First, despite the generally upbeat editorials in this newspaper about the new, improved Spring Breaks, there is one aspect of this annual invasion that has not changed one bit: The trashing of the beach. Every year, without fail, one or more of my BEACHobs surveys from Access Road 1 to 2 will cause me to gnash my teeth in anguish. From shoreline to dune line and beyond, the beach is carpeted with trash. It couldn’t be worse if a sign said, “Please deposit your garbage wherever you want. The beach is a dump.” I don’t know what else to say, other than it’s not just a few people who savage the beach in this way, it’s almost everyone who visits this “precious stone set in the silver sea,”* our bread and butter, and what should be our “demi-paradise.”
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a handsome duck that someone tried to kill by darting it with a blowgun dart (hereafter, BGD). It survived and now lives in a cozy little pond far from dart gunners. Last week, the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) took in a pigeon, a bird despised by many folks but surely not enough to use it for blow dart practice. Sad to say, yes. Some folks from Portland found this pigeon wandering around their yard with a BGD firmly planted in its breast. Our vet, Dr. Tristan, was able to remove the BGD, but we still have the bird, as it has yet to fly again. Hopefully, it will, soon.
Now for the good stuff: I got a call from Cline’s Landing that a sea turtle, trailing a bobber, was in their marina and was obviously in distress. It would rest on the surface with the bobber bobbing beside it but then would dive for an indeterminate time, taking the bobber and line down with it. I made several attempts to catch it with my dip net with no success. It was bizarre to see a submerged float moving around the marina and then disappearing. Ultimately, I gave up but had noticed two young visitors who were very concerned about the plight of this turtle, and they sported a net of their own and were very good at spotting the turtle on the rare occasions that it surfaced. On leaving, I asked Nicoleta Suttle and her friend, Grace Hick-Green, to keep up their vigil. Within half an hour, I got a call. Not only had they spotted the turtle but managed to catch it! The hook line and bobber easily came off, and with them observing, I photographed, measured, and tagged the green turtle that they named “Bob” and took a DNA sample for genetics. Nicoleta released Bob back into the marina and hopefully, all is well! Normally, I do not encourage people to catch or handle turtles, it’s downright illegal to do so, but in this case, this animal could easily have gotten the line stuck on something underwater and drowned.
In doing thousands of beach surveys over the past 30-plus years, I have found several messages in bottles, but the one I found a couple of weeks ago on San Jose Island Gulf beach was the champion traveler. It was in a Mount Gay Rum Bottle and had been launched in the Atlantic Ocean about 90 miles off the coast from Lisbon, Portugal, April, 20, 2010. To get to Texas, it must have gotten into the North Atlantic Gyre, going south, then the North Equatorial Current heading west into the Caribbean, perhaps via the Anegada Passage, then westwards to the Yucatan Strait and the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico, finally westwards with one of the gyres that break off from the loop. It traveled at least 6,500 miles and took nearly two years to do so. The man who launched the bottle promised to send 20 Euros to the finder. (The beneficiary of this bounty will be the ARK.)
And the ARK will be the beneficiary of the Annual Amos Beach Treasure Sale, this year to be held at Moby Dick’s (thanks to Ed Ziegler!) at 8 a.m. Saturday, March 31. Be there, bring money. The next day, be at Marker 35 at 10 a.m. for our first turtle release of the year (two big loggerheads, three ridleys).
•I got a bit carried away, quoting from Shakespeare’s wonderful tribute to my country of birth. Richard II Act 2, scene 1, “This England.” Look it up.
Tony Amos is a research fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and director of the ARK – Animal Rehabilitation Keep.