We are nearing the end of our wonderful experience at the Goldring Research Center here and need to make these last 18 hours count by squeezing in as much as possible. Our trusty van has broken down so we all pile into the truck bed of the small well-used vehicle and take a very dusty ride back to Tike's Place for another great breakfast. After we finish our meals and take the last sips of our coffee, we pile back into the truck and speed back to the center to get ready for our afternoon of snorkeling and swimming. We will be heading to a remote beach that is located at the northern end of the area we have been patrolling nightly.
After we were dropped off, we walked about 20 minutes to get to a very private and beautiful area. We are joined by the parents of several of the other biologists so we have a fun group that is anxious to hit the beach. After a 20 minute walk, we arrive at a beautiful black sandy beach that only has a few fishermen on it. Snorkels and masks are prepared and then it is time to dive into the water. Many people come with experience yet many are beginners so needless to say, there is a lot of laughter as everyone is trying to figure out how to negotiate the waves and get into the surf. There were many beautiful fish to see including a puffer fish plus it was a great time to just play, relax, swim, and enjoy each other's company.
After we dried off, we went exploring in the numerous tide pools. It was great having Lauren, one of our expert biologists with us to help in identifying all types of native saltwater sea creatures that we found. After 3 hours in the sun and surf , it was time to head back to the center for our last night of patrolling and the hope of seeing that allusive leatherback turtle.
Before dinner, we all gathered back to the beach to all enjoy the sunset together and to snap photos of our friends. We also got to be take a belly dancing lesson by our 4th volunteer and teammate Lynsey Williams. She is a veterinary nurse from the UK that sends her samples to the IDEXX lab in Weatherby so we all had a lot in common. She also manages to find time to be in a belly dancing troupe so she was gracious enough to show us some of her beautiful moves. She had a few willing students that tried to master the Egyptian dance but I don't think they will be ready to join the troupe just yet.
It was a very quiet evening for all of us but the highlight for Dale and Carol was the opportunity to release a bucket of leatherback hatchlings into the high tide. We strolled down to an area that was approximately 9 yards from the water and slowly tipped the bucket to release the anxious creatures. Some know immediately what to do and headed directly towards the incoming waves. Others struggle, turning circles, and were disorientated but eventually caught on and headed into the crashing waves. We tried to follow the little black specks with limited night vision, but it didn't take long for them to disappear into their new life. It was very fulfilling for both us to witness the start of this great adventure for them. The survival rate is only 1 in 1000 but we both had good feelings that our little hatchlings would beat the odds. We then headed back to the hatchery to stare at the stars and reflect on the wonderful experience we have just had. We are very grateful to IDEXX Laboratories for giving us this extra time off (our PGL) and that we were physically strong enough to take on this task.
There are many jobs while patrolling the beach besides watching for potential nesting turtles and these biologists are all trained well for any experience that might happen. Because it is a national beach and it is nesting season, it is closed from 6 pm to 5 am and no one is allowed on the beach. Many people are unaware of this so when the biologists spot someone, they need to approach them and explain the rules. During our final night, we encountered strolling lovers, curious tourists with many questions, and people who have done a little too much partying and didn't know how to get off of the beach. The biologists also need to keep an eye out for potential poachers, stray dogs, and of course the raccoons. We were all very impressed with the entire team, not only for their knowledge and passion for their work, but their bravery to walk miles in total darkness and to keep the beaches free from types of potential harm.