The signs were everywhere. Great meter-wide tracks, some of them just days old, lined the crescent moon of beach 7 kilometers long that defines West Bay, a remote corner of Little Andaman Island. One of the tracks even led up to the spot where we were camped. Yet after our second session of patrolling (January 5th night -6th morning), no sign of turtles.
“It’s not unusual,” said Tesoro, one of Dr. Kartik Shanker’s field assistants who has spent several seasons monitoring leatherbacks at the beaches along West Bay and South Bay. Sometimes turtles come up two and three per night, and then are absent for a long stretch. To our senses, their choice of nesting times looks random.
On January 6th, three nights before the month’s full moon, we split ourselves up into two teams and set out patrolling at 7:45 pm. A brief squall caught us. But when we met the other team, positioned some 3 km away, they had experienced no rain! We were completing our third round of patrolling when they signaled us with flashing lights. It was a good long race to see the leatherback turtle who arrived at 2:00 am, January 7, to dig up nest #77 on West Bay…