The Travelling Trooper Sees Some Turtles

Bring on the fishies! After breakfast, we hopped on a boat and headed out to swim in the open waters.

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Upon returning to the island, though, we found out that the best action is actually found right on the beach’s shores!

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The very first sting ray I saw came swimming right at me. It honestly looked like it had its sights set on me. Even though I knew they only eat things like mollsusk, clams, shrimp, and small fish, I thought I was a goner. And then it just swam right under me. As soon as it was gone, I immediately wanted to find another one. They look so cool! I caught this giant one sleeping.
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My Faux Pro doesn’t do justice to the vibrant shimmering colours of the fish in these waters.

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Once the tide went out at around 2, it was time to get out. There was a reef walk led by Melissa, the same guide from the previous night.

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This turd-looking thing ironically helps clean the water. He poops out clean water!
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Let’s get Science-y! So barrier reefs are formed when a coral larvae attaches itself to a rock or soil near a coastal or continental coast. It becomes a growth, a polyp, and excretes calcium carbonate, which forms its exoskeleton. If they are exposed to sufficient amounts of sunlight and algae, they begin to grow and excrete more calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate settles on the rocks and becomes an ideal environment for more polyps to grow. Eventually, a coral reef is formed. When a reef is formed near a coast, it is called a fringe reef. However over time, these reefs connect and form a barrier reef. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest in the world. The green parts in this photo are examples of thriving coral. The brown parts have died, perhaps because they are sticking too far out of the water. However there are brown corals as well.

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It’s Patrick!
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It has tube feet all over its body and a mouth in the middle.

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A cousin of the poop-looking one from earlier on.
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Fun fact: Clams are hermaphrodites.

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Patrick’s long-lost brother!
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Though it may not look like it, that’s a slug.
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Coral mushrooms are the rebels of the coral world. They can grow unattached to anything.

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Me: This one looks like a brain! Melissa: That’s why it’s called a brain coral. Makes sense.
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Clams can grow up to four feet long and weigh up to 500 pounds.
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Don’t know anything about this one; I just think it’s a real prrty colour.

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After the reef walk, it was time for another hatchling walk. This time, I wanted to nab some photos of the cute little buggers. They were so fast I could hardly get them in focus with my telephoto lens.

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Round one was a success! Or, at least I hope it was a success. Hopefully he’s still out there somewhere. Apparently the ones who live to full adulthood go as far out as South America and loop all the way back. By the time they make it back, they’re fully grown adults. Maybe I’ll come back in thirty years to pay this guy a visit.
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Round 2
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It’s unreal how fast their flippers move.

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Swim, little buddy! Swim!
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That’s the shipwreck of the HMAS Protector out there. It served in both World Wars. In 1943, it was on its way to New Guinea to serve with the US Army, when it collided with a tugboat. The owner of Heron Island bought the wreckage and hauled it over to Heron Island to use it as a breakwater off the island’s shore.

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During the hatchling walk, Trevor and I befriended a couple of fellow Torontonians by the name of Judy and Henry. Judy is a retired teacher and Henry is a real estate wiz. We ended up having a few drinks and dinner together.

Unfortunately, we left them in a bit of a rush, since we wanted to join the stargazing tour group. Alas, great food and great company kept us at the restaurant too long and we missed the group.

Also, I found out later that we ended up going to the wrong meeting place for the tour.

But that’s all irrelevant, because missing the tour was the best thing that could’ve happened to us that night.

We ended up walking along the beach on our own under a full moon. It was rather romantic. Trevor and I held hands and reminisced about our favourite memories from the trip as our laughs rang out over the sound of the ocean waves. What a beautiful night it was.

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All kidding aside, I was determind to find another sea turtle laying its eggs like the other night. This time, though, I was going to stay until she was finished.

We walked nice and slow, making sure to check for turtle tracks on the sand and flying mounds of sand over the dunes.

We saw a whole lot of nothing. Well, there was the hatchling army making its suicidal march to the ocean, where sharks and rays lay in wait for the poor unsuspecting creatures.

After a while, we decided to take a break and just enjoy the moonlit beach, so we just lay down and contemplated life after the trip as we tried to count the stars in the sky. (Answer: A LOT!)

After losing count of how many times we’d lost count trying to count the stars, Trevor and I got up and continued our search for a mama-to-be turtle.

Just as we were approaching the end of our walk, we came across a set of turtle tracks! We slowly and quietly walked towards the sand dune, and sure enough, we could see AND HEAR sand being flung. It sounded like somebody was being pummelled with a bat! It was such a thick THWACK!

Trevor and I sat down at around 9:15, occasionally poking our headsover the dune to check on our friend’s progress. We also didn’t want to get too close that we might scare her away though. Instead, we’d justsit back and whisper words of encouragement.

I was so tired from the day of snorkelling–the Australian sun is no joke–that I kept dozing off; but another loud THWACK would inevitably wake me up. The loud sound would sometimes be following by a sigh of exhaustion. The old girl was tired.

Finally, with a quarter hour to go before midnight, two and a half hours after we’d sat down, the THWACK-ing stopped, and I could hear the turtle crawling towards us.

I looked over my shoulder to my right, and she wasn’t in the hole anymore. I turned to my left, and there she was! I could practically reach out and touch her head! My face froze in a look of shock. My jaw was halfway to my knees. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I stayed as low to the ground and as still as possible so as not to frighten her. Thankfully, the tree branches and the dark night offered enough cover.

As she passed us, we got to see and appreciate her full size for the first time. She was the size of a small dinner table! I walked up behind her to get a better view, when suddenly she stopped. I thought perhaps she’d noticed me and had become frightened.

Nope. She was just taking a breather. She was completely worn out. She stopped every few strides to take another deep breath. Once she reached the water, though, it was like all of the weight of the world lifted off of her shoulders.

That’ll do, turtle. That’ll do.

 

 

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