All good things eventually come to an end, and so it is the case with this year’s field survey. It seems like a lot longer than four months has passed since we touched down in Carnarvon. It is hard to remember what life was like before then. I have only dim memories of hot showers, flat roads and being able to put my shoes on without pouring the sand out first. The beach is now so familiar to me I could walk it in my sleep; although considering the sea urchins I don’t think I’ll try that. Today marks my 89th and last survey at Gnaraloo. My final morning was heart-warming as I got to watch a loggerhead hatchling make his way down to the water. The whole way I valiantly defended him from the clutches of the evil ghost crabs. As well as checking the beach for any late nesting turtles I also had to remove the stakes from all the Sampled Nests we have been monitoring. By the time I got back to the car I couldn’t feel my fingers but it was nice to say good bye to each nest, they each had their own memories and personalities. On the other hand this may be a sign I have been out in the desert for too long. We have now observed an impressive total of 652 turtle tracks at Gnaraloo Bay Rookery; of which I am proud to say I recorded 208 myself.
This project has presented many challenges, from flat tyres to leaking fridges to missing data sheets or even just a general lack of bacon. We have sadly had two of our team members leave early. Whenever you feel down though you think back over all of the wonderful things that have happened here and you smile. You think of having several kilometres of pristine white beach all to yourself, so you don’t have to bother with clothes. You think of the thrill of seeing a turtle (or even more exhilarating a shark) while snorkelling in the bay. You think of sitting around the campfire and gazing up at the millions of stars in the night sky while your potatoes turn to charcoal. You think of the people you have met and the friendships you have made. Most of all you think of the turtle hatchlings which because of you will get to have a fighting chance rather than ending up as breakfast. I am glad that the season is over but I know a piece of me will always be here.
We now have the fun task of writing up the annual Final Report before heading off on a month long road trip back to Perth. We will be presenting to various schools and community groups along the way and I am really looking forward to getting to share my knowledge about turtles with the kids and hopefully we will inspire others to do their bit to protect our precious sea turtles.