Trails in the Sand
By P.C. Zick
1956 – St. George Island, Florida
(Continued from Part 1 – Blog, July 16, 2012)
When the turtle reached the edge of the sea oats and grasses protruding from the dunes, she swept the sand with all four flippers before using her front flippers to push sand out of a large area. The loggerhead kept rotating her body around the area until a place big enough for her body indented the sand. She used her cupped rear flippers as shovels and began to prepare the cavity for the eggs.
After digging for what seemed like an eternity to the teenagers, the ancient creature placed itself in the body pit with its rear end just at the edge of the cavity. They watched as three eggs dropped into the hole followed by a clear thick liquid. The process was repeated over and over again.
“That’s mucus to keep moisture in the nest while the eggs incubate,” Alex said. “Are you counting how many eggs she’s laid? The book said they can lay up to 200 in one nest.”
“I’m up to 82,” Gladdy said. “There’s 83 and 84.”
After counting 124 eggs, they watched as the sea turtle filled in the cavity with its rear flippers and then swept the area once again in an effort to disguise what lay beneath the surface.
When the turtle finished her job, nearly two hours after she came from the sea, she began the slow return back to the ocean. Alex rose from the sand and followed the loggerhead.
“Alex, what are you doing? You can’t go swimming after dark – the undertow is too strong.”
“Did you know sea turtles always return to lay their eggs on the beach where they were hatched?” Alex said as he walked backwards into the sea following the trail of the female loggerhead. “The eggs will hatch in about two months, Gladdy. Be sure to come down here every night and wait for them to emerge so you can help them go home. Remember 124 eggs and remember the location.”
Alex turned toward the ocean and kept walking until the sea engulfed him, and he went under.
“Alex, please forgive me,” Gladdy yelled out over the surf, but the only answer came from the sound of the waves lapping the beach.
Gladdy pulled the corners of the tablecloth up around her shoulders and waited for her brother to reappear. The waves came back to shore time after time, but as she sat transfixed in her spot on the beach, Alex never returned with them.