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Don Lewis, Massachusetts Audubon Society,
Fox Island Wildlife Management Area

Lucky Green Sea Turtle —18 December 2001

Gusts kicked up from the north-northwest at over 30 mph this afternoon, driving mountainous surf against the bay beaches of Brewster and Dennis.  High tide came at 1:30 and kept on coming, not allowing shore access until nearly 3:30, leaving little more than a half hour before darkness fell.  Yet, with these winds and seas, we couldn't skip the rotation.  So, a few brave souls scrambled through the twilight in search of sea turtles.  And, as usual, I was the lucky fellow to discover a special stranded turtle, mostly buried in the sand at Breakwater Beach in Brewster.  I quickly GPS-ed the location to 4146.158 North, 07004.914 West.

It was hard to tell from the portion showing, precisely what lay beneath.  I thought I saw a flipper, but it seemed a bit stiff when I touched it, and upon excavation from the tide-packed sand, no reflexes were detected.  So, I rushed it to Connemara Cottage, cleaned its exterior, lubed the shell to prevent further dehydration, and placed it in the classic “dry dock” position as we began the gradual warm-up process.

Once clear of sand and debris, it became intuitively obvious that this was a real green turtle.  From its flippers (as opposed to feet), one could determine it was a sea turtle, and the sun glasses were a dead giveaway that it was of tropical origin.  No wonder it had cold-stunned in the December-chilled Cape Cod Bay.  It measured a mere 12.8 centimeters notch-to-tip straight carapace length and I estimated a ~ 12.5 centimeter carapace width.  The turtle weighed less than 20 grams.

In my experience the best stories are true stories.  And, friends and colleagues, this tale is a true one, too.  The only half-truth is the hokey photograph at the top, since conditions were too wild on the beaches this afternoon to risk my camera.  I had to remove my glasses after the first 50 feet because they were caked in brine.  The rest is the real deal. I found this critter, the only sea turtle recovered today, mostly buried in sand and debris as I walked the last stretch of Brewster beaches from Point of Rocks to Breakwater.

Accident?  Coincidence?  Serendipity!  Iím going to look on this icon as a good omen, an offering from the sea turtles for best wishes during the holiday season and great hopes for another successful year of turtling in 2002.  Any other explanation defies logic.

Once recovered, this lucky green sea turtle will find a prominent spot at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (a.k.a. Turtle Central) to welcome your next visit to the Land of Ooze.