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Currumbin Beach, South East Queensland.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A NIGHT OUT WITH TURTLES

I have returned home from a week in the Bundaberg Region on the central coast of Queensland. I am happy to be back blogging on my laptop instead of my iPad. Now I can make the photos tell the story.
After an early morning walk along Woodgate Beach on the path under the graceful Sheoak Trees, it was time to pack the car and head for Childers, Bundaberg and Bargara.
Woodgate Beach
The access road off the main street in Childers
 Our travel companion and tour guide, Ann, comes from this area. She took us to a The Old Pharmacy Museum next to the Dentist - decayslayer. 

A passionate local historian gave us a talk about all the exhibits. It was the original pharmacy from 1894. It was a fascinating place with old remedies, jars, medicines and prescription books.

 Then it was time to reboot TOH with a coffee at the old Post Office, which is still in use today but it has a gift shop and coffee shop operating there too. This is also where Ann used to work in her youth as a telephonist.

 The little town is full of these quaint old buildings still in use today. 

I like this old Federal Hotel because it doesn't have any gaudy advertising on it like in some towns.

We walked up the main street to The Palace, which used to be a hotel and then a Backpackers Hostel but today it is an Information Centre, Art Space and most importantly a Memorial to 15 young backpackers who died when the hostel was deliberately burnt down by a disgruntled man, who is now in gaol. We were asked not to take photos in respect for the families. The young people were from all over the world working here on the tomato and zucchini farms.
While there we booked accommodation in Bargara and a turtle tour at Mon Repos Beach. After stopping for lunch in Bundaberg we soon arrived in Bargara on the coast. Our other friends. Helen and Paul met us there. They couldn't join us earlier due to Paul's cancer treatment.

We just had time for a quick sandwich before we needed to be at Mon Repos Beach to hopefully see the turtles. 
Watching videos about turtles
 We had to be there by 6:45 and there were about 200 people and we put into groups.We had to wait until the rangers had found turtles on the beach before we were taken there. We watched videos about turtles and visited the Information centre and ate ice creams while waiting anxiously for the ranger to call our group. We waited until ten o'clock. The turtles were late this night. Mon Repos is a conservation area and the beach is closed at night during the nesting and hatching season except when accompanied by a ranger.
In the information centre we learnt that Mon Repos is the biggest turtle rookery on the east coast mainland. There are different turtles, Loggerhead, Flat back, Leather back and Green Turtles. The turtles drag themselves up the beach to above the high tide line, dig a hole and lay around a hundred  eggs, cover them with sand and then return to the sea. Six to eight weeks later the little hatchlings dig their way to the surface and flop to the sea. This all happens between November and March.

 This is what we were hoping to see the hatchlings. These photos are from the web.


Finally after hours of waiting we were called to assemble on the beach with the ranger who told us we would be seeing a nesting not hatchlings but that was okay. For a while we thought we might not see anything this night. We were given rules about when we could or couldn't take photos. Turtles use light to help guide them to the water. We had to wait until the turtle had lumbered up the beach and dug her half a metre hole and started to lay eggs before we were allowed to get close. It was hard to take decent photos.
 The ranger crept up to the hole at the back of the turtle and slid a torch onto the edge  so we could see the eggs coming out and dropping into the hole. It is hard to make out but an egg is about to drop out.
 The ranger picked some eggs out to show us. We could touch them, they are soft and leathery.Scientists have done lots of research and know what can and can't be done to the eggs and the turtles.

 There was a research team there doing lots of measuring while the turtle is totally absorbed with her job of laying eggs. You can see that I had a front row view, Bill took the photos.

 The scientist is showing some new volunteers how to tag the turtle.

She has finished laying eggs and is busily flicking piles of sand over the eggs and herself and everyone close to her. The scientist checks the tag is good. This guy has been responsible for the protection of these Loggerhead turtles and the steady increase in population but they are still on the endangered list.

 She is done and now we must move away and stop all photography and lights as she turns around and lumbers back to the sea. Last year a turtle was found by a farmer in his fields close to death because she had gone inland attracted by the lights. She was rescued and rehabilitated and returned to the sea. She has returned this year to lay more eggs. Residents and councils now have a policy of keeping lights dim during nesting and hatching season. Only one in a thousand hatchlings survive for 35 years, which is when they will return to this same beach to lay their eggs after travelling thousands of miles around the oceans. 

She finally disappeared under the sea and swam away after a mammoth effort. After all this effort her eggs would not survive because she did not go far enough up the beach to save her eggs from being washed away by high tides. However, the research team went back to the site and dug up all the eggs very carefully and then dug another nest in a safe place and put the eggs in it.
By then it was nearly midnight, we were tired but uplifted. It was an amazing experience.


27 comments:

  1. Well that is quite an experience to show the action so close.

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  2. Oh Diane that is something I have always wanted to do what an amazing experience to see the turtle laying eggs then swimming . LOVE this.
    The Pharmacy museum is very cool I love old bottles and the history. Hug B

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  3. isn't it amazing how those turtles are so determined to get on with their egg-laying, even with bright lights, measuring tapes, people and chatter all around them?! I was only picturing myself at Childers the other day for some reason, and your photos of the street-scene, and the post office are kind of de-ja-vue now

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  4. Lovely places you visited. Interesting about the turtles...

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  5. What a very interesting experience Diane, wonderful that the locals get involved in this annual event also.

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  6. i love those buildings, all of them.. especially the hotel. and would love to visit that pharmacy and am soooo glad i did not have to use that decayslayer back then. OUCH
    those turtles are amazing, i love the look of the glow through the eggs...

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  7. such an ordeal for her. glad her eggs were safely relocated so they have a chance to hatch.

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  8. What a nice excursion ! I like the old pharmacy. And how horrible to burn down a hostel and 15 youngsters died !
    Must have been very interesting to see the turtles, I love turtles !

    PS. I like the word "reboot" I'll try it on Mr. G ! He needs more then one reboot !

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  9. Oh what a lovely experience. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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  10. That was so interesting Diane, the photos were good too. I like how so much research has been put into the turtles and consideration is given to low lighting etc. We had the pleasure of visiting Mon Repos many years ago. We camped in a tent at a caravan park right by the beach under some she-oaks. There was just one Ranger who gave a guided tour for the turtles but it was mainly a free-for-all with no protection for them. It was good to see how things are organised now. The turtles are such gentle creatures aren't they. Their young are so vulnerable.
    It was beaut to see Ann's guide as well - beautiful buildings, lovely to see them kept that way.
    A great post Diane :D)

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  11. Diane, I love the photos of the quaint buildings in town. But, the turtle laying the eggs and watching the research would make my day.. What a cool experience. Thanks for sharing, awesome photos.

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  12. There are some really nice buildings.

    I would love to see turtles hatching and bolting to the see.

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  13. Tim loves turtles so he would have loved this

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  14. You must have had so much fun watching the turtles! I envy you that experience. Good for you!

    The architecture of the Federal Hotel is so pretty---and very different from the sort you'd see here. Lovely building.

    The photos, as always, are lovely.

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  15. I loved hearing about your turtle adventure. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for turtles and had a little box turtle as a pet when I was a girl. So glad that there are people in this world who take time to save turtle eggs and lost turtle mommies. :-)

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  16. What an amazing experience. I'm glad you were able to see and share this experience wit us.

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  17. Wow, sensational post, I want to visit there.

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  18. How thrilling to see all this Diane, absolutely marvelous! Loved your post, the photos and the commentary. Thank you so much!

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  19. Having had a year-and-a-half in-residence Grand-tortoise (a spur-thighed sweetheart named Sheldon, about the size of a dinner-plate) I just loved this glimpse of the love and dedication to these beautiful creatures.

    Sheldon lived right here in my KITCHEN, with his own personal tee-ninecy Cuisinart and flat dinnerplate, tough he would make his long, slow journey all the way round the house to the side of our waterbed every morning, where he slept the day away til I called, "C'mon, Dolling!" when his dinner was ready. after he ate (a spoonful of warm just-cooked rice was a particular favorite), he took his place for the night in the utility room, facing the open door of the water-heater, just his height, where he slept all night.

    Oh, I meant to mention that you went to the second of my blogs, for it's first in alphabetical order, but it's seldom the one I post to---it's mostly old Southern memories, and not the light, parties-and-teas-and-family gatherings one of the other, which is

    http://lawntea.blogspot.com/

    I do hope you'll drop in again.

    rachel

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  20. I had quite a lump in my throat reading about the determination of the turtles to lay their eggs. I'm so glad there are strict rules and policies in place which means we can still watch this type of activity but the species protected. I love the PO where Bill could refuel and where Ann worked in her youth. Great, great post, Thanks!

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  21. Oh, Diane, what an amazing experience! Well worth the long wait, I'd say. I was so glad to read at the end that the rangers were able to move the eggs to a safe spot.

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  22. A wonderfully awesome experience!

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  23. A wonderfully awesome experience!

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  24. What a fascinating experience to watch these, and not sure about if the poor turtle was having fun or not with such a crowd around. Very interesting that she did not know to go farther up the beach to protect the eggs from tides, but glad they were relocated. Very neat experience to watch this.

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  25. What a simply amazing experience, Diane, and Pat/Grenville would have dearly wanted to see these loggerhead turtles nesting. He is passionate about marine biology and has his degree in that discipline. Maybe one day on a future road adventure!

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  26. What an amazing experience, I am so jealous. Keep well Diane

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  27. I'm glad this turtle's eggs were saved and I hope some survive to help keep the species going!

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