Raine Island - Nature's Cradle on the Edge of the Coral Sea
Satellite Web Cast From Turtle Heaven and Hell
Journal Entry - 01 - 24 - 03
We're back and they were waiting.
Raine Island with green vegetation visible.
We pulled anchor at Stead Passage at 7:00 - as soon as there was enough light to see our way through the reef to make the three hour trip to Raine Island safely.

Arriving at Raine, it was obvious much had changed since our departure in late December. Most striking was the vegetation which had not been green when we were last here. But now having endured a number of rain storms the vegetation is thicker, if held in control by nesting turtles, and green. The beach continues to degrade, looking as though a bulldozer crew is at work as turtles come ashore to nest. It is amazing just how much change, damage one might say, the turtles inflict on the island. They literally rip up the beach. Sadly there are now many more carcasses littering the sand flats above the beach. On our reconnaissance walk just after arriving we assisted a couple of turtles we found wedged in rocks. Luckily we found them soon enough and they charged off hitting the surf at full steam creating a beautiful bow wave as they powered away from the beach.

We're gonna need a bigger hook!
Back at the Floreat we put out baited, barbless hooks for the tiger sharks we wanted to tag with satellite transmitters. The tags were all set to go (a sure sign that nothing good would happen) in half an hour we had two sharks at the bait. One very large tiger shark took a hook and bent it until it came out. That made it Tigers 1 - The Team zip. Then a second tiger just spit the bait - Tigers 2 - The Team zip. By 5:30 it was Tigers 4 and the Team zip.
The new capture technology- tail yoke.
Richard is hoping to use a new technique to tag the sharks. It is a padded locking yoke designed by James Shepard, a dugong researcher at James Cook University. The yoke is latched down onto the caudal peduncal (base of the tail) of the animal and locks in place taking a plastic barrel with it. When the animal tires of swimming with the barrel the satellite transmitter will be attached and the animal released to swim away unharmed. We just missed placing the clamp on one very big tiger - she dove away at the last moment.

Who has got whom by the tail - the tiger shark or the team?
Onshore even the quality of the light has changed. There are rain squalls off in the distance as the sun sets and massive thunderheads off to the west and southeast over the mainland. On the island the rufous night herons, now probably three times the number we found in December, have formed up along the sand flats above the beach, hunched silent sentinels of death just waiting for the nights hatch to break out. Waiting for their feeding frenzy. An absolutely amazing spectacle.
3 Sat. transmitters, lined and ready to go.
Arriving at the island we didn't expect to find the tracks of as many turtles on the beach as we think we have found. We thought we might find as many as 300 a night coming ashore but the tracks we found when we arrived suggest many more turtles are coming ashore to nest. We will try and do a rough total turtle tally or tonight's total turtle tally just to give us and you a rough idea of what sort of numbers of turtles are coming ashore. As of 7:30 turtles were a bit thin on the beach but it was still light out. We finished our rough count at 10:00 p.m. and came up with a total of 461 with m re still coming up the beach so the turtles are still here although not anywhere as near as high as in December. We did find many more nesting turtles digging into premature hatchling clutches where the hatchlings still had portions of their egg yokes attached to their plastrons (tummies). Sadly these premature hatchlings won't make it even if they manage to crawl their way out of the nesting females body pit.
Tomorrow is another day!

Stay Tuned! Should be interesting!

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