There were many small adventures.
Like this one. While taking a stroll along the beach I found this little guy, half in, half out of the water.
I named the baby iguana Lime Juice. He seemed very tired, as if he had just completed a long journey. He sat in my hand for at least an hour.
Isn’t he cute? When he began to show signs of activity I put him on a branch among the Maho trees and wished him a long life.
As we sat there in the evenings we experienced a number of different things. Once we were visited by a pair of dolphins that sported around and at one point came quite close to shore. In the early evenings we saw a baby green turtle, no more than 8 or 10 inches long. He often swam up and down the beach in the shallows right in front of the nest site. His little flippers would rise up out of the water and it looked for all the world as if he was calling to the babies under the sand, “Come on in, the water’s fine!” He was given the name Brewster.
One night we were serenaded by of loud group of young people who had a guitar and probably too much to drink. We were thankful they stayed up under the trees and didn’t camp out near our nest. We really didn’t want their energy around us. The music was bad and the language was…terrible.
Almost every night a group of men sat at one of the beach tables under the street lights and played dominoes, a favorite West Indian game. We could here the loud slap of tiles hitting the table top. Slamming down tiles is all part of how the game is played. It’s like an exclamation point, a way for the player to say, “Beat dis tile, I dare you!” Games can get loud as the men laugh and yell, beer slopping from bottles as the table shakes with a decisive slamming down of a tile.
At the far end of the beach there was a regular group of dred-locked young men who puffed away on marijuana. The other end was a bit spookier a place where homeless and/or crack addicts hung out deep among the Maho trees.
The most interesting thing to happen was the night of September 3rd when a group of about 200 Hindi folk came down to the beach to celebrate the last day of a month long celebration honoring the elephant god, Lord Ganesha. There was lots of singing and dancing and clapping ending with some of the men taking 2 large idols out into the water and sinking them. We were told they were made of raw (unfired) clay so they would dissolve. The rite is celebrated to bring, good-luck for new beginnings and…wisdom. It was an honor to have been present for such a celebration. As things were winding down I went wondering down the beach, and discovered a small stature of the god, sitting in the sand facing out to sea.
But I’m sure by now you are wondering; did I see the baby turtles emerge from the sand?
The answer is…No.
I learned yesterday that the nest was water-logged due either to rain and/or the ocean. This means the eggs probably dissolved. As hard as it is, we must realize that as many as 50% of leatherback turtle nests never hatch and that only 1 in 100 baby turtles live to adulthood.
Still it was an honor to sit by the nest and be a protector. It was also wonderful to talk with the other volunteers who showed up each night; families with kids as young as three, school kids getting in community service hours, retired folk enjoying a cool breezy evening on the beach, all ages, all kinds of back-grounds. Sometimes there were as many as 15 or 18 of us ringed around the nest.
On my last night a very nice lady presented me with a cake in thanks for my coming down to the beach. It was shared with everyone there.
As a caveat to all this, one night Erica and company went down to another beach they suspected to be a turtle nesting beach. As they were patrolling they saw a hawksbill in the process of digging her nest. Here's what Erica wrote to me in an email: "...a hawksbill, around 80 pounds or so, was just digging her egg chamber!!!! ....we all watched her finish digging, lay her eggs, cover her babies and head back out to sea! It was the most amazing and moving moment. Under the brightest stars, she left her legacy for us. We wished so much that you had been there with us to witness it as well. You would have loved it. We counted her eggs, marked her nest, and saw her off. Thought you would like to know about her.......We named her "Bish", she laid 80 eggs, and in 50 days we will be sitting in our chairs...waiting on her little ones."
I was/am moved to tears.
As for the leatherbacks, St. Thomas is on the map as a leatherback nesting island. X marks the spot and in fine calligraphy is written, "Here There Be Leatherbacks."