Tiny infant loggerheads came boiling out of the sand to the awe of the Seabrook Island volunteers who were inspecting the nest.
Those sea turtles are very likely among the last to hatch this year.
That was Sept. 7. Three days later, surf from Tropical Storm Irma slammed the state's beaches, washing away most of the remaining nests and killing the eggs.
Across the state, as many as one-third of more than 5,000 nests laid this year might not have hatched before the storm, said Michelle Pate, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources' sea turtle recovery coordinator.
"Those that didn’t wash away likely were subjected to tidal inundation and are no longer viable," she said.
As many as 100 nests likely are lost on Kiawah Island, which is nearly a third of nests laid there, said town biologist Jim Jordan.
The good news is that many of the coastal nests hatched before Irma hit the beach. Seabrook Island had only two of 70 nests left unhatched before the storm, said Terry Fansler of the island's turtle team.
Turtle watchers on the Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island had only three nests left unhatched out of 51 all together, said Mary Pringle of the Island Turtle Team.
Only eight nests were unhatched out of 71 laid on Folly Beach, said Becky Greene of the Folly Beach Turtle Team.
"We were coming to the end (of the season) anyway, but it came very abruptly," she said.
The massive loggerhead sea turtle — with a shell as big as a bistro table — has become a favorite icon of the South Carolina coast, watched over by an army of volunteers and cheered on by hundreds when one is released to the ocean after being treated for injuries or sickness.
Nearly all the nests laid in the state are loggerhead, one of seven species of sea turtles, all of them considered endangered or threatened.
After Irma, there's still some hope for the remaining unverified nests. The post-storm checks have only just started and a number of nests were due to hatch just before the storm. More hatchlings might have made it to the water than expected.
Also, the Grand Strand area nesting beaches to the north of the storm weren't wracked so badly.
And every now and then, a few nests make it through the swamping surf. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist saw a few apparent surviving nests when he scanned Cape Island and Lighthouse Island from a boat after the storm. The islands are part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, north of Charleston.
More than 1,900 nests had been laid in the refuge, biologist Ford Mauney said. Only 400 hadn't hatched the last time the remote islands were checked. A good portion of those were due to hatch before the storm, he said.
Other, denser nesting beaches — such as Hilton Head Island, Fripp Island, the Yawkey Wildlife Center north of Georgetown — hadn't reported yet, Pate said.
"Once everyone is able to access the beaches and complete surveys, we will have a better idea of the effects Irma had on our season," she said.
The losses likely won't be a critical blow to the recovery of the species. The tiny, palm-sized hatchling faces long odds to begin with. Thousands of eggs are lost each year to storm overwash, predators and other hazards. Few of the hatchlings that make it to the ocean survive to be adults.
On Monday, just as Irma's winds and seas began rolling in, Island Turtle Team volunteers made a last sweep of IOP. They found a nest just as the last of its hatchlings disappeared into the swirling surf.
"I saw one hatchling go in the water and (the surf) was like a washing machine," Pringle said. "I felt sorry for them. But it was better than getting trapped in the nest."