Sea Turtle Ecology

Final Day on Ascension Island
by -- March 17th, 2014

Somehow it’s our final day on Ascension Island already.  It’s hard to believe how fast this trip flew by.  This morning we woke up bright and early to help rescue sea turtles.  At 7:00 AM we walked over to Dead Man’s Beach to look for any turtles that had stranded on the rocks.

MorningTurtle (1)

After watching one nesting female meander back into the water, we continued down the beach to a rocky section where another turtle had wandered into a rocky area of the beach, with little room to maneuver, and got stuck.  Emily, an intern from the conservation office, showed us how to lift the turtle off the rocks and direct it towards a section of the beach where it would have a better chance of making it into the water.  Just barely lifting the 300 to 400 lb turtle several inches was a challenge.  With her guidance the turtle lumbered over the rocks and sand, finally making it out into the South Atlantic.  Another nesting female nearby also made her way out into the open ocean under our watchful gazes without needing any assistance.  We continued our circuit of the beach with no further turtles needing help, then said our goodbyes to Emily, promising we’d keep in touch and hoping we’d meet again someday.  We also stopped by the conservation office to thank them for everything and say farewell.

Stranded

The rest of the day was spent with the usual packing and preparations to leave.  Everyone making sure electronics were charged, clothes washed, souvenirs bought, and postcards sent.  Rides also needed to be arranged to and from the airports, and e-mails to family or friends needed to be sent.  Since Internet service here is expensive, we all had to take turns using the few computers that had been registered for the Internet.

Over the course of our nine days here I have learned, or relearned, a number of things:

1)   Lava rocks are wicked sharp

2)   Green turtles are picky about where they lay their eggs

3)   Unhatched eggs remaining in nest that has produced live hatchlings can be quite smelly

4)   After two 8 hour flights in a row, it takes a few days to get back to normal

5)   Sunblock and aloe are always a good idea when travelling to the equatorial region

6)   Insect repellent is also highly useful

7)   Ginger Beer (soda) tastes better here than at home (probably because it’s made with cane sugar)

8)   There is nothing better than getting to hold a baby sea turtle… except holding two baby sea turtles

9)   Nine days on Ascension Island are barely enough to experience everything the island has to offer

10) Nothing tastes better than ice water when you’re hiking on a molten hot day

AscensionClass

Our trip to Ascension Island was a once in a lifetime opportunity that we were all exceedingly fortunate to experience. We all would have been more than happy to spend another week or two in such an awesome place. It was truly a joy and a privilege to come on this trip lead by Dr. Matthew Godfrey and Dr. Wendy Dow Piniak. We were also blessed to have the guidance of Brendan and Annette for the majority of our visit.  Their knowledge and humor made our trip that much more special and enjoyable.  Hopefully this will be the first of many university visits to Ascension Island so other students can have the opportunities we were afforded here.

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