These are the dog days of summer. People slow down when the mercury rises, but it isn’t as quiet as we think. We have some help when it comes to battling the heat and humidity.
Have you heard the old saying, “Red sky in the morning sailors take warning, red sky at night is a sailor’s delight?” This saying is for sailors on the Atlantic Ocean. Little rainstorms over west Africa move out and over the hot ocean. From July through August, these storms, fueled by the ocean currents’ heat, grow into whirling dervishes. Let’s say you are traveling to London, and one of those storms is out there. The sky will be full of clouds that reflect pink on the morning sun.
The signs tell you that you are about to go into a storm and to alter your course to avoid it.
While summer storms are a reason to keep one’s eye to the sky, there’s also something else that requires one’s attention on the ground.
Starting in May, loggerhead turtles begin laying eggs on the beaches of the Golden Isles. There is a large force of “turtle people” searching for these mother turtles hauling out to nest.
These turtle patrols mark each nest they find. They begin the 60-day countdown to the hatching. Tiny turtles struggle out. They are boiling over each other. They reach their path, following the light to the ocean. In July and August, the magic happens, and the turtle patrol is watching. The young turtles get the “GPS coordinates” through the sand for their return. If they make it to the ocean, their goal is the Sargasso Sea.
Of course, there’s another hurdle for the turtles — plastics. Some turtles starve by eating this litter when on their way out into the ocean.
If they make it, they will be out to sea for 12 years before the female loggerhead turtles feel the urge to swim back to their hatching beach.
Upon their return, there are still plenty of challenges. But there are ways we “turtle people” can help:
• When you leave the beach, take your chairs and tent with you. Those items can block the turtles’ path.
• It is fun to build sandcastles. Build them near the water’s edge so that the tides will wash them down.
• If you dig a hole, fill it in. These tiny turtles could fall in that hole and not get out.
• Please pick up after yourself. Take your plastic, and recycle it. It is not only good for the turtle, but for us too.
• If you discover one of the nest hatchings, stand back. Let the turtles make it to the ocean by themselves. It will keep them on a healthy track. Remember, state and federal laws protect them.
• Most important, turn off your lights. White lights send them in the wrong direction. Please, turn off those porch lights and enjoy the fantastic night sky as you help those babies make it to the sea.
• Once a St. Simons patrol reported losing an entire nest because a beach house had a floodlight that caused all the hatchlings to die in the dunes. So, lights out, please. Let the ocean glow.
Keep your eyes on the ocean for storms and your eyes on the beach for turtle tracks. It might be dog days for us, but things are stirring.