Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving and maps

You probably don’t want to hear me say “Can you believe these turtles are still moving at approximately the same rate and in the same direction?!” again because I’ve said that before. (But I’m thinking it.)


I like this first map because it shows beautifully how much more time these leatherbacks spent in Canadian waters—where they were resident for a few months—than in any other place on their trek south. All of those bright dots layer on top of one another up around Atlantic Canada, and then stretch out like a line. We will see the dots doubling over themselves again when Margaret and Jacquelyn reach the place to which they’re migrating—though exactly where or when that will happen I can’t say.

I also like this map because it shows our turtles reaching the edge of it—straining the boundaries of that North-America-centric view. It sets us up for the wonder of the next map—which reveals how much more there is to see in the world. How much bigger the world is than just our own place.


And that’s something I’m thankful for on this American Thanksgiving Day. I’m thankful for a big world with lots of places in it, and the gift of sea turtles that help connect them.



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Just keep swimming

This new Margaret and Jacquelyn map—which is a close up of where they are today—shows them swimming almost neatly down the middle of the Atlantic. I think this map makes that expanse of blue between Africa and South America seem small–as though our turtles are a stone’s throw from either side. It is easy to forget looking at a map just how far those distances actually are. And what is consistently incredible to me is that the turtles swim the whole way. Imagine it—one flipper stroke after another taking them in a matter of months distances we could never swim ourselves—distances it takes us hours and hours to cover on an airplane. Over a decade ago, I read an old report about the anatomy of a leatherback. There was a list of scientific notes that were foreign to me like: “Parietal bones lack descending processes” and “Palatine fenestra also absent.” And then, a few lines down were the words “enormous swimming muscles.” That phrase still sticks with me. Enormous swimming muscles.


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Lily Roses

Lily Rose was a leatherback turtle we satellite tagged in July 2012 as part of the Great Canadian Turtle Race. In February, we stopped hearing from her tag. We didn’t know for sure what had happened to the tag or our turtle. So you can imagine how excited we were to hear from colleagues in French Guiana, that Lily Rose was seen nesting twice this summer! A team from the environmental group KWATA found her. She was not wearing her satellite transmitter any longer, but she looked healthy.

Lily Rose was named in honour of another Lily Rose. Miss Lily Rose the girl was fighting cancer. She was diagnosed on her third birthday—just before we tagged that turtle—with stage four neuroblastoma, a particularly deadly disease. So you can imagine how excited I am to tell you that last week, our wonderful and beloved Miss Lily Rose was miraculously declared cancer free. If you’d like, you can click here to listen to her tell you herself.

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Me and you and you and me

The lyrics for “So Happy Together” by the group The Turtles keeps running through my head. Leatherbacks are reptiles. They are not social animals. This means they do not travel “together” like whales do, for example. They do not form family groups. Leatherbacks are independent. Each turtle makes its own way in the world. Given the breadth of the ocean that Jacquelyn and Margaret could choose to use, it is amazing that they are hanging so closely together. If this were a Disney movie, they would be friends.



Below is a close-up of where they are.



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