We had our hottest day on Crab Island yesterday – a sizzling 52oC (126oC)!! At about 12.30pm we looked out to sea, only to be surprised to see dozens of dark shapes swimming back and forth, parallel to the shore. Flatbacks were surveying the beaches, ready to nest, lifting their heads out of the water to look for a suitable nesting location. Shortly after they began to emerge and make their way up the beach to nest. They continued on all afternoon coming and going. By the end we had counted 461 turtles between lunch time and midnight.
No other species of sea turtle would even think of nesting in this kind of heat. In fact daytime nesting is quite a rare event in the world. Raine Island for example, which is on a similar latitude as Crab on the eastern side of Cape York on the Great Barrier Reef only about 150km away, sees many green turtles perish during the nesting period when they leave their run too late in the morning in returning to the water and simply ‘boil’ in the hot sun. So it is phenomenal to think that flatbacks can go through the whole nesting process, exerting huge amounts of energy, in that kind of heat.