Saturday, September 05, 2009
DH and I have volunteered to watch the turtle nests on the southwest beaches on St. Thomas - there are two. There was a meeting last week for orientation and to develop a schedule - DH and I signed up for the nights before, during, and after the full moon, to increase our chances of being there for the turtle hatching.
Thursday was our first night. There were a bunch of staff people from Coral World, the ocean park here on island (overseeing the turtle watch program) - they had stuff to build a dam around the turtle nest area if the seas came up due to the storm.
We hung out at the other end of the nest area, had our dinner (sandwiches, cookies, water) - did a little walking - chatted with the others - and then the STRANGEST thing happened! The Hindu community came down to the beach in a huge procession, with people chanting responsively, clapping hands, and carrying all sorts of stuff - they set up a table with a few statues, a huge pole with the brightest lights I've ever seen - and the people gathered in a circle around the table/light. Lots of chanting, then everyone started marching around the table and clapping and chanting. THEN - the younger men and teens got in the water and carried a statue out on a kickboard, and someone took the statue and swam away and came up without it. Then they did this again!!!!! We were totally confused. A few people came over to ask about the turtle nest, and we chatted with them about what we were doing. Then I asked about the statues they left in the water, and the man explained it was the last day of the Festival of Ganesha (I think that was the name) and the statues are unbaked clay, so they disintegrate in the water and return to the earth. (If they were baked/glazed, they'd go back to a temple, and require special prayers every 15 days.) So we had an interesting conversation about that.
Then they chanted some more, and left. There was a little Ganesha statue down the beach - fired and glazed - he's the seated figure with four arms and an elephant head. He was sitting facing out to sea.
So then we had another hour of sitting around chatting, drinking water, and watching the nest. And everyone stood at some point saying "C'mon out little turtles, it's a good night, c'mon, c'mon" but of course the little turtles stayed in their nest.
So - that's the report of turtle nest watching night 1. It sprinkled, but tonight is foggy and rainy and it'll be cold. Ah well, if I get to see baby turtles, it'll be worth it!!!!