Surender, a third assistant, keeps his eyes on a GPS unit. As soon as he hears a new sea turtle sighting announced, he calls out the position coordinates. Sitting on a work bench next to him, Muralidharan (“Murali”), one of Kartik Shanker’s researchers, notes down all the numbers. Nupur, another researcher, scans the horizon. This morning the group is a bit short-staffed as a fifth field assistant, Shankar, cannot be here.
It is 8:00 a.m. sharp and the air is snappy. Light grows as sunlight clears the thickness of haze. The boat has forded high breakers between shoreline and sea, landing in water with a loud clap milliseconds after a particularly tall wave set it flying. Now the breakers are past, the motor is on full throttle. Comfortable with his assistant’s capabilities, the senior boatman has fallen asleep on burlap sacks.
Today’s transect surveys reveal the highest density of sea turtles is within a kilometer of the shoreline. They are getting ready to crawl ashore, a coordinated event involving thousands of turtles nesting en masse. It is called the arribada.
“When the turtles arrive in November and December they are far more uniformly distributed throughout the offshore areas,” Murali tells me. “Mid-Jan to Feb is when they start congregating in a more concentrated area… Once they start moving even closer to the shoreline is when we expect the arribada to happen…”
Along with Rita Banerji of Dusty Foot Productions, Maya Khosla co-directs “The Turtle Diaries,” a film and education project supported by 2 awards from the Save Our Seas Foundation . For more information, please visit The Turtle Dairies project.