Some days in the ocean are like no others. You see something, hear something, or feel something special. Perhaps something no one has ever seen before. Almost certainly something you will never see again. Those days are exciting, like finding treasure. This day in the ocean west of Cat Cay was like that.
This picture shows a giant Loggerhead Turtle. We were scuba diving with a group from Bimini Undersea Adventures near the island of Cat Cay (say "cat key"), 10 miles south of their home port of Alice Town on the island of Bimini. We had been aboard their boat all day and had just finished the picnic lunch we had packed. We wanted to make one last dive before we had to head for home, but a current had picked up that was too strong to swim against. We wouldn’t be able to stay with the boat if it tied up at a mooring buoy, so we had to make a drift dive. On a drift dive, one of the leaders holds onto a rope attached to a free buoy that floats on the surface. All of the divers stay close to that leader, and then everyone floats with the current. It feels like Superman to float in the current above the reef, "flying" at nearly 2 miles per hour as the current sweeps you downstream and the creatures of the reef pass all around you. The boat floats with the current, too, and stays near the floating buoy to be near the divers. The ocean current pushes everyone downstream, sort of like floating on a raft in a river. But we have to stay together, as the powerful ocean current could separate the group and scatter us all across the ocean.
We were enjoying the beautiful corals and fishes when one of the divers saw it. Just below us on the ocean floor, like a huge dining-room table, was the Loggerhead Turtle. Nearly five feet long with a head as big as a basketball, this great creature may have weighed as much as 600 pounds. Turtles eat sponges and jellyfishes; how old must they be to grow so big? This Loggerhead Turtle had picked out a spot on the bottom among the corals to rest. Waiting quietly and barely moving, the turtle was nearly invisible unless you were close to it and looked right at it. The turtle was resting at a depth of about 45 feet.
Sea turtles are reptiles. They have to swim to the surface to breathe. They have nostrils on top of their noses so they can just poke their noses out of the water to breathe. And unlike the slow turtles on land, sea turtles are fast and graceful swimmers. The picture above shows a close-up of the turtle’s enormous head.
Like other sea turtles, Loggerhead Turtles are an endangered species. Hunters have killed them for their shells and have collected their eggs from nests on beaches until there are not many left. Also, people have built buildings near the beaches where turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, which may scare the turtles away and prevent them from laying their eggs. Also the buildings may confuse the babies when they hatch because the lights from the buildings may hide the light from the sunrise (which is how the babies know which direction to crawl to find the sea). Sometimes boats run into turtles when the turtles come to the surface to breathe. There are many threats to sea turtles. We must learn about these threats so we can reduce the threats and help protect the few turtles that are left, so there will always be sea turtles in our oceans.
What are some things people can do to help protect these turtles?
Visit the ReefNews Ocean-Geography webpage to learn more about the island of Bimini.
Bimini Undersea Adventures is a ReefNews sponsor.
This story first appeared in the e-ReefNews e-mail newsletter, Volume 1 number 6.
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