Cape Temperatures Plunge under Arctic Assault — 24 November 2000


 Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle at Rider’s Beach in Truro

 Temperatures dipped below 30 under Arctic crisp skies.  Northwest winds blowing 10 to 15 mph focused our sea turtle patrols on south Eastham, Orleans and Brewster, the inside arc of the elbow.  Twenty miles to the north the Pilgrim Monument, decked in Christmas white lights, marked the Cape’s fist across an inky black bay in Provincetown.

This afternoon the 10th Kemp’s ridley was recovered, dead, from Rider’s Beach in south Truro.  This first Arctic blast with plunging water temperatures bodes ill for any ridleys remaining in Cape Cod Bay.  Even the bulkier loggerheads will begin cold-stranding as winter takes hold at the end of the universe.  So, it’s imperative to rescue these turtles as soon as they wash ashore, to prevent death from hypothermia — all of which translates to night patrols.


Don Lewis Examines Dead Seal on Brewster Beach

Tonight’s high tide came a little before 10 P.M. and our first find was another dead seal beached between Point of Rocks and Breakwater in Brewster.


Dead Gannet at Skaket Beach in Orleans

At Skaket Beach in Orleans, a gannet had floated in with the tide.  These pelagic dive bombers drop from dizzying heights to fish the Cape’s waters.  Sometimes, though, they hit at a bad angle or pick a spot just too shallow for their Olympian dives, and necks break from the strain.

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Kemp’s Ridley Washes Ashore at Crosby Landing

At Crosby Landing, the 11th ridley of the season was found washing ashore with the tide.  Retrieved from breaking surf, she seemed stone cold to the touch.  Back at the Sanctuary this tiny ridley of just 21.5 cm carapace length and 1.5 kilograms weight registered an internal body temperature of only 33.8 degrees.  Her eyes were dehydrated and fixed and it was impossible to determine whether she was, in fact, still alive. 


Barnacle Embedded in Cold-Stunned Kemp’s Ridley Plastron

Nevertheless, cleaned and lubricated, she was placed in the cold recovery room at ~ 42 degrees to begin the long thawing process.  Adding to her challenges, we discovered on her underside a large barnacle embedded in her plastron.

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