A personal account from Maddison Howard, Eco Beach participant 2016
It’s 9pm on a balmy night at Eco Beach. Under the cover of the star doused sky the 8 of us pile into the 4WD. Ahead is a night of beach walking, turtle monitoring, tagging, microchipping and track counting. The anticipatory atmosphere amongst the volunteering crew is palpable – we’re excited to be on the frontline in peak Flatback nesting season, humbled to be tasked with the collection of information for this data deficient species.
As the vehicle ambles down the beach we peer out the salt stained windows, scanning the sand for tracks and the tide line for dark turtle-indicative shapes. We are lugging litres of water, slathered in insect repellent and clutching data sheets, our tummies full from a hearty camp kitchen dinner. We are eager to experience a repeat of last night’s observations, where we watched a Flatback lay 51 eggs amidst the dunes, just centimetres from our position in the sand.
We’re not kept in suspense for long – a single track is spotted just ahead, suggesting that the turtle is still on the beach, searching, pitting, and chambering for a nesting spot in the dunes. We clamber out of the car and wait for Anne’s wave forward to approach the Flatback. Armed with our weapons of choice (pit tag scanners, titanium tags, GPS logger and tape measure) we are ready to move on call. Alas, the turtle does not nest. Perhaps the sand was too dry to chamber, the vegetation too thick for pitting, maybe we will see her trying again tomorrow night. For now though, we pull on our backpacks and flick on our headlamps, treading onwards up the beach in search for more signs of turtle activity.
What an unbelievable and highly recommended way to spend a week on holiday.