Monday, July 20, 2009

Turtle Beach

It is kind of weird to come to the end of White Street at 2:30 in the morning and find oneself fumbling for the high beam switch on the left handlebar. It's reminiscent of Key West after a hurricane to find the city plunged into darkness.
Parked on Smathers Beach with street lights out all that's left are the headlights of passing cars, or my headlight pointing at the Bridle Path on the inland side of the street. It's turtle nesting season from April 15th to October 31st and as a gesture to help the process along the city dims it's lights. Where there is no beach on South Roosevelt Boulevard, where the seawall fronts salt water directly and without the intercession of sand, street lights and hotels are lit up as normal:The idea is that turtles lay their eggs in the sand and leave them to get on with it. The hatchlings in the fullness of time appear in the sand and are apparently programmed to head for the moonlight reflected on the water. If the moonlight is overwhelmed by human made light inland the hatchlings will head for that instead: Because turtles are endangered lots of human changes have been made to help them along. Commercial fishermen have turtle excluder devices built into their nets which allow turtles to escape drowning (and fish too the fishermen complain). In Key West we dim our lights:
It's one of those gestures that help us believe there is good in the world and we can be part of it. But even though a dark beach is a thing of beauty, a darkened street can be rather nerve wracking, to my surprise.I read about the black out in World War Two England and it seems in their attempts to deny targets to night time bombing they inadvertently created a perilous situation for drivers and pedestrians in their darkened cities. Apparently the accident rate shot up even though fewer vehicles were on the roads and streets owing to war time restrictions. Trundling around our darkened beaches I am not at all surprised.
So, in the end this is what it looks like along the southern shores of Key West, anywhere there is a beach where a turtle could land make a nest. Dark in a good cause.