Nobody wants to see a photo of a dead sea turtle

June 30, 2016

I was recently cruising around in a marsh creek with my son when something odd in the marsh grass caught my eye. It didn't appear to be trash so I turned around to check it out. As I approached closer, it looked like a large, dark olive greenish - gray animal. It was a large sea turtle, an adult loggerhead, dead still and lifeless. It's limp body bobbed in our boat wake, head underwater, flippers out to the side, shell and skin with a thin covering of algae, and it did not look fresh.


We looked for prop or boat scars on its head and shell or fishing line or entanglement of another kind. There was none that we could see. I looked for any other explanation for this sea turtle being here and there was nothing obvious. I moved in a little closer to check for flipper tags that some sea turtles carry, and I prepared to measure the shell and collect the typical stranding data to report it to my sea turtle biologist friends who track things like this.

The wind caught the bow of the boat as we sat alongside the animal and we bumped its shell.  The lifeless hulk of sea turtle woke up, raised its head, took a breath.  It was startled, we were startled. I'm not sure who was more surprised.  It then slowly backed out of the marsh, turned toward the open water and dove under the boat. It surfaced 20' away, look over at us, and went on its way.  The feeling of surprise turned to guilt for disrupting the slumbers of this great animal.


There are no photos, of course, because who wants to see a photo of a dead sea turtle...


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