Culebra – (Mon., Apr. 25) – An Epic Encounter with Culebra’s Greens
by Stephani Zakutansky -- April 26th, 2011
Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day! After a slow start this morning due to boat troubles and constantly changing plans, afternoon thunderstorms threatened to keep us from the water even longer. Before they descended on us, we ventured into town for a couple of hours to blog, sightsee a tad, and completely overwhelm one of Culebra’s few restaurants for lunch. Two o’clock rolled around, and we headed out to meet the Chelonia Inc. crew of Puerto Rico (Team Turtle!) to plan out the afternoon. Steph and Katie reporting from the trunk of the Ballena Blanca (our beloved whale of a white Jeep Wrangler): (Watch out for video later!)
After a brief introduction and tour of the turtle office, we headed down to the docks to board the boats. Filled with visions of wrangling hawksbill sea turtles all afternoon, we soon discovered that it was not to be. Due to boating schedules, plans changed and instead of heading towards the reefs, we made for the seagrass beds. While half the group remained in the boat for a watery transport, the rest of the turtle girls and Andy broke in the off-roading features of the Ballena Blanca and the Tortuga Verde (our second green Jeep Wrangler). After a quick briefing at the dock, some went in the boat to assist in setting up the net that would be used to capture the green turtles. The rest of us swam over.
Team Boat began by throwing Emily overboard to serve as anchor girl. She monitored the net’s entry into the water to ensure that the anchor didn’t drag along the seagrass bed’s bottom. Sarah attached buoys along the length of the net while Carlos, head of Team Turtle, preceded to cast 150 meters of the gill net across the width of the bay. Team Boat sent some members over the side to begin patrolling the length of the net, swimming parallel to it and raising excited hands every time a green was spotted.
Meanwhile, Team Snorkel was leisurely swimming along towards the turtle-filled cove (a.k.a. Manglar). Upon sighting potential turtle action, we hastened our pace sped along at top speed towards the scene. Upon arrival, we split into pairs and joined in the turtle patrol. When we spotted a turtle caught in the net, we worked to disentangle it before waving the boat over to collect it. Team Boat, now consisting of Steph, Sharon, and our very-skilled driver Yabier, responded to these signals and hoisted the sometimes massive turtles onto the boat. We collected nine turtles in all, the largest weighing in near 100 pounds. After an hour of surveying, Team Boat collected the net from the water, and everyone headed back towards the dock to “process” the greens.
After docking the boat, it was time to spend some quality time with the turtles. We measured, weighed, tagged, photographed, and occasionally biopsied our nine newest friends. When each patient was done, it was released off the side of the boat, soaring gratefully away into the briny blue. One was so eager to escape that it collided with Angie as she waited underwater, camera in hand. After setting them all free, it was time to pack up and we piled into the boat, Ballena Blanca, and Tortuga Verde for a sunset cruise home.
We eagerly anticipated dinner upon our return and passed the time with some cards and showering. Carlos came over to our casa to speak to us about Puerto Rico’s turtle aggregations and, more specifically, the research and conservation efforts underway here in Culebra. Overall, we had an EPIC first day with the sea turtles of Culebra, and we are looking forward to another terrifically turtle-filled day tomorrow! 🙂
Stephani & Katie