and Diane now know the signs of a hatching, such as the presence of crabs or ants.  Then the arduous wait begins, which can last late into the night. Those participating in the wait check the nest for heat, depression and movement every 15 minutes, until time for the "boil," which is what Richie describes as the moment all the just-hatched baby turtles decide "let's get outta here!"  Then the fun begins, as Diane and Richie join the other volunteers, with gloves and special training on how to handle the babies safely, guiding all of these 100-plus, inch-and-a-half-long baby turtles from below the sand, along the trench (dug by volunteers earlier) and straight towards the surf.

Babies following the trench
to the sea
Even after helping with a boil, there is still lots to do, since SSBTWP volunteers also help with vital record-keeping, counting shells and the unhatched, and compiling the data for other organizations, since Sea Turtle preservation is a world-wide effort.  Keeping track of miles of beach, digging holes, and all those early mornings and late nights, makes for a lot of hours of hard work, which can really wear you out, Richie tells me. So more volunteers are always needed to help carry on.  But, as Richie and Diane's photos suggest, the incredible experience of attending a sea turtle boil makes all that exertion worthwhile!  To learn more about how you can help preserve the Sea Turtles of Sunset Beach, we encourage you to visit  Get involved, and maybe the next time you stay at Sunset Beach Bliss, you may be lucky enough to lend a hand yourself!

A mother turtle being released after her convalescence

Here's a video of a turtle nest boil:

Our friends also videotaped the release of a Mother Turtle being released after being treated for an injury or illness: