Leatherback Turtle Egg Laying

Last night I was privileged enough to witness something incredibly special – leatherback turtles. Last night went like this: We arrived at the Sandy Point Wildlife Refuge and met with our group. Our guide heard over the radio that there was one turtle who had just finished laying. We scampered out and got to see one pretty lady (I think she was named Nina?) finish camouflaging her where she laid her eggs (think Volkswagen with flippers doing slow donuts). Now, because she had chosen a spot in an erosion zone researchers had caught the eggs as they were dropped and relocated them, but she didn’t know that. She was just amazing, okay – so she is shite at choosing nesting spots, but she was still amazing. Then we got to sit in a circle and learn about leatherbacks – and hooboy!, science doesn’t really know all that much about them. My favorite learned tidbit – leatherback turtles are so big they created a new type of “‘therm” just for them: Gigantotherm (rather than Exotherm or Endotherm). That’s right, I pretty much got to see dinosaurs last night. So, after a few moments of leatherback information, our guide introduced us to a baby leatherback turtle and we got to hold him/her. There is no way to explain the level of squee involved in a baby leatherback sea turtle – the cuteness physically hurt me. Then the guide’s radio squawked and we learned that there was another female laying on an adjacent beach and off we went en masse and we were able to see another pretty lady (real name something like Conga, but I think she should be renamed Fertile Myrtle as this was her sixth (yes, her 6th) clutch this season!) begin to lay her eggs. According to our guide while these gorgeous behemoths are laying their eggs they could give a flying crapola about the world around them, so we were invited to come up one at a time and touch her. She felt so soft and delicate (no, not normally something you would use to describe such large lady, but her skin (yes, skin) felt like….well….skin). I spent years fascinated by reptiles within our world, so much so that it was a huge part of my college education. None of the herptiles I worked with felt like these ladies (and little lady/guy).
The entire experience was wonderful and something I will cherish forever, even if I didn’t get to feed them anything. *grin*