Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Sea Turtle Adventure, Well, Almost

I'm sitting on the beach reading Agatha Christie's "The Moving Finger."
But I can't concentrate.
Up the beach, about a quarter mile, I see two Turtle Patrol dune buggies and a handful of people hanging out. Just hanging out.
I turn back to my book.
Starting in April, the Turtle Patrol volunteers down here at Padre Island National Seashore drive back and forth along a 20-mile stretch of beach looking for momma sea turtles to come ashore to lay their eggs. When they find a momma and subsequently her nest, park rangers come and pluck away the eggs, carrying them to an incubator where, Lord willing, the eggs hatch.
When the eggs hatch, the babies are reared to a young age then let lose into the Gulf of Mexico.
I look up again and wonder. Is there a turtle?
I turn a page. But, obviously, Agatha and her mysteries can't hold my attention because I'm watching what I think might be a sea turtle sighting. Catching, collecting, or whatever.
So I tuck Aggie in my beach bag and walk up to the crowd.
What I find is no turtle, but, frankly, it's almost as good. I find a young park ranger, in his mid-twenties, bubbling with excitement because today he spotted his first girl around noon and ended up collecting 101 eggs.
I don't think I've ever seen a 20-something man smile that big or that long. He's absolutely giddy. So we ask him lots of questions, about his momma turtle (a returnee ... she was tagged in 2009), the condition of the sea (turtles like it windy and it's very windy today) and the quality of the water (any oil out there?)
He avoids the oil question.. "We were told to just say 'no comment' when asked about the oil, the tar," he says.
"But why?" I ask.
In case, he says, someone from the media sneaks in for a quote, or an undercover agent from the oil company is out checking on what's being said about them. It's just safer, he says, to have no comment.
Last year the park rangers told me the tar I found on the beach was naturally occurring tar, up from the ocean's depths.
This year they say "No comment."
A mystery.
Now where did I put Agatha ...

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