You might have noticed that we have not been sending out as many newsletters as in the past. The reason is simple: we’ve now lived four years here, and it’s getting a bit more difficult to come up with new ideas about which to write.
We were both a bit “under the weather” when our fourth anniversary came and went on October 22, so there was no celebration. As you can see from our arrival picture, Marcia hasn’t changed much. Steve’s about 30 pounds lighter. Maybe we’re both a bit wiser, who knows? And who knows how much longer we’ll be here? Maybe a long time yet, maybe not.
We were asked to speak about our move to Corregidor at the monthly meeting of the MVP, “Museum Volunteers Philippines” on Thursday, October 24. We almost didn’t make it, not only because of how we were feeling, but also because a typhoon was in the area. We managed to get a ride on Wednesday afternoon’s ferry, riding the roughest seas we have ever experienced with Sun Cruises, and they canceled their trip for the next day because of a “signal” issued by the Philippine Coast Guard for Manila Bay. Our friend Collis Davis took some pictures, and we share two of them with you. Later we were treated to a very good lunch at a restaurant in the nearby Greenbelt Mall in Makati.
On this past Friday, our helper Gilbert surprised us by showing up about 8:30 at night, announcing that a sea turtle was coming ashore to lay her eggs on the south beach. We were already settled in bed, so Marcia decided to stay put. Steve, however, grabbed his camera and headed to Bottomside. When he arrived with Gilbert, a couple of the security guards were already on the beach. The moon was almost full, but its direct light was blocked by Malinta Hill. They used flashlights to observe the mother turtle.
The turtle’s shell was about 28 inches long and 22 inches wide. A rough guess would put her weight at 70 to 80 pounds. Mama first began to dig a hole for her eggs too near the shore, and soon abandoned it as the waves kept filling it up. She moved higher up the sand and started again. It must be noted that of the approximately ten miles of shoreline on Corregidor, the south beach area of Bottomside is about the only area which is not predominantly boulders, thus making it the one ideal spot for the egg laying. It must also be said that the turtle paid absolutely no attention to the observers. If Steve had suspected that they were causing her stress he would have insisted that they leave her alone.
When she first began digging her hole, she was sending sand flying over their feet, a good three or four yards behind her. She dug with her back flippers, clearing an area about a foot across. Then the rear flippers dug down into the sand, and she alternated left, right, left, right, slowly scooping out the sand deeper and deeper. The motion kind of reminded Steve of using your tongue to work your way down the middle of a bowl of ice cream, if that makes any sense. The top diameter of the hole was about six inches, while it appeared that lower down the hole was maybe a foot deep and a foot across, basically shaped like the inside of a piece of pottery.
Once she was done digging, a process that last about 20 minutes, she started depositing her eggs. The initial eggs fell about a foot onto the soft sand, one, two, sometimes even three at a time. Before long the eggs were dropping on top of other eggs, but none of them appeared to break. The eggs were rounder and slightly smaller than average chicken eggs. Steve could only image that chicken eggs would probably break were they subjected to the same treatment.
The egg-laying continued for about twenty minutes, and Steve guessed that she laid between 200 and 300 eggs during that time. As soon as she was finished, she began to cover the eggs with the sand. She not only filled in the hole, she tamped it down with her flippers hard enough that you could feel the vibration through your feet. Once the hole was filled and tightly packed, she circled around it several times, presumably to hide the hole even further. Then she turned toward the sea and slowly went down to the water, soon disappearing below the waves.
We hope that sometime in the near future, hundreds of baby sea turtles will hatch, dig their way to the surface, waddle to the sea, and begin the cycle of life all over. Who knows how many other mother sea turtles have or will come to lay their eggs in the south beach sands of Corregidor this year?
A year or two ago we had a Czech TV reporter and film crew visit us on Corregidor, and Steve was interviewed. We received the following email from the reporter, Pavel Zvolánek. We encourage you to check out the video, where Steve is shown at some of the Corregidor sites. There is also a small section filmed in Palo, Leyte, where MacArthur returned in 1944.hal STeve, how are u. i have ben at Corregidor making some short movie for Czech television, it too time but finaly they played that . u can see it here
its the last one, Filipiny, thx one more time. best regards pavel zvolánek
thx to ur wife for lunch
Steve and Marcia on the Rock