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Sorry for the delay in updating you with what is going on. Yesterday was long and things just kept on happening. I started writing early yesterday afternoon, but realized that I didn't want to be writing while my day was not yet finished. Kennedy space center was supposed to have launched a Delta IV rocket at 6:59 pm, so I wanted to include that. Unfortunately at 6:50 the one thunderstorm of the day decided to roll in and by 6:55 visibility was reduced so that the space center was no longer visible from my condo. I still have no idea if the Delta IV was launched yesterday.
Before I can tell you how the last couple days went, Here's a visual to help picture how they started. That's the sunrise on Thursday. The shot is taken from the road leading to the beach.
I really love the spotlight effect created by the sun's ray that's shooting between the two cloud plumes.
Anyway, the past two days have been pretty chill and work heavy. Thursday we spent most of the day with Sean who is a 19 year veteran sea turtler at Canaveral. We spent about an hour to two hours perusing the beach with sean and marking new nests. Sean is ridiculously good at working with sea turtle nests. We would come up to a nest on the beach, and he'd hop off his bike, take a glance at a loggerhead nest, and start digging for the eggs. Sure enough every time he would find egg chamber on the first try. Seeing him do this was amazing, and demonstrates how years of experience/practice can hone someones skills. I have no doubt that he is one of the best sea turtlers out there. With the Greens' nests Sean did use rebar to locate the egg chamber within the nest, but it took him significantly less time (fewer than 5 probes) than Robert or Murphy when they were teaching us on Thursday. The first time Caroline and I witnessed Sean's skill we looked at each other with looks that pretty much said "Holy shit, that is awesome. He made that look so easy." To top it all off his digging is phenomenal, with three scoops of his hand, he pretty much hits the egg chamber, it takes me so much more time! It's absolutely impressive how fast and efficient he is. Robert told us that Sean could cover the whole beach in around 2 hours. I didn't believe him until I saw the master turtler in action yesterday, and I am now a believer!
After meeting up with Mike at grid 54 and finishing up the nests for the day our instruction in the art of triangulation began. What better way to learn than locating a nest that needed triangulation and giving us instruction as we are working, the essence of experiential learning! Triangulation is pretty simple. It involves the use of three [white] stakes, normal stakes are yellow, to pinpoint the location of a nest that has been deemed statistically significant for monitoring. Turtlers are required to monitor a certain percentage of the nests for each turtle species that nests on Canaveral. On stake one all the information that is on the yellow stake, marking the nest, is copied down. The yellow stake is then replaced with the new white stake. On the second stake the beach, nest number, turtle species, and date are recorded, as well as the east is written. This stake is then planted in the dunes, directly west of the nest, measuring the distance between the nest and the stake and then marking that on the stake as well. The process for the third stake is the exact same as the second except it is marked southeast and placed northwest of the nest. Triangulation is Important as it helps to ensure that a nest location may be identified if for some reason the stake marking the nest disappears.
A few of the nests we triangulated were old enough to be checked in order to verify their hatch. The first nest we verified was a leatherback. We were informed as we were digging up the nest that Canaveral is at the very North of the leatherback range and the hatch rate of leatherbacks at Canaveral is consistently poor. This nest had around 20 unhatched eggs. The good thing that came from digging up the nest was that I was finally able to see leatherback eggs. They are huge, compared to greens ad loggerheads, billiard ball vs. ping pong ball. The last nest we dug up was awesome. It was a leatherback nest, and you could see that the eggs had already hatched and left the nest because of all the cute little turtle tracks left in the sand (see photo). Then we had an awesome surprise, as Sean was digging out the nest he dumped a clump of sand from his hand, and on top was a hatchling. Then as he kept digging down towards the egg chamber he kept finding more and more hatchlings. We began watching the hatchlings on the
first leg of their journey for food and shelter, the dash for the ocean. After Sean stopped finding hatchlings, we were informed that we should move the hatchlings further down the beach, because the heat and the stress of the long stress to the water would probably kill them. That's how it happened, I got to pick up about seven hatchlings and move them down the beach toward the water. Here is a video of that journey!.
After watching these little tikes make their way into the big blue we headed back for the ATV sheds to clean off he equipment and sort through data to determine what we would be doing Friday (Today). On our way back we had to pass through the nude section. As we approached the nude section the stakes on the back of my ATV were sliding around so I stopped to secure them (Amanda assisted). Sean and caroline kept on going down the beach, so we were separated once we hit the nude section. About halfway through the nude section this guy start walking from the edge of the dunes towards the center of the beach, his head is up and looking in the direction of my ATV. My gut thought it I hope he doesn't try to stop me. As Amanda and I were getting closer the man kept walking towards us, so I hit the gas (possible because no one else was on the beach) and made sure that he would not be able to force us to stop, like tuesday (looked to be the same guy). When we got back to the sheds, Amanda and I started laughing because we had both been sure that we were about to get stopped for the second day in a row by the same guy on the nude beach.
After gassing up the ATVs and cleaning them off. We took a quick lunch/relaxation/refuel break and then worked out which nests still needed to be triangulated. After working out the nests and their grid locations we decided that we could go out and triangulate 6 more nests. So we hit the beach
for a second time and it was amazing how much busier the beach was this trip than the trip back, and we could not have been off the beach for more than an hour, hour and a half max. It took us a little over an hour to locate and triangulate the six nests we targeted, and we returned to base and called it a day. So after work I swam a couple laps in the pool at the Condo and then relaxed until the Rocket Launch. After the storm passed and the clouds moved out towards the ocean, I got to experience the best sunset so far while I've been in Florida! I knew it was going to be good, because it gave the entire condo a faint orange glow. Here it is!
Today was a pretty simple day. Caroline and I arrived at the office at 6. Rob met us and gave us a quick demonstration on data entry. Upon arrival at the ATV sheds we watched a small bit of sunrise. The we loaded up our gear on the ATVs and made our way up the beach to begin our days triangulation work. We skipped over the areas closest to the sheds, an went right up to grid 72, the nude section. We figured we would get the nests in the nude section out of the way before all the people arrived. The plan worked and 15 minutes after starting in the nude section we arrived in the wilderness.
The day went pretty well, there was one event, some might call it a mishap. I was cruising along the beach looking for the next grid that had a nest that needed triangulation, this was a long grid jump (around 6-8 grids). I see the target grid, and I slow and then begin to turn up the slope of the beach so that I have a better view of the nests, can see their numbers. The next thing I know I'm falling to my right and then I'm on the ground about 2 feet from my ATV, which was on it's side. I hop right up, caroline arrives, and we right the ATV...just in time for Sean to pull up and ask us how our day is going! We finished up triangulating for the day, ran out of white stakes, and took a little break on the beach for lunch/snacks. I had been wanting to go in the water to rinse off since my tumble, because I was covered all over in sand. This was the opportunity for that cooling and relieving rinse in the ocean and I was not going to pass it up. So clothing, boots, and all we went for a little swim in the ocean. After wringing out our gear we made our way back to the ATV sheds.
On our journey back we passed through the nude beach with no issues. The as luck would have it Caroline and I are riding high on the beach and there are these two people in the water. As we get closer they start to watch us and then begin walking out of the water, one waving his hands trying to get our attention. At this point I (was leading our 2 man convoy) decided that Its been a long day, if they really need something they would come charging out of the water, not sauntering. When we get back to the sheds, I feel the need to justify to Caroline why I didn't stop to talk to the guy trying to flag us down. Her response to me was that she was glad, because the two guys trying to flag us down were nudeys! Well folks, thats one indirect encounter and two close calls with the nudeys in the three days I have been on the beach. Clearly its a matter of when not if, but hopefully that when will be a long time coming!
Have a great weekend!