My very early morning shiftElizabeth Willis ‘13 | June 25, 2010
I woke up on Wednesday morning at 5:38am to a nudge and the words “Liz, there’s a nest on Potamakia.” Still groggy, I remembered that I was on morning shift. And there was a nest. I threw on some clothes, grabbed a quick bite to eat and opened the door to step outside. When I stepped out on the threshold, there was a crack of thunder and two seconds later it started pouring with rain. Since we work rain or shine, I stepped back inside to get my raincoat and I was ready to go.
We had to move quickly and get to the beach before the rain and tide erased all the tracks and softened the lines of the body bit. It was my first time taking measurements for a nest, although I have found a few false crawls that needed to be measured in the time I’ve been here.
Manuel and I got to the site first as the rain stopped and we surveyed the tracks and took some pictures. We noticed a sort of scuffle pit
in the down tracks and remembered that Bree and Joel on night patrol had mentioned having to wrestle with the turtle and flip her over because they came across her just as she finished laying her eggs. The scuffle pit was quite large, with some tracks going in circles. Joel and caught the turtle by her shoulders and Bree had looked for the tag and upon finding none, they flipped her over to tag her properly. Once they flipped her, they recounted that the turtle had very effectively used one of her front flippers to flick sand in their eyes and attempt to right herself but when that failed she stayed still. Once the tagging was over, Bree and Joel flipped the turtle back over and as Joel held onto her and dug his heels into the sand, Bree took her shell measurements and tried to get an accurate quick sketch of the 22 barnacles covering her shell. After about a half-hour struggle, they let her make her way back to the sea.
While still contemplating the night patrol story, Manuel and I decided to take all the most important measurements before Yvette got to the site in case the rain started up again. The nest was located between markers 151 and 152. We had to set up a middle marker 7.5 meters from the left-hand marker (151) in order to perform a triangulation method by which the nest can be relocated during hatching season when the nests are excavated.
After setting up the middle marker, numbered 151M, we began to take our measurements. Bree and Joel had left a little stick in the body pit to mark the spot where the egg chamber was. We used the GPS to record the location at the egg chamber and then we measured the distance to each of the three markers from the stick. Just after we finished with those measurements, Yvette showed up with her 7-yearold son, Joe. Together we measured the distance between the up and down tracks at the point closest to the water, measured the distance from the egg chamber to the back of the beach, to the high-tide line and finally to the water’s edge. The last step in the process was to bury a ring of bamboo sticks around the egg chamber about 10cm deep to facilitate the people in finding the nest when the time comes to excavate.
We searched around the area for bamboo sticks and set them up around the egg chamber, as they should be placed. Once they were all in place, we drew little red arrows pointing in towards the egg chamber so that they did not look like random pieces of bamboo. Then we set about digging the holes to bury the marked bamboo. Finally, with all the measurements complete, we erased all the tracks and filled in the body pit.
The whole process took about an hour, and we were lucky enough that the rain held off, apart from a slight drizzle about halfway through. As we returned to the houses, we stopped at three nests that are located very close to a hotel and its sun beds. Just the day before, Jean and I on the afternoon shift had placed cages on these nests to prevent people from setting up the umbrellas on top of them or driving over them. In order to place the cages in the right spot, we had to use the triangulation method with the measurements that had been recorded for each nest. Under normal circumstances this would have been a simple task, but it took us much longer than it should because of a strong wind.
The measuring tape kept whipping around and would arc instead of making straight lines, which added quite a large margin of error to our calculations. However, we did come across the marked bamboo ring on two of the nests, which told us we were in fact in the right place.
It’s hard to believe that I will be leaving this place and all the people I have met in less than one week. Next Thursday, July 1st, I will be making my way to Kyparissia where I will be working with the Archelon organization and the turtles that nest in that area. The change will most certainly be interesting!