14 September 2009 • 7:00 am

At Loggerheads

Loggerhead turtle, about one meter long

Loggerhead turtle, about one meter long

I don’t remember exactly when, how, or even why I first became enamored with turtles and tortoises. It’s probably been at least 25 years since I bought my first carved wooden turtle, and my collection of small handmade keepsake turtles grows by one or two every time my wife and I travel together. I’ve probably got over 50 of them now. But it’s less than an obsession for me, and I don’t have any live turtles as pets.

A video on Facebook caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. Shot at night in infrared light on Big Pine Key near our second home in Key West, Florida, it shows a “boil” – the nearly all-at-once hatching of baby loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and their immediate and frantic scramble to the sea. The first few minutes after hatching are especially perilous for the little guys (who would easily fit in the palm of your hand) – they rely on star- and moon-light glinting off the ocean’s edge to find their way to the water before seabirds and other predators pick off these tasty morsels. Human development has threatened the loggerhead in multiple ways, including the presence of artificial light at nesting areas causing the hatchlings to lose their way to the ocean, along with entanglement in fishing lines and nets.