I was alerted by the cry, “There’s a sea turtle!” Not from Laurel, of course, because she is super-sensitive about environmental correctness, which in the case of sea turtles means leaving them alone when they surface for air—and also leaving them alone when they dive for food, or, I have to believe, privacy.
This morning we walked to a neighboring cove where the snorkeling is good and the sea turtles plentiful. The only downside is having to get in the water off of some slippery and sometimes sharp rocks, but when the waves are gentle, as they were today, it is easy to slide down into the cove. I swam over to the general vicinity of the sea turtle sighting, just in time to see a fellow snorkeler dive down deep and almost touch the sea turtle that was resting on the bottom.
If Laurel had been there she would have screamed at him, even underwater. I was more circumspect, but it bothered me that he was bothering the turtle, which clearly seemed to be trying to avoid the lurking snorkelers. It had its head hidden under a ledge, though, being a large sea turtle, most of the rest of its body was visible (though remarkably rock-like; if I hadn’t known that it was there, I would probably not have recognized the turtle as I swam along the surface.)
When the turtle didn’t move, the “There’s a sea turtle!” family lost interest in it. Soon I was the only snorkeler nearby. I decided to wait it out from a respectable distance. Sea turtles come up for air regularly. My only problem was that I didn’t know what “regularly” meant in terms of minutes. I expected 10 or so. The turtle surprised me. Fifteen minutes later I was still bobbing on the surface, staring at what I sometimes thought might really be a rock—albeit with four feet-like appendages that kept me believing I was still hovering over a real sea turtle.
I had lots of time to try sending ESP messages of love and acceptance to the turtle, “I honor and respect your privacy, shelled one. I merely wish to see you rise to the surface from a respectful distance and then shall bother you no longer.” As the minutes wore on I have to admit that my psychic communications became less beneficent, eventually morphing into “You can’t hold your breath forever, you S.O.B. I’m breathing through my snorkel and you’re not, so let’s see who can outlast who.”
Well, cockiness shouldn’t lead to karmic rewards, and in this case it didn’t. Eventually I got tired of waiting for the turtle to move and swam about ten yards over to the rocks, where I got out of the water. Naturally the sea turtle chose that moment to surface right next to another snorkeler who cried out to her other family members, “Sea turtle, sea turtle!” A boy began swimming in its direction as fast as he could, splashing like crazy. He almost touched it. I tried to imagine that the sea turtle looked annoyed, but turtles don’t have expressions, at least so far as I can tell.
So the creaturely-sensitive patient snorkeler got snookered on his close-up sea turtle sightings, while the swim-up-as-close-as-you-can crowd got rewarded for their brazenness. Still, I’d rather see turtles from afar than feel that I was intruding excessively on their natural turtle existence.
I just read in the Maui newspaper today that a section of the Brazilian rain forest as large as Massachusetts was denuded last year. It may seem that there is little connection between harassing sea turtles and clear-cutting the rain forest, but at heart the same human mentality is at work: “Nature is ours to do with as we please.” Laurel feels even more strongly about this than I do. It’s probably good that we don’t live in Maui. If we did, I suspect that Laurel would soon become notorious as the Lady Who Snorkels in Purple and Chastises Snorkelers Who Stand on Reefs or Bother Sea Turtles.
Lastly, a tip to my bearded brethren who like to snorkel but don’t enjoy watching their mask slowly fill with salt water—which I have experienced many times over the years, facial hair being anathema to a good mask seal, even with the aid of Vaseline. It finally dawned on me to use nose plugs and some goggles that I take out boogie-boarding when the surf is high and I’m worried about losing a contact lens. The nose plugs/goggles/snorkel system worked great today. I’ve gone into dive shops and been told that shaving (my moustache at least) was the only solution to water-up-the-nose. Here’s another solution for snorkelers with beards: nose plugs.