Sunday, July 27, 2008

Holden Beach Fun

If there was a theme for our family reunion at Holden Beach this week, it was wildlife. We have never seen anything like this before. I thought I'd give a little synopsis for those of you who weren't fortunate enough to be there....

Russ had to work on Monday, and came late after picking up Mahon at the airport. The kids & I left Monday morning & arrived at Holden Monday afternoon. There was a turtle nest about 3 houses up from our house that was supposed to hatch at any time. There was another turtle nest about 10 houses down that was also about ready to hatch. Monday night about 11:30 someone came running in to say that the turtles in the closer nest were hatching. By the time we got out there all of the turtles had already crawled out of the nest and into the water. There was one lone straggler and we got to watch him make his way into the water. We later found out that that was an unusual experience. For some reason the turtle patrol people had gone home at 11pm, thinking that nothing was going to happen that night. When the turtles hatch with the turtle patrol there, they run things a little differently. The Holden Beach Turtle Patrol is a very energetic operation here. There is a waiting list of people wanting to be on it, and they are very vigilant. Every morning a turtle patrol person rides a 4 wheeler down the beach looking for turtle tracks indicating that a turtle has laid her eggs during the night. The turtle patrol then relocate the nest above the tide line because sometimes the turtle isn't careful enough, and if the tide gets the eggs they will be pickled. So they dig up the eggs and rebury them closer to the dunes. They measure the width of the flipper markings so that they will know how deep the turtle could dig and how deep to bury the eggs. Then they keep track so they will know about when the baby turtles are "due." Every nest is cordoned off with bright orange tape. When the due date approaches they dig a shallow trench from the area of the next almost down to the surf. The turtles are an endangered species, and the trench helps prevent them from wandering away from the water instead of towards the water. Only 1 in every 1,000-10,000 turtles will live to be a grown up turtle. The rest will be dinner for our friends the pelicans. And various other sea creatures. There are 32 turtle nests on Holden Beach this year, with 100-130 eggs each. So we figured that at best only 3-4 turtles from the 3000+ eggs will survive to be adults.

Tuesday morning early someone (I think Margaret?) came running into the house and said that another turtle had crawled out of the nest. We all ran down to see. Much to our surprise the turtle had two heads! Later one of the turtle patrol workers told us that the person over all of the turtle conservation operations in the state said that they've never had a report before of a 2 headed turtle born in NC before, and that there is only one in captivity that they know about--in Mexico. So we are feeling kind of cool, having seen this. Tuesday night we walked down to the nest that was farther away to see how close those turtles were to hatching. The turtle patrol people were all excited because there were several signs that the turtles had hatched out of the eggs and were beginning to dig their way to the surface. We were very excited. After a while we got tired of sitting on the sand (well Russ & I were tired of it--the kids were running around being crazy.) So I decided I'd walk back to the beach house to get some chairs.
I knew that it would be a little bit challenging because I'd misplaced my glasses and so everything was a little blurry. I walked, and walked, and walked. I realized that I'd not really been outside of our beach house at night looking in before, so I didn't really know what it would look like. As I passed each house I stopped & looked, trying to decide if that configuration was the right one. At one point I was sure I had passed it and was ready to turn around and walk back to the turtle nest, but I decided to press on. Sure enough, about 3 houses later I found it. It was a little bit disorienting. I grabbed the chairs, waters, licorice (energy food ;) ) and a bunch of glow stick bracelets. When I got back I gave all of the little kids in our group and a couple of strays 4 bracelets each. Most of them put one on each wrist and ankle, and then danced around the beach. It was very dark at this point, and without my glasses I couldn't see the kids at all--just the moving glow sticks. It was very entertaining. At about 11pm Russ decided that even though it *would* have been a great family memory to see a boil of turtles hatch, (yes, that's the right term) we weren't waiting anymore.

Wednesday brought several things we did not expect. Unfortunately we don't have pictures of any of them. But they're still worth telling about.

1)A HUGE rain/thunder storm. Rain that blew sideways--parallel to the ground, and hurt like hail. (If you say that out loud you'll sound like you're swearing in Southern!) When we went out to swim after the rain and lightening had stopped, the wind was blowing so hard that the boogie boards were flying like kites. Or if you held it right in front of you it would just stick to your body.

2)Water spraying IN the windows during the rain like a waterfall. We all assumed that the windows weren't all the way closed at the top, but they were. And still the water poured it. It came in so hard & fast that it sprayed out 18 inches from the window/wall. So yes, the sofa was quite wet. This particular duplex is for sale, and we decided that they're probably advertising the "indoor water feature" as an upgrade. ;)

3)This is the one I most wish I had a picture of. You know how pelicans normally fly parallel to the beach? Well we saw pelicans flying SIDEWAYS--with their wings parallel to the beach, but still flying parallel to the beach. It was a strange looking thing.

Thursday afternoon Andra's kids found a Portuguese Man-o-war washed up on the beach. They dug a hole & filled it with water and put the man-o-war in it, with two little fish a nephew had caught for shark bait. It was wild to watch. The man-o-war grabbed the little fish with its poisonous tentacles, then the fish started getting kind of wobbly & finally laid down on it's side like fish do when they're dead. Then the man-o-war grabbed it again. It's longer tentacles are the poisonous ones, and the shorter tentacles digest the fish. The Man-o-war created a house divided--between those who wanted to kill the man-o-war (they're very dangerous to people too) and those who wanted to release it into the wild. Fortunately for family harmony it died in the night and was given a proper Christian burial in the dunes...


Friday morning was calm, calm, calm. It was so calm that Ramona even decided to get in the water. While we were out there floating the pelicans were flying near us, diving to catch fish. It was beautiful. After we had been out for a couple of hours someone on the each started yelling, whistling, and waving us in. We couldn't figure out what was going on. When we finally went in we told that 4 of the neighbors had just seen a shark! So much for our peaceful swim! We never did see the shark, but no one was in too much of a hurry to go back in.

Friday night we went back to the closer turtle nest to see if all of the turtles had hatched. It had been 3 days since any turtles had come out of the nest, so it was time for the turtle people to dig out the nest. They know how many eggs are in the nest, and the count the broken shells, see how many eggs didn't hatch, and release any turtles that haven't made it out of the nest yet. There were a few little turtles left and we got to see them crawling down the trench. The little baby turtles were so tiny & cute--especially when they tried crawling up the sides of the trench and flipped over on their backs and got stuck.

Saturday the ocean was calm & beautiful again. The little kids thought that was great because it was so calm that all of them could go out and float--even the babies. Unfortunately our swim was cut short when someone noticed a jellyfish floating near them. Sure enough, they were all over the place. Fortunately someone told us that they weren't jellyfish, they were jelly balls. Since they didn't have tentacles they didn't sting. So we all touched it and are still alive to tell about it.

Cindy Lynn got a monster sunburn coming out to play with the moms during gator time without putting any sunscreen. Ouch!

When we got out there were a lot of people gathered by some people that were fishing near us. So of course we had to go see what was going on. And one of the fishermen had caught a sting ray! He caught 3 in a row. This is a picture of the 2nd one. The 3rd one was just a few minutes later and had a wingspan of probably 3 feet--but it was too heavy to be pulled in close enough for a picture.

Saturday night we went back down to the other turtle nest and they were digging it up. They had seen a crab crawl down into the hole and so they needed to get any remaining turtles out before the crab ate them. They found 18 turtles in the hole so we got to watch them too. By this point we were very famous as people found out that we had seen the 2 headed turtle and found the man-o-war.

The last morning at the beach is always a bit stressful--trying to pack everything up and clean everything out before leaving. I had taken a break from cleaning and was getting an adjustment from Grandpa when Jeff came in the room. He said that it was looking stormy outside and that we had better pack up faster. Sure enough--right as we walked down the stairs to get into the cars it started POURING again. I'm sure the special water feature in the houses was activated again--we just weren't inside to see it.

Well there you go--our week of wildlife at Holden Beach. I can't imagine we will ever have one like that again!


somestratt said...

And now I am alone...What a great beach trip! Cindy, thanks for photo-journaling for us! We are already gearing up for 2 years from now, so any or you who missed it, you have now been forewarned and invited. Check out that last picture. Obviously there are several families missing. It would be even more awesome with everyone!

abstowe said...

What a beach trip! The only way it could have been better is if all of our siblings and their families could have been there. Start looking forward to 2010!
Laila and I did not mind setting it up this year, but do not want to be hogs. Is there anyone out there who wants to take care of the house next time, or should we just do it?
(side note) The person responsible for taking the financial risk of setting up the house will now assign rooms upon arrival according to floor space needed. If you would like to assign yourself the very best room - step forward now!

Em said...

Oh my gosh! the turtle really IS two headed...Sam said that the picture was a head and a fin. Then i see the video. Ew Ew Jibblies!

AmShaZam said...

I-Want-To-Go-Back!!! Jeff and I are having serious withdrawal. Last night, the sprinklers came on and Jeff said, "if you really concentrate, it almost sounds like the beach." Sad, isn't it?

Cindy said...

LOL Jeff!!