“156, 157, 158, okay we’re done!” I whispered. The turtle had just finished laying her eggs. The survey leader had dug a second body pit for me to lie down, my arm completely under the 3-foot long green turtle, as I lay still counting her eggs as she lay them.
You never knew what was going to happen on a night survey at the Rain forest Expedition project. You would go out with your group and walk along the high tide line, with your head torches off, trying to adjust to the darkness.
The water was rough and would hit you, you’d try not to trip over the debris, and had to pay attention to the lightning to make sure it wasn’t getting so bad that you had to turn back. You also had to look for light on the beach. If they were poachers, again, turn back. If you find fibropapilloma on the turtle during a body check, again, turn back. But, if you don’t have to turn back, night walks are one of the greatest parts of the trip.
I didn’t realize how powerful the turtles are. They are huge. When it was my turn to measure the curved carapace (or shell) length with a tape measure, I knelt down into the body pit. Whack! The huge flipper left a huge pile of sand in my mouth. I jumped back. She was beginning to cover her egg chamber, and I had to be quick. When she would sigh and take a break from flinging the sand around, I would jump in to take the measurements. It was exhilarating to be part of such a special process, and to watch these powerful, beautiful creatures move in the darkness.