When Christopher Columbus first arrived on St. Croix - one of the things that he found most amazing were our sea turtles. There were so many that historical accounts quote sailors as saying: "the sea was (so) thick with them so that it seemed that the ships would run aground on them"
Well - we don't quite have so many anymore - that's a fact that can be said about many of the different animal populations of the ocean - but what we do have - we protect. We post 'turtle' watches over nests to keep predators (mongooses are a problem as are cats and dogs. seconded only by humans), and if we spot a gaggle of tiny turtle hatchlings making their mad dash for open water - it's a cause for celebration.
The peak of Green Sea Turtle season on St. Croix is September, with the Hawksbill and Leatherback Turtles picking up the slack a bit earlier or a bit later in the year. Popular beaches with the Green Sea turtles (they are very discriminating - and very picky too.) are rocky ones like Jacks, Isaacs, and East End Bay. Hawksbill's prefer Buck Island - which doesn't surprise me - it's my favorite too. For the Leatherback's - it's wide open sandy beaches - like Sandy Point - which is also a National Wildlife Refuge.
There's lot of well written information on the web about Green Sea Turtles - so rather than repeat the obvious (yes - they get large, yes - they live 80 years, yes - they are 150 million years old) - here's some fun turtle facts to share at your next dinner party (hopefully spent relaxing on a balcony at Sugar Beach enjoying the ocean breezes, white sand, and blue, blue, blue ocean).
1. Green turtles can hold their breathe for up to 5 hours... That's clocked. So don't try to compete!
2. The shells of Green Sea Turtles aren't green. Sorry. They are brown or at best olive. Green Sea Turtles are called green because their fat is green.
3. Turtles get ahead by sticking their necks out. But Green Turtles can't pull their heads in! They are out all the time. (which makes them the most likely to succeed in the turtle world I guess)
4. Baby Green turtles eat anything they can get their mouths around - crabs, jellyfish and delicious sponges
5. But... Adult Green turtles are herbivorous - like cows - they only eat grasses! Sea grasses of course. They also chow down on algae. (Imagine - they get up to 500 pounds by just eating grass. How do they do that?)
6. This you won't find hard to believe - Green Sea Turtles prefer just one kind of grass - Turtle Grass. (clearly, picking a name was simple)
7. Like other turtles, Green Sea Turtles take long long trips (also known as migrations). They only 'do it' every 2 to 4 years - the rest of the time they are roaming around the ocean. Scientists, who are basically very nosey people, have tracked turtles from St. Croix - all the way up to Nova Scotia. Wonder if he had his passport?
8. Here's a really surprising fact - Green Sea turtles only nest every other year - but - Even numbered years are most popular! Clearly - they keep day books. Sorry honey - not tonight - it's not an even year. 2012 promises to be a good year for Green Sea Turtles too - which means your odds of seeing turtle babies is going to go up.
9. One female - many nests - large families! Leatherback ladies will nest 5 to 7 times - with a record of 11 times for one very anxious female. She must have been a school teacher - keep trying until you get it right. Green Sea Turtles only nest about 5 times a season - but each nest will have an average of 135 eggs. Hawksbills make the fewest nests in a mating season - 3 to 5, and have slightly fewer eggs on average per nest - around 130.
10. There are lots of great sites for information about turtles - but this is my favorite: http://www.deepseawaters.com/sea-turtles.htm. I like it best because it not only has good facts - it's easy to read, and the pictures are fun. So it's a real winner. And you can find out about more than just sea turtles!
So next time you are coming to our beautiful island - be sure to cozy up to some of our most attractive residents - the Turtles!