The flatback turtles of Port Hedland

Much has happened since I last wrote- mainly goats and aggressive amounts of frenzied dancing (alas not together, despite my best efforts)- but before all that I wish to chat TURTLES.

With hindsight, my last post regarding Port Hedland may have been a little derogatory- deserved or not. I wish to be nothing but fair, and Port Hedland does have one saving grace: Flatback turtles! 

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So let me tell you briefly about a beautiful moment that didn’t rely upon boobs or beer for its memory-creating potency.

There are only a very small number of places where you can go flatback turtle watching in WA, and this happens to be one of them. These guys are actually quite rare now (is there anything humans aren’t destroying?), and so there are big conservation efforts afoot to try and help numbers increase. Despite this, they are endangered, and so it is a special thing indeed that they choose Cemetary Beach in Port Hedland as a nesting site.

New Years days, we hunt on a turtle hunt- and whaddayaknow we were lucky enough to see some of the dudes.

Very lucky, actually, as the recent cyclone had caused quite some damage to the turtle population. At first we just saw dead ones.

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We felt pretty sad, especially when we saw the destroyed nests; the winds having exposed the eggs and babies to the merciless birds.

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Still, the beach is a great place to blow away those NYE cobwebs.

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With the sun setting and the rock pools full of life, it was calming indeed.

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Daylight fading, we started to walk back along the beach to the car, when an excited old man stopped us and shared the great news that some littl’uns had made it. Oooohhhh.

We raced towards the area he had pointed out, and were absolutely delighted to see a few tiny babies struggling towards the ocean.

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It was so beautiful to see some life still left after finding dead babies and ruined nests all over the beach.

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It’s worth pointing out our lack of sleep and the questionable state of our bloodstreams made this all the more melancholy.

But the fight was far from over for these guys; it’s quite a long way to the beach and the jellyfish, octopus and crabs  hanging out in the low tide rock pools are waiting to pounce. So are the birds, who take great swoops down out of the heavens, their claws and beaks gleaming menacingly.

But the turtles aren’t fazed.

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They don’t quit; on they go towards the sea. How can they possibly know which way to run, newly hatched and completely fresh into this world? And yet, they do. They run at life without looking back, fearless and unafraid, zero comprehension for the dangers that await them. They just… go.

I find that most admirable.

It’s beautiful. It’s so poetic. I wish I could be more like the baby turtles; to know what I want and fearlessly run at it despite the odds. I think some of us will spend our whole lives never making that run, nervously scanning the sky from a safe hideaway, never leaving the warm nests we construct around ourselves. Never reaching the ocean- whatever that might be to each of us. Think about it.

It occurred to me that day that these baby turtles experience more satisfaction in the first ten minutes of their lives than some people will ever enjoy… because they have the balls to RUN at their goal, and if they die, they die knowing they TRIED. For them, as can be witnessed with the whole of nature, nothing else matters except the struggle for life.

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Every living thing, big or small, fights for survival, and fights to thrive. Its like they say in Jurassic Park: Life always finds a way.

Humans are sometimes the exception, sadly. Often times, to exist is enough, and even that we take for granted. Yes, I think we have a lot to learn from such vivaciousness, such zest for life, such fearlessness. We should unearth our animal desire for life and really cultivate it, so that we too can fearlessly run at life.

We followed two baby turtles all the way across the rock pools and the low tide beach right up to the ocean. They seemed oblivious to us, focused only on running as fast as their little flippers could propel them across the sand.

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It was incredibly tempting to pick them up and carry them, save them all the hassle. But just like human life, every struggle breeds strength- and without this frantic dash across the sand the turtles would have no strength to survive the sea.

I still can’t believe my luck at witnessing this spectacle, especially in the wake of a cyclone. Such a beautiful display of life on the first day of the New Year is surely a good omen.

The world felt at peace. When you watch animals go about their lives like this, sometimes everything melts away for that brief period. Because life goes on, clearly. Whatever our human dramas, nature will always be there, taking care of itself.

If a baby turtle can make it to the ocean, alone, newly born and no knowledge of anything, how much more can we do.

My soul felt calmed. I hope for more encounters of this type in my travels, because quite frankly we all just want to feel good, and this stuff makes you feel really GOOD.

It’s the high that comes with DISCOVERY, the thrill that comes with unearthing nature’s delicious secrets! When you feel privileged- your senses blessed- that you’ve been let in to observe an intimate moment; to breathe in air heavy with the scent of hidden promise. More please!

I think I might be slipping into the realms of hippy-dom. Which is an interesting development. Not unwelcome or unexpected by any means- as I approach the three year mark of my nomadic lifestyle, how could I not have cultivated a love of the world and nature’s goodies? And when I see a passionate, aggressive, thirst for life like that- not just passive apathetic existence- it gives me a kick.

It makes me feel connected to the earth, that all creatures big and small have buried in us a desire to discover, a motivation to keep pushing forward, and a deep-rooted instinct to thrive. Every living thing, hungers to KEEP being a living thing.

We have so much to learn from the turtles, indeed from all of nature. Truths, lessons, reassurances and poetic comparisons abound, we just need to stop and listen.

Huh, I AM a raging hippy.

If you are ever near a conservation project, please do go and show your support. We need to help protect these beautiful little creatures, and you will doubtless be blown away by their inspiring vivacity, as indeed I was.

And so you see, there IS beauty in Port Hedland; beauty infinitely richer than grotesquely fake boobs and aggressively over-priced beer.

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