Great care must be taken when relocating turtle eggs, which look like slightly dented ping pong balls and shouldn't be rotated.
Photographer and Island Turtle Team member Barbara Bergwerf says this turtle came in to nest right by the pier on the Isle of Palms. After crawling around for a while, she went the wrong way and go herself stuck under the walkway to the beach at the Isle of Palms County Park. It gave her a rare opportunity to get some daylight photos as the turtle started heading in the right direction.
While "turtle ladies" exist up-and-down the Atlantic Coast, the six core members of the Island Turtle Team have raised the level of awareness on several levels. From the left is Bev Ballow, Barb Gobien, Barbara Bergwerf, Mary Alice Monroe, Mary Pringle and Yardwarune "Tee" Johannes.
Island Turtle Team logo
Bev Ballow (left) and Mary Pringle remove sea turtle eggs from a nest laid too close to the high water mark for relocation. Both have state permits to do so.
While four of the six "Turtle Ladies" are early risers, the "two Barbs" - Barbara Bergwerf and Barb Gobien - are the night owls and often volunteer to make sure hatchlings make it to the sea. "When there's no moon (and hatchlings get disoriented), we’ll stay up until three or four in the morning to make sure they make it. When there’s no moon, the lights of Charleston alone will take them into the weeds and stuff. She and I will stay out there."
Noted local turtle photographer Barbara Bergwerf says, "It's almost a life-changing experience to see hatchlings ... That (having people exposed to sea turtles) is where you make a difference, not necessarily with each turtle you put back."
Since many of the "Turtle Ladies" got started in the late 1990s, one difference has been the extent of data collection. Here, self-described "data geek" Mary Pringle measures a loggerhead heading back to sea. Pringle also takes DNA samples and records GPS locations of nests.
Mary Alice Monroe, author of "The Beach House," holds a hatchling. She says, "When I moved to the island, the year after – 1999 – I decided I wanted to write a book set against a sea turtle ... To write a novel, I needed more than walking the beach. I started doing everything. Mary Pringle said why don’t you get your license (a permit for relocating nests). You’re here all the time, so I did."