Friday, August 10, 2012

Turtles and Thunderstorms

A perfect summer's day on Isla Mujeres
 August: turtles and thunderstorms just seem to go together.  The turquoise seas are calm, winds are zephyr-light, the cloudless skies are painted a cerulean blue, and the temperature hovers at a comfortable thirty degrees Celsius, or ninety-something on the Fahrenheit scale. 

The weather is perfect for the mama turtles to make their annual trek to the beaches, digging deep holes with their flippers and abandoning their buried eggs to their fate.

 And then .... 
a hurricane arrives!  
The beginning of Hurricane Ernesto

Hurricane season corresponds almost exactly to the mating and egg-laying season for the giant sea turtles, starting in June and ending in late October. 

It is either a perfect symbiotic relationship, or a colossal joke played on these lumbering beasts. 

In the absence of my ownership of a PhD in the science of sea turtles, I am surmising that the relationship has developed over the millennium to accommodate a supply of food for the turtles as they gather to participate in a little fun with members of the opposite sex. 

Otherwise why do it?

At south end of Isla Mujeres sea turtles mate.
A few days ago an enterprising turtle laboriously flippered her way across the upper level of the beach in front of Ronda's house, and all along in front of the vacation rental complex of Punta Piedra, looking for the perfect place to lay her eggs. 

She eventually headed back to sea near Robyn and Al Crump's house, apparently unsuccessful in finding the perfect spot. 

A mama sea turtle's long march during the night.
The following night two of Ronda's guests, Andy and Yumiko, set their alarm clock to wake them in the wee hours of the morning and were rewarded with the sight of a female turtle investigating the same beach for nesting possibilities. 

They waited quietly, and patiently in the dark hardly daring to move for fear of spooking the turtle. 

As it turned out, she wasn't satisfied with the depth of the sand and returned to the ocean to try again someplace else.  These ladies are very finicky.

Watching the wind-swollen surf pound the island.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ernesto, with the wind-swollen surf pounding our beaches do the female turtles have regrets? 

"Darn!  I wish I'd laid my eggs yesterday."  


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