It was as if I was walking on top of the night sky. Around me was
blackness punctuated by millions of points of light, like stars in the
night. In the midst of the black was a Green Turtle, almost like a
living constellation. I laid down to make a photograph and when I got
back up tiny grains of black clung to my arms and legs. It wasn't the
middle of the night. The black was made from finely ground lava. The
afternoon sun reflected off millions of surfaces in the beach,
the stars in the night of the black sand. And the large turtle floated
in a sleep so deep that someone next to me asked if he was alive.
A Green Turtle takes a quick breath before being covered by a
Waves broke over the rocky outcropping just off shore. Through the
moving water I could catch tantalizing glimpses of other Green Turtles.
Every few moments they would poke their heads up for a quick breath of
air, and then they would disappear as the next wave covered them. More
often I would see the tops of their shells or a flipper sticking out of
the water momentarily, as if the turtle was waving to me. At first I
thought that they were being buffeted around by the surf as they tried
to come into the beach for a rest. It was only later that I realized
that they were placidly grazing on the algae growing on the rocks just
under the surface of the water.
The underwater grace of Green Turtles.
Later in the week I was able to swim with a couple of other Green
Turtles. In the water they appear much different than what I saw from
land. Once they become wet many colors and patterns show up on their
skin and shells that can't be seen when they are dry. I kept a
respectful distance and spent some time watching them pause and graze
and glide through the water. They have very large flippers and move
through the water with a elegance and refinement that could not be
guessed at by watching them from above the water. They have a
deliberate gliding movement that is very graceful, almost as if they
were flying through the water.
Going with the flow...
One of my lasting memories of Green Turtles on that trip was of the
first one basking on the black sand beach. I think of myself as a
reasonably patient person, patience is pretty much required in Nature
photography. But that afternoon I saw a new level of patience. When the
huge turtle decided that it was time to leave he slowly turned himself
around and lined up with the force of the ocean. And he waited. A wave
came that washed over his head, adding color and texture. And he
waited. A while later a wave washed over his entire body. He lifted his
head and held his flippers out and surfed towards the ocean. All of an
inch or two closer to the ocean. And he waited some more. He was in no
rush. He wasn't fighting what was going on, he was literally going with
Charles St. Charles III
[Note: Green Turtles are an endangered species. For more
more information on Green Turtles you can visit Animal Planet at
The Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) has an interesting web
site that maps global nesting sites of Green Turtles at
If you look closely through the CCC
web site you'll be able to find maps of turtles carrying transmitters
that have locations of the turtles as recent as yesterday.] If you know someone else
like to receive the field notes or newsletters either have them email
me, or send their email address to me.