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One of the my favorite places is The Clearwater Marine Aquarium. It is a fantastic place where rescued dolphins and sea turtles find a safe home. My wife adopted a Kemp’s ridley turtle named Max for me a few years ago. Here’s a picture of Max.

One thing the folks at CMA do is mark and protect sea turtle nests up and down the beaches around Clearwater and St. Pete. On the CMA website, you can see all the nests that have been found this nesting season, and an update on hatchlings. 2008 has been a really good year for nesting loggerheads and, after a disappointing 2007 season, that’s wonderful news!

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My wife and I love the ocean. This June we took our two girls to Indian Shores, Florida (just south of Clearwater Beach) for a week of beach time. That part of Florida is one of the two most important sites in the world for nesting loggerhead turtles. We’d been before, but usually before nesting season really got going. This year, we were there in the heart of it.

Before I go on, I should reveal right away that no, I did not see a mother turtle digging a nest or laying her eggs. Nor did I see any baby turtles scrambling down the beach toward their ocean home. Nothing as dramatic as that. Here’s what I did.

Thursday morning I got up very early (as I usually do; my wife will shoot me one day for being a morning person) and started walking down the beach. I knew from checking the Clearwater Marine Aquarium website that a sea turtle nest had been found somewhere on Redington Beach, two beaches down from where we were staying. I was on a quest!

And so I walked. And walked. And walked some more. Come on turtle nest, where are you? Keep in mind that I had no real idea what I was looking for.

Then, finally, in the distance I saw something orange. Maybe this was it. As I got closer, I realized the orange was caution tape, wrapped around four wooden posts. On one of the posts was a paper sign. It was a sea turtle’s nest! I did a happy dance on the sand.

During my dance (not a pretty sight – hopefully everyone else was still asleep and missed it), I saw another orange speck on down the beach. Could that be another nest? I had to go see. Sure enough it was. And on down the beach a bit further – another nest! No, not one this time, but three more very close together! Wow! Five nests in one day. I was dancing on air.

I looked at my watch. 7:15. My wife was probably still asleep. I decided to give her until 8, then I’d call her with the exciting news – and see if I could get her to come pick me up, as I was way too tired to walk all the way back to our condo.

I sat down, trying to imagine this ancient turtle crawling from the sea in the dark of night. She must have crawled this path, I thought, right across this sand. Wow! I looked at my watch. 7:20. Hmmmm . . .

At 8 o’clock, I called. Nothing. I called again a little later. Still nothing. Finally, as I was about to start the longwalk back, my own cell phone rang. It was my wife.

“You’ll never guess where I am!”

“OK,” she said sleepily. She was in no mood to guess.

“I’m at a sea turtle’s nest! Can you drive down and take some pictures of it?”

My wife has gotten used to my oddities over the years, with a wry smile that says, “Yes, you are insane, but I love you anyway, you big dope.” So she agreed to come down, camera in hand.

Twenty minutes later I flagged her down and she took some pictures of me by “my” nest. The folks in the beach house (20 steps from the nest!) must have thought we were nuts.

The next day I learned that the very morning of my quest another nest had been found right down the beach from our condo – but in the other direction! Oh, well. A quest is a quest.

me and the baby turtles (they're under the sand - really!)

The baby turtles and me (they're there under the sand behing me- really!)

My first book, called The Turtle and the Universe, was published by Prometheus Books in July 2008. You can read about it by clicking on the link above.
My second book, Atoms and Eve, is available as an e-book at Barnes and Noble. Click the link above. You can download the free nook e-reader by clicking the link below.
August 2008
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A blog by Stephen Whitt

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