My friend Francis from the Nature Seekers brought me hatchlings to see.
He met us at the bottom of the road to the beach in the dark at the start of the night. He motioned for me with a grin. He was holding two of them. They had just scrambled from a nest a ways down the beach.
He knew I had never seen a hatchling before. All the leatherbacks in Canada are mature—or almost mature—adults. We measure their size by the length of their carapace (top shell), and the leatherbacks I see off Nova Scotia have carapace lengths of at least 130 cm.
These gorgeous little leatherbacks fit in the palm of my hand. I could feel as I held them gently between my fingers their fine body structures: the rib cage expanding and contracting, the delicate bones in the flippers.
Many hours later—around 2:30 in the morning—I was alone walking a stretch of beach and deep in a pit in the sand was one little hatchling. I couldn’t see any other hatchlings around, so this one must have been a straggler. It was trying to climb out of the pit—and it had many metres to go to the sea beyond it.
I picked it up and brought it closer to the shoreline—still so it would have a run of beach before it hit the water—but closer. I was amazed to watch how quickly it moved once it was on relatively flat ground, pulled forward by its elegant front flippers.
We still didn’t find the CAN turtle. Eight more hours of searching.
But oh, the hatchlings!