Saturday, April 16, 2005

Turtle Egging

In about one month, the loggerhead seaturtles will begin to nest on the beaches of Florida. From May to August huge female loggerheads will haul themselves out of the water on a high tide and crawl up the beach slope to the high beach. As the night rolls on she will use her hind flippers to dig a neat hole about 16 inches deep. Into this she will deposit anywhere from 60 to 160 eggs. Each egg is about the size of a ping-pong ball and each holds the promise of a new generation.
Today, seaturtles are completely protected and may not be taken in any way. Though necessary today, that was not always true. Coastal Crackers had long depended on seaturtle eggs as a valuable source of protein during the period of time when Florida's turtle population was high and the human population was low. Sadly, the situation is reversed these days.
When I was a kid in the mid-60's, it was still legal to take seaturtle eggs, but the taking had been reduced to a short season so that most turtle nests were not molested.
The process was simple. Dad would pile us into our old jeep and we would head to the beach. Sometimes cousins or the girl next door would come along...the only limit was space, this was the pre seatbelt era.
We would ride the dark beach with head lights off...this was also the precondo, prepavethe entire dune system era!
We would cruise slowly down the beach looking for the telltale sign that a turtle had crawled out of the sea and was up near the dunes. This consisted of a track in the sand that looked alot like you had rolled a large tractor tire up from the water.
Once a track was discovered, silence was the rule. Keeping quiet on a night time beach ride when you are an excited kid was tough, but neccessary since the slightest noise could cause the seaturtle to stop nesting and return to the sea. That was only until she actually started laying though. Once the eggs began to drop into the nest, noise was no longer a factor...she was going to finish the job.
In our family, going turtle egging was more like bird watching. We didn't really use turtle eggs at home, but we loved the experience of goin' turtle eggin'. Many of our friends used them and my high school sweetheart's mom said there was no better egg for making cakes.
The turtle would eventually finish her task and slowly turn around and head back to the sheltering sea. Her crawl back was longer than the trip up the beach since by now the tide had dropped.
Today, the seaturtles like true Florida Crackers are scarce. Both seem threatened by the rampant development that has colonized and concreted so much of the Florida Coast.


Kevin said...

I used to go 'turtle-eggin' with my dad, too. He boil them a little while, they never got hard the way chicken eggs do, then bite of piece of the shell and squeeze the filling into his mouth. I never tried them, but he loved them. My grandmothers loved to cook with them. I guess they agreed with the cake making thing.

Anonymous said...

I am one of the cousins you mentioned .Brought back "good ole days" memories.Course we used to be able to camp on the beach and cook fish that were fresh off the hook.Enjoyed your site hope you update it from time to time.

See Ya

Floridacracker said...

Rick, you and I were lucky to grow up in a Florida that was wilder and freer than modern Florida. What we have to do is protect what's left and keep those memories alive.

Anonymous said...

your site keeps going and going enjoying it good job

Floridacracker said...

Thanks anonymous. Y'all come back.

thingfish23 said...

Last time I went snookin' there were turtle tracks on the beach. County workers patrol the beach every morning to mark off nests and cover them with chicken wire. I guess that protects them from varmints of all sorts - including Homo sapiens.