Right next to the cemented entrance of the play park was a turtle's track. She had dug once and found the earth too packed, then had tried a second place successfully. In my excitement I walked all around the site, examining the two tracks, working out the motion of her flippers and which therefore was up and which down.
I knew that turtles used this beach. One afternoon following a morning of heavy rain I had come with my daughters and one of their friends to swim here. At the end of the evening, almost as an afterthought, we walked along the beach. At first we took it for a table tennis ball but the weight said it was a turtle's egg. Then there was a full clutch of them uncovered by the rainwater runoff. We were thrilled by this little miracle.
We knew they couldn't be left there and that the solution was to call in the Belairs Institute. We packed them carefully in a plastic bag and took them home. A young woman came to meet us and we took the eggs and all went back to the spot. She packed some of the sand in her insulation foam chest and lay the eggs carefully in. Then she took them away and promised to call us when they hatched.
Some weeks later she called to say that our eggs had hatched but she hadn't been able to keep the hatchlings until she could reach us. Instead she invited us to the release of another brood. There is nothing quite like the sight of dozens of three-inch long baby turtles scuttling towards a dark sea that they have never before encountered. As the water comes to meet them, tiny creatures that have just been fighting against an unnatural element suddenly unleash their basic instinct and transform into grace.
But that had been five years ago and since then there had never been a single indication of turtles. It was beginning to look as if that exposed nest was a singular event in more ways than one. Then there was the nest at the edge of the park. Three days later there was another. By the end of the second week there was a third. Over the next six weeks there would be as many as a dozen turtle events on a strip of beach hardly a quarter mile long.
The lucky ones came up where the sand was deep and loose and seldom had to make more than two attempts at digging. Some had to make a third or fourth attempt. The tracks they left behind were purposeful and it was easy to see an urgent female considering her options.
The unfortunate ones failed to nest. One determined female crawled fifty yards into the scrub vegetation, crossing the dirt road to do so, to make her attempts at digging. But the earth was packed too hard and the bushes got in her way. In her determination she mangled the small bushes and twigs. Four or five times she dragged herself away to try again. Eventually she gave up and returned to the water.
I wondered if any of the lovers parked under the trees heard or saw her, getting out to watch, and maybe disturbing her? Were they oblivious while she was desperately digging to give life another chance ? Was any one there at the time? I have walked that beach eleven o'clock at night and three o'clock in the morning and have never witnessed live any of the events I would later be party to. The closest I have come is returning the next morning to see tracks that were made after my night-time visit.