In Search of Sea Turtles 31 October 2001
Sea turtles get caught by the natural seine of Cape Cods flexed arm and are trapped by falling ocean temperatures. Once the warmer bay water drops below 50°F, sea turtles become cold stunned and are washed onto beaches by storm-driven tides. If they arent rescued before prolonged exposure to freezing winds, they succumb quickly to hypothermia. This year while temperatures in the bay hover in the mid-50s above the cold-stunning threshold but still awfully uncomfortable for a sea turtle we hope to find where theyre hanging out and perhaps rescue a few before they become stressed by the cold.
There were no turtles sighted in todays perfect conditions, but that didnt eliminate all sense of adventure and discovery. Midway from Orleans to Dennis, the plane swooped overhead. Turtle plane to turtle boat. Youre being shadowed by a very big fish, called John the pilot. Off the bow we spotted a large dorsal fin cutting through the water at a leisurely pace.
We instantly identified it as a basking shark and chugged forward for a closer look. About 15 feet long, this specimen was a pure beauty as it cruised through the water. The pilot and spotter counted eight basking sharks in this small section of the bay during their two-hour flight, but this one was the largest of the group. Topping off an exciting flight, the plane passed over two humpback whales breaching off Truro during its return flight to Provincetown.
The boat trip back to shore proved equally eventful. As we passed through the tidal sluice between Great Island and submerged Billingsgate Island, we came across about 50 gray and harbor seals basking on a rising sandbar island at the tip of Jeremy Point. So, there were mammals and fish and fowl aplenty, but not a single turtle to be seen.