Success! We officially survived our first full night patrol on Sandy Point! Breaking the class into three groups, one group went out to the grassy side from 8:00 p.m. -12:00 a.m. while the other two hiked on the main beach. At midnight the groups rotated and one group from the main beach switched to patrol the grassy side from 12:00 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. Unfortunately, no turtles were observed coming ashore throughout the night. On the up side, however, it was a beautiful night—warm with just enough breeze to cool us down as we patrolled the beaches. The moon was quite full and so bright we cast deep shadows as we moved about. Thankfully, the moonlight helped guide us safely over the berm and old turtle nests. Sailing on the breeze, clouds edged across the evening sky and their shadows drifted eerily across the beach. The holistic beauty of sky, beach, and weather sustained us through the long night. We returned to our cottages around 5:25 a.m. With the remainder of the morning off, we were able to catch up on sleep and enjoy a slow day before embarking on another all-night patrol!
All this time spent on the beaches of St. Croix allows me to reflect, and I am confident I am not alone in appreciating this. Sitting on the breezy beaches basked in moonlight while looking at the stars and a horizon barely visible across shimmering water reminds me of my time on a tall ship sailing down the coast of California. The beauty of the ocean is breath-taking, and times like this afford the opportunity for reflection–both on that beauty and our good fortune to be able to experience it. Yes, sitting on the beach for hours waiting for a turtle that may or may not show up can be monotonous, but when you lean back and allow your senses to take in the full glory of earth, ocean, and starry nature, all other thoughts simply melt away and you feel small in such vastness. We are so fortunate to be in St. Croix working on the leatherback project; this deserves a hearty shout out to the Duke Marine Lab and everyone involved with The Sea Turtle Census Initiative here at Sandy Point. THANK YOU for an incredible experience and the opportunity to be involved firsthand with leatherback research!