The Turtle Diaries film is in progress (for glimpses, do visit a page_in_motion blog). While we are inundated with the interviews and field recordings, many olive ridley sea turtles we saw in Orissa are probably cruising the Bay of Bengal currents. According to tagging studies by Bivash Pandav and B.C. Choudhury, some of the ridleys we witnessed during the 2012 arribada in Rushikulya could also be heading down the coast towards waters around Sri Lanka.
And the leatherback turtles we watched on Little Andaman? Their journey is a marathon compared to the olive ridleys’. Kartik Shanker and his team members in the leatherback camp (Naveen, Adhith, Tesoro, Columbus, Sonu and Kenny), attached 4 satellite transmitters this past winter—January and February 2012. Along with 3 tagged last year, that’s a total of 7 tagged leatherbacks.
A few of those turtles turned tail and move south along a definite line through the Indian Ocean. They seemed to be using “oceanic highways,” quite possibly following underwater ridges and mountains. Three of the leatherbacks moved southeast in the general direction of Western Australia. Two moved southwest. Others lost their tags, plunging the knowledge of their whereabouts into mystery ...
In fact, the world’s largest sea turtles are fully capable of migrating thousands of kilometers across the entire Pacific Ocean. “My first experience of fitting transmitters on leatherback turtles…was with Scot Benson and his group in West Papua New Guinea,” Kartik explained to us in his Bangalore office at the Indian Institute of Science. Benson’s group tracked leatherback turtles in Papua New Guinea and found that they worked their way to the eastern Pacific waters around Monterey— a staggering 11,000 kilometers, give or take a few! In the words of Carl Safina, “the world is both bigger than anyone ever thought, and much smaller.”
All oceans are one. They contain the ancient chemistry that links sea turtles to each other, to the seas and to the sandy beaches they inhabit—only briefly relative to the lengths of their lives. Sea turtles, the leatherbacks in particular, allow us to realize the depths connecting oceans and shorelines inhabited by terrestrial beings such as ourselves, who look on in wonder and scramble to do what we can.