Pixel Postcard: Why Did the Turtle Cross the Beach?

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Pixel Postcard: Why Did the Turtle Cross the Beach?

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Feb 05, 2014

turtle honu in sea foam

As much of the country seems to be getting buried in snow this week, we in Hawaii are experiencing precipitation, as well. Thankfully, lows in the 60s means we won’t see the white stuff—except for maybe the summits of Mauna Loa on Hawaii Island and Haleakala on Maui.

Rain or not, one thing you might see on the beach these days is a turtle. Or two. Maybe more.

Green sea turtles are only known to “bask,” as it’s called, on the beaches of the Galapagos Islands, Australia, and Hawaii.

And scientists aren’t exactly sure why.

Some theories posit the basking has to do with thermoregulation—body temperature. Turtles are reptiles and, as such, do not maintain a consistent core body temperature. By hauling out on beaches, they can increase their core body temperature, possibly speed up digestion, and/or increase the rate of egg maturation in females.

But, then, turtles have been documented basking at night—long after the sun has set.

So, there are also the theories of energy conservation and evasion from predators—think shark.

As we know from the childhood fable of the tortoise and the hare, turtles are not speed demons. Not in the ocean and, certainly, not on land. To witness them laboriously haul their bodies out of the water onto land is almost painful to watch. But don’t ever, ever, ever, ever help. It’s against the law to touch, harm, harass, kill, feed turtles. They are protected by the Endangered Species Act—and, thank goodness. Otherwise, we might not be enjoying them on the beaches of Hawaii today. After decades of decline, the Hawaiian green sea turtle population is once again growing.

Turtles are not exactly built for ocean racing. They’re not aerodynamic like the sleek tuna. They’re not equipped with a powerful tail flipper the likes of a humpback whale. They’re round and relatively flat and haul a 200- to 500-pound carapace—shell—around on their backs. 

And, yet, if you’ve ever been fortunate enough to encounter one while diving or snorkeling (remember: don’t touch), they exude a certain grace in the water. While everything else seems to dart hither and yon, turtles go with the flow. I’ve watched them forage on a rocky coastline as waves repeatedly broke over them with nary the chip of a tooth—or, rather, their finely serrated beak.

The life lesson that comes to me when I see turtles is this: Position yourself in a place where you can go with the flow. Because isn’t it much easier to ride the current of life than to fight an upstream battle? I call that Turtle Wisdom;-)


Mary | Feb 06, 2014 09:01 AM

Thanks! I needed that. I'll try to remember "turtle wisdom" when things are going exactly as planned. Especially on these cold rainy days.

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