If you ever get the chance to watch a nest of sea turtles hatch, I recommend dropping what you’re doing and running to the beach.
It’s a rare sight and I was lucky enough to witness it with my family on vacation at Fernandina Beach last week.
I’m not a biologist or ecologist or whatever type of “ogist” that would be an expert in sea turtles. That being said, here is my unscientific report on the brief and magical migration I saw firsthand:
The sand above the nest, taped off to protect it by a local preservation society, began to rumble earlier that night. A neighbor came up the beach telling everyone the hatch was imminent. When we arrived the sand was bubbling like boiling water getting ready to explode.
As a small group of us stood watch and the sun began to set we began to wonder if this was really worth waiting around for. All of the sudden the first turtle burst through the sand, an overachiever leading the way. Before we knew it a hundred more baby turtles followed.
Their mission was to make it from the sandy shore to the crest of the water and get swept into the tide. Their survival depends upon a swift march from the nest to the water, led by the light of the moon.
The turtles’ time on land is brief and determined; their focus laser sharp. It has to be.
One turtle, the runt of the litter, lagged a bit behind. We all held our breath as he made his way a few steps behind his family until finally he got swept underneath a wave.
Who knows if that runt will survive, or really if any of the turtles will? At best only a few will likely make it to adulthood.
So in their moment they do not hesitate. They are not distracted by the people watching, by the shells on the shore, by anything other than their one true goal.
Of course some of the spectators could not help but pull out their phones to try to capture the moment. In the spark of excitement they could not figure out how to turn the flash off. Each time a flash burst from a phone a neighbor yelled. She admonished how even a momentary flash could distract the turtle. (Thankfully, I knew how to turn mine off. The picture suffered but it’s the price you pay to witness this special moment.)
You see any false light could lead the turtle away from the true light in the sky guiding their path toward the ocean. Follow the distraction and the turtle will permanently lose its way and its chance to live.
The migration itself lasted less than 5 minutes. As soon as it was over the group of us smiled and walked our way back to the beach house.
We all knew we witnessed something very special and something we will probably never be lucky enough to see again.
And for a moment I understood that the human life is not so far different than the turtle’s.
Our time on the land is just a brief migration from where we hatch to our true home. There’s a short and narrow path that will take us there. There will be temptations and distractions, false lights calling us down the beach offering us empty promises.
Not all of us will survive. Some of us won’t make it to the end or fulfill our goals. Still for a brief moment, we have a chance. We have a purpose. We get to live,
So like the sea turtle we must remain focused. In this moment of migration we must march determinedly toward our destination. Whether we succeed or not should be of no concern to us. For all we can do is try – ignoring the distractions, not fearing the outcome, marching forward toward our home.