Nest of surprises
BARBADOS and its Sea Turtle Project delivered a parting gift to the world’s youngest PADI master diver on Monday.
It came in the form of a late-season nest of Hawksbill hatchlings defying the possibility that all the visitors would see were egg shells and possibly “stragglers”.
Facilitated by the University of the West Indies-based project, field director Dr Darren Browne and volunteer Carla Daniel took British visitor Charlotte Burns, 12, her younger sister, father Peter and mother Louise to Drill Hall Beach for what turned out to be an experience of her life.
Burns, who gained her master diver certification a day after her 12th birthday and her BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) junior sport diver a day later, is working on her sea turtle awareness certification.
Browne had warned the visitors, who left the island yesterday, that it would be an excavation of a nest – the eggs of which were scheduled to hatch on December 31. As a result, cautioned Browne, there might only be egg shells or stragglers left.
Browne and Daniel then fielded the family’s questions, told them about the work of the Sea Turtle Project, the species of turtles found on the island and the conservation issues facing the endangered marine species, including the raiding of nest by poachers because turtle eggs were considered a delicacy.
In addition, the field director said locals had been commenting about an apparent increase in the sea turtle population.
And while the island does get some 500 nesting turtles during the season, oftentimes locals might be seeing the same turtles which come up every two weeks to lay their egg, he said.
Browne then indicated he had selected four sites along the lower South Coast stretch, but the nest at Drill Hall offered the best possibilities because a female Hawksbill had dug it in late October.
Browne and Daniel then found the tree that had been used as a landmark, counted off the measurements and began to dig. Less than elbow deep into the nest, Browne pulled out a “sleepy” Hawksbill hatchling.
And the 12-year-old practically shrieked in pleasure as the tiny turtle was placed in her hand.
“Wow! This is the most amazing thing there is,” she said.
And as the hatchling rested in her hand, it was the field director’s time to be surprised.
For a few handfuls of sand later, Browne came across the full nest of hatchlings, just waiting for the cooler night air to signal the time was right for them to begin their frantic scramble out of the nest and into the water.
As the Burns family clustered around the nest, Browne noted: “It should’ve hatched around December 31.”
Indicating that the hatchlings were “right there” or, as Peter Burns said, “not a half-metre down”, the field director added: “I thought we might see one or two ’cause there are always one or two that are stragglers and get left behind, but everybody is in there so that’s interesting,” he said.
“They are late. They were supposed to come out on December 31, but it’s the temperature. It’s been really cold and rainy the last couple weeks.”
He predicted the hatchlings would emerge either Monday or Tuesday night. They came out Monday.
“I didn’t think we would actually find any,” enthused Charlotte, as her father said: “It’s amazing, isn’t it.”
The family, Browne and Daniel then went on to discover another nest of hatchlings and to rescue two that had been trapped.