There is a quiet yet inexorable rhythm to the life of a sea turtle, tied to the moon and the tides, the ancient celestial rhythms of life.
By Doug Nickrent, Senior Exhibit Designer at PGAV Destinations.
Working with the South Carolina Aquarium on their Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery facility, we learned that sea turtles are sometimes referred to as “ancient mariners”, a powerful term that only hints at the age of these species, and their primal ability to navigate the planet.
Sea Turtles have been on this planet for 110 million years, appearing roughly midway through the Cretaceous period, the third of the three periods that make up the Mesozoic era. The planet was a very different place, wetter and warmer, with dinosaurs roaming Antarctica amid dense forests. In this unimaginably ancient world sea turtles were roaming the vast seas and returning to the beaches where they were born, to lay their eggs at night and return to the water under the very same moon.
Sea Turtles survived the last of the five mass extinctions this planet has experienced, the Cretaceous tertiary Extinction, which divides the Mesozoic era from the Cenozoic era. Today, in the throes of what many believe to be the world’s sixth mass extinction, the turtles appear to be in trouble. They may have finally met their match, and it is us. Many of their problems appear have been created by humankind, as we race through our desperately short existence as a species, apparently wreaking havoc across a huge swath of life.
The South Carolina Aquarium, their partner, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and turtle teams up and down the coast seek to help and care for injured and sick sea turtles. Rescued turtles are brought to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Care Center, where they receive state of the art care and rehabilitation, with the goal of releasing them back into their environment. This project doubles the hospital facilities, and brings the care center into public view. Interactive exhibits and multi-media presentations immerse aquarium visitors in the work being done here.
When we look into the rehabilitation tanks in the new hospital facility, we see injured and sick animals that benefit from the care they receive here. We see representatives of species that are in danger of extinction, species that need as many healthy turtles as they can get. If we look deeper, though, we see a connection to a distant past and to the quiet inexorable rhythms of life older than we can imagine.
The effort to help these animals is a statement about our responsibilities to our planet. It is recognition that our entire existence is a mere blink of an eye in the story of life. It is a connection to those ancient celestial rhythms of life, rhythms so ancient that we cannot really comprehend the timescale. Viewed from this perspective, the work that the South Carolina Aquarium and all their kindred spirits do is beyond important. It is profound.
All images courtesy of South Carolina Aquarium.