Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Turtles

The stars arrived at the venue on the Isle of Palms beach to great fanfare.

An oversized black Mercedes van accompanied by a police escort slowly approached the crowd that had formed hours earlier ten-deep along the rope line. Dozens of yellow-shirted handlers sporting sunglasses made sure the spectators were safely behind the ropes as the van pulled into place for the stars’ arrival.

The double doors of the large van slowly opened, and there was a cacophony of cameras clicking as young and old jockeyed for position to get their first glimpse of the stars of the show. The handlers carefully pulled a large white plastic crate from the back of the van. A hairless shiny head peered out with bulging eyes.

These stars were called the Turtles…the Loggerheads to be exact. Their names were Discovery, Reese, Bryce, Chaz and Quincy…five loggerhead turtles that were being released into the ocean after being nursed to back to health at the SC Aquarium

The handlers, who were the staff and volunteers from the Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program, gently reached in and pulled out the first of the five rehabbed turtles. The crowd couldn’t have been more electric if Taylor Swift or Luke Bryan had stepped out of that black van and onto the beach.
I just happened upon this show on the Isle of Palms after being there all day for a work project. Several folks I’d been with suggested staying around to watch the release. I'm so glad I did!
It was a spectacle of nature like nothing else I’ve ever witnessed. Watching this reminded me of the amazing capacity of science coupled with human compassion that nursed these turtles back to health so they could be gently and respectfully released back to the arms of Mother Nature fully prepared to fend for themselves.
As one of the yellow-shirted young women walked back up the the beach after helping carry one of the turtles to the ocean, it was clear she was filled with emotion. Her eyes glistened with tears but she had a huge smile on her face.
A young girl standing next to me asked her mom why the young woman was crying. The mom explained how she had been part of a big team that had taken care of these turtles when they were in pain and hurt. This young woman did all she could to care for that turtle so he could live his life on his own.
This young girl wisely said, “Kind of like parents do with kids, right?” Surely words that made that mom proud!
I think I can accurately describe myself a nature lover and good steward of the world around us. I recycle. I don’t litter. I compost. I prefer being outside to inside in just about any circumstance. But it wasn’t until I witnessed this turtle release that I could fully appreciate the power of Mother Nature and her intersection with human nurture and science to remind us of our humanity and connection to the world around us.
It seemed appropriate that this release happened at this time of year when we join in celebrations like Mother’s Day, graduations and spring weddings that symbolize nurturing, caring, connection, transition and new life. These turtles and their stellar performance were a moving reminder of this.

The best local news story I saw about the release is from Channel Two in Charleston – lots of great video and details about the turtles’ injuries, stories and recovery if you want to see up close more of this amazing performance.