Photo by Disney Dream.

The Time I Touched a Turtle

Rachel Wayne


We had only been asleep for a few hours when the camp counselors came around snapping on lights and urging us in dramatic whispers to get up. As we half-tumbled out of our bunks and staggered to our feet, they shoved into our hands flashlights with red cellophane taped over the ends. We clumsily put on our shoes and hoodies, and then, in typical sleepy teenager fashion, trudged out the door and onto the beach.

The sand was wet, the night’s dampening effect having transformed it from its delicious daytime hotness into an unpleasant slippage under our sneakers, whose flat soles did little to help our sleep-deprived selves walk down the beach. After a few minutes, the fog began to lift and the excitement began to wake us fully for the miles ahead.

We walked along the beach for about a mile and a half, the pitch-black foliage on our right, the illuminated ocean at our left. Occasionally, we stopped to swipe the sand at the water’s edge and watch the bioluminescent creatures in the sand make stunning swirls akin to the shape of the galaxy we all shared. The red light of our flashlights caught the ghost crabs, which lived up to their spooky name as they scuttled into view, ferocious claws at the ready, then vanished into the darkness.

As dawn approached, our hushed voices of excitement turned to soft moans of disappointment. We hadn’t yet found what we were seeking, and soon we’d miss our window. We were racing against the clock to find something ancient.

The counselor leading our group made the halt signal. The other group, who had circled the island in the opposite direction, had reached us. We’d made our rounds. It was time to turn back.

I sought comfort in the glow of the moon on the ocean’s surface as we disheartened few made the journey back. The ghost crabs seemed to be laughing at us. The sleepiness set in again.

We’d almost returned when our sand-soaked sneakers suddenly, collectively stopped in their tracks. We all saw it at once. Something shuffling along a few meters ahead, working diligently on some primal project. The scientists accompanying our group hushed our excited whispers.

We’d found one.

She was completing her nest, using her enormous rear flippers to shovel sand over the freshly…



Rachel Wayne

Artist/anthropologist/activist writing about art, media, culture, health, science, enterprise, and where they all meet. Join my list: