Green turtle stuck under Reaches Stairs on 7/19/06

Yesterday, 7/19/06 (Wed.), Chris Witmer and I were doing the nesting survey together. When we were at the Condado, her friend Scott joined us via Ocean Reef Park. Nothing much had happened at this point. He was hoping to get some good turtle shots. (He is a Sun Sentinal Photographer.) He had lots of cameras! We checked one of the hatched nests on the north mile. I looked down into the hatched area and saw a couple of heads up on the surface. "Look at this, this is why we check the hatched nests to make sure nobody will fry today in the hot sun." I tickled them underneath and 6 loggerheads came out and ran down to the water. We continued on. A man came running down the beach to tell us, "that a turtle is stuck under the stairs at The Reaches." We had lots of emergences as we moved north and had to continue the survey as we went on. Finally, we ran down because I saw two maintenance men with shovels beginning to DIG! "STOP!", I yelled. I know you are trying to help, but there are nests along this wall that are not marked and her nest may be right where you are digging." I told them I had to use my hands and proceeded to figure out what to do. She had gotten down into a deep secondary body pit, that happened to take her under the stairs with her nose facing up the dune, under the stairs. As she threw the sand behind her from the dune face, it fell down underneath her and pushed her up higher to the wood. She was trapped; not being able to go left or right. I dug underneath her from the right rear flipper and got as much sand out from that spot to make an access. Then Chris went to the left side and began to do the same. I tried to turn her, but couldn't budge her. She began to slide down from the dune face. A good sign. She was exhausted! I had one of the big white painters buckets with me and got buckets of water to throw on her through the stairs. She liked that! Finally, she turned herself to the left side and had enough room to poke her head out of the opening.

Then the left flipper came out, but the right flipper was trapped behind one of the support beams. I dug underneath the front section of her carapace below her head. She was not a happy camper and tried to bite me a few times!!!! Go Mama!!!! Chris and I then dug through the stairs underneath the side of her and it gave her more depth to get her carapace out from underneath the wood. She got the right flipper free and laid her head down on the sand. She stayed like that on and off the whole time. She was exhausted. I got more water and threw it over her and then she began to move out from under the wooden stairs. Slowly, but surely, she emerged from underneath the stairs and painstakingly trudged back to the ocean. Even when she hit the water, she was lethargic and moved away very slowly. But I am sure she is ok now. She was beautiful! Not a barnacle on her and no algae either. Her carapace shone in the sun and the patterns on it were gorgeous! It was an amazing experience (the first for me since 1990), and Chris and I felt so lucky to have been able to help her. She must be thinking....."Darn, I am not going out of the water to nest ever again....look what can happen with all those man-made contraptions on the beach. I don't remember all that stuff from before." The moral of the story is: when you think you have seen it all, mother nature will surprise you beyond your imagination. Each year, I have witnessed something new and incredible. I hope all of you will be blessed with the wonder of sea turtles in our world. Thanks for being the best volunteers in the state of Florida. Love, DEB

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