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

Second Stranding Wave Breaks on Cape Cod Shores
— 24 November 2002

The second wave of sea turtle strandings hit the Cape today with 24 Kemp’s ridleys and one green sea turtle arriving cold-stunned since 2:00 a.m. this morning.  Temperatures the last two weeks have been mild and winds have meandered aimlessly around the compass, causing a lull in strandings.  But a front passed over the weekend and winds howled from the west at 30 to 40 knots since midday Saturday.

We organized night patrols to sweep the beaches after Sunday morning’s 1:00 a.m. high tide, walking from Breakwater in Brewster to Sunken Meadow in Eastham.  Six turtles were rescued: five ridleys and one green — all alive on the beach.  Because of frigid conditions, these turtles scored the lowest core temperatures for the season, with one recording a 37.7°F body temperature, barely above freezing.

By morning, action had shifted north toward Truro beaches, as the bay roiled under a westerly gale.  Nineteen more turtles were recovered throughout the day, 13 from Truro and the rest from Wellfleet and Eastham.  One more green was pulled from Ryder Beach; the other 18 were Kemp’s ridleys like the one pictured resting in the Sanctuary recovery room below.

A little over three weeks into the 2002 stranding season, the numbers stand at 78 sea turtles.  Four were greens and 74 were Kemp’s ridleys, critically endangered and the rarest sea turtle in the world.  As of today, 2002 ranks as the fourth largest stranding year on record, but only 20 shy of the third — 2001.

With a flood tide at two in the morning and gusts still battering the shoreline from the west, we’re scheduled to rendezvous at 3:00 a.m. for another search of beaches from Orleans to Provincetown.  No one would be surprised to see the 2001 season surpassed by this time tomorrow.