Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day 8 - Fuerte Tortuga

Date: 7/8/12

Start: Playa Blanca, Puerto Jimenez
End: Playa Blanca, Puerto Jimenez

Word of the day: fuerte - strong

Turtle Fact: When working with turtles you must put a towel over there head so can not see anything. This calms them down. Much like horses, the less they see the less stressed they are to freak out, move around or get tangled in a net.

Wake up, grab breakfast, prepare for a day on the boat. Yolando, Georgina and Cesar all leave this morning to head back towards San Jose, both groups with different destinations. We make sure to exchange information as we may meet up in Nicoya and say our goodbyes.

Around 8am David, Rircardo, Paula, Shay and myself head out to an area similar of sea grass we visited yesterday. We go through the same motions, set the anchor, lay out the net, set the other anchor, snorkel the length of the net to check for snags and tangles, "park" the boat in-line with net 50 ft away and wait. We sit in the boat "in-line" with the net so that we can see if something (hopefully a turtle and not a string ray or driftwood) gets caught. We can tell this by the orange buoys floating on top of the net 2ft from each other. If these buoys are sunken for a period of time, its a good chance that something is in the net. Another way is look at the curve of the net. Naturally the current makes a slight convex curve of the net as the current has just started to head back to the gulf and the low tide comes in. If we see either a point to the curve or see a "s" shape form, that means that something is trying to swim through it. There is also the obvious way, and just wait for the turtle to come up for air.

We all sit there for about an hour. Every now and then a turtle pokes it's head and shell out of the water to catch a breath of air. Some of them were within our zone, others were in either side (left and right) of our net. We sit in anticipation - just like fishing.

David nonchalantly points at the net where a turtle just got stuck. YIPPY! He has be jump in the water to get the capture on film ) - I do this with excitement. The boat pull up the inside of the net (shore side). As they do this, we notice a SECOND turtle in our net - YIPPY x2. Since the 2nd turtle was closer to them, they go for this one first. After first glance they notice that this turtle already has Widecast Tags on it. They give it a once over to make sure it looks healthy (which it did), record some physical features and release it back into the gulf. Now onto the first turtle.

The first thing they do is untangle the turtle out of the net. All of this is done from inside the boat. This one was a little more tangled than most, simply because they tended to the other turtle first. No worries though, it just takes a couple extra minutes to accomplish. Once untangled, they grab the turtle by the flippers (shoulders) and raise it inside the boat. Immediately after they place a towel over it's eyes so that it calms down. VOILA - the first and hardest part is done. Now the turtle sits in the boat for a couple of hours or until we find another turtle. In today's case he only waits 3 hours before we pack up and head back in. While in the boat, we periodically pour water of him to keep him moist so that his skin and shell does not dry up and flake as this could cause dangerous abrasions and bleeding if they move around and rub up on the inner walls of the boat, other elements.

Once we get back to shore, we get a wheel barrel (lined with foam noodles - much like the kind you play with in a pool) and cart it (her) to the "turtle center". Like a celebrity in public, everyone gather around to check out the tortuga on the beach as we wheel her away. Once in the "center" (colored, thick chicken-wired enclosed area with a mesh roof top supported by smaller gauge timber and filled with about 8 large kiddy-pools) we place the turtle in fresh water until we examine her. But now it's time for lunch.

After eating, we continue with capturing data. A couple of people pick up the turtle and move it to the examination area (this is 1 close-sided, tent like structure, where all utensils and surfaced are sterilized before and after. First we collect blood samples from back (dorsal) side of the neck. You have to feel for the "11" muscles and based off that, extract blood from the vein that is located in between them. After collecting about 10CC's of blood and dispersing them onto several vials, we move on to collecting the tissue sample. Essentially we cut a "hang nail" size piece of skin from one of the back feet and place this in another vial. Now we take measurements (always 3x times for scientific purposes) of the top shell, bottom shell and the genital area. After all this is done, we look over the body for parasites that might be in the crevasses of the skin and remove them if they are not to deep underneath the skin. Luckily this one did not have any!

We double check our paperwork to make sure we did not miss anything, and place the turtle back in the wheel barrel to head back out to the ocean. Once we arrive to the beach, another crowd forms as we place the turtle about 8ft from the shoreline. We remove the towel over it's head and watch it realize where it is. After a few moments the turtle waddles horizontally to the ocean and then glides through the was as soon as she gets deep enough. Free at last!

Now the boring but necessary stuff... cleaning all the equipment and areas used for turtle as well as prepping for the next day. After everything has been washed, sterilized and put away, I clean up myself and relax for a little. We eat dinner, as it is pouring rain and flashes of light vibrate the wooden benches we sit on. After dinner and I do a little recapping, uploading and get to bed early. Sleep.

  • Turtles are strong. It's no wonder why some people want them for their meat.
  • Even though we are in a 3rd world conducting science, they take things seriously to make sure results are viable not tainted.
  • Crabs will eat your clothes. Apparently they eat anything and you will find holes in your stuff if you don't keep them off the ground.
  • You can not leave ANY trace of food anywhere. Ants will find it.

Food: Coconuts

Animals: Turtles, snakes 

Something I don't want to admit: I screamed like a girl... So this morning I went to go put on my close-toed sandals to go for a walk around the site, before heading to breakfast. Well after putting them on, and taking 2 steps I realized there was something squishy in my left shoe. After feeling around with my big toe, something felt back with a pinch. It was a crab! Input girlish shreek. 

Days of Rain: 5/5 - Thunderstorm ( I didn't think it thunder-stormed this much, I thought it was just rain)

P.s. Writing these journals/recaps in the stormy rain really makes me feel like a "writer"

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