Toronto – Canada


Photography by Mari Rutka




Mari Rutka



More Than A Ritual




Last fall, my wife and I had the privilege of traveling together to Heron Island in Australia.  It was our first time visiting the Great Barrier Reef.  Although it was somewhat of an ordeal to get there from Toronto, once there, our biological and physiological clocks were reset to a relaxing and peaceful rhythm.


Upon arrival on Heron Island, we immediately headed to the beach for a walk around the island, which takes only 20 minutes to circumnavigate.  Along the way we were treated to some spectacular vistas of turquoise blue waters, white sands, and waves crashing in the distance, demarcating the breakpoint of the reef.  On our second day, we had the great privilege of snorkeling up the reef and seeing the vast array of brightly colored coral species.  Sadly, the reef is suffering the consequences of global warming.  Coral bleaching is occurring as a result of increases in ocean temperature.  The warmer waters kill the important algae which the coral feeds upon, leading to a loss of its coloration.  Coral bleaching and several human threats are making the future of the Great Barrier Reef uncertain. 


After dinner one evening, we took another stroll along the beach.  The moon was full, and high in the sky.  It shone brightly on the beach.  The tide was out to sea.  As we walked, we saw several tracks in the sand, newly made, that resembled tractor tire prints at first glance.  However, on close inspection, these tracks were made by the giant Loggerhead and Green sea turtles which come onto shore to make their nests on Heron Island.  As we followed the tracks up the beach, we could see clouds of sand being tossed in the air.  A giant female Loggerhead was actively making her nest, digging deeply into the sand.  We kept our distance so as not to disturb her, but the bright moonlight in the cloudless sky gave us a chance to follow this incredible ritual that has been going on since time immemorial.  Once sufficient sand has been cleared, and a large hole made, the turtle lays upwards of 120 eggs in the hole.  The hole is then covered with sand by the turtle before she lumbers forward to find her way back to the sea.  We stayed up until early morning hours to view the entire process.  We knew that it would be two months before the hatchlings from the clutch would dig their way out of their nests and head straight to the sea.  Still, we were in awe of bearing witness to this component of the life cycle of the sea turtles.  To us, it was more than a ritual!



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