Another Large Loggerhead Propels 2002 into Second Place
3 December 2002
The harshest four letter word on the Cape today is C-O-L-D, modified with four more cruel letters S-N-O-W. The latter began last evening around 9:30 when the night crew patrolled flooded beaches from Eastham to North Truro, looking for sea turtles tossed on shore by a stiff 30-knot WNW breeze. Luckily for the turtles, if not the humans, we drew a blank. Six ridleys and a smallish, 40-pound loggerhead had come in during the daylight high tide. So, we had no choice but to walk that nighttime, too.
Today the thermometer needle barely nudged 23, while westerly winds whistled off the bay at 20 knots, creating a very unappetizing beach climate for sea turtles and rescuers alike. We thought none would survive these conditions . . . and once again we were proved wrong. A tiny, less than 1 foot, 6-pound Kempís ridley was pulled from the surf at Crosby Landing in Brewster this morning. Only the slightest flicker of life could be discerned. There was no flipper movement, no muscle response. Just a faint twitch of the eyelid. Yet, by three this afternoon she was crawling around the Sanctuary recovery room as she waited impatiently for a ride to the New England Aquarium in Boston.
At that same hour another good-size loggerhead was discovered near the western shore of Namskaket Creek east of Crosby Landing. About a kilometer from the nearest parking spot, getting this large turtle off the beach would prove a challenge. Dennis Murley successfully employed the turtle rescue cart he designed last season for loggerhead retrievals. Back at the Sanctuary we weighed this oversized turtle on our undersized scale. She registered 72.8 pounds.
Once assessed, measured and weighed, we quickly prepped the loggerhead for the trip to Boston along with our rather impatient ridley, boxed to prevent her from hurting herself during the journey. A volunteer driver would make the long trek from Wellfleet to civilization and back again. But it truly seemed so darned incongruous to see both sub-tropical sea turtles and an icy snow background in the same scene.
This hefty loggerhead tipped the scales in favor of 2002. With four ridleys and the loggerhead today, this year now ranks as the second largest stranding season on record. The five top stranding years are recapped below.