Natural Wonders: Florida's Sea Turtle Capital

Witness the birthing of a species that shared the seas with dinosaurs.

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Natural Wonders: America’s Deepest Lake | Florida’s Sea Turtle Capital | Southeast’s Living-Dead Plant

The Wonder
More endangered loggerhead sea turtles nest on 20 miles of Florida’s Atlantic coast than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. The 250-pound, coffee table-size adults paddle from the Caribbean to reefs near Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, 35 miles south of Cape Canaveral, every few years. On summer nights, females excavate nests and lay hundreds of leathery eggs. Each migration yields more than 10,000 nests—one-quarter of the U.S. total. Hatchlings emerge after two months, but only one in 1,000 reach maturity.

The Way Choose a moonlit July night (full on July 26) and use the north entrance of Sebastian Inlet State Park, 16 miles south of Melbourne Beach on SR A1A. Take a guided tour, or walk north along the beach, searching for turtle tracks. If you see a female digging, steer clear; any harassment is a felony and can cause an aborted nesting. During the hour-long laying, the female flips sand onto her clutch and crawls back to sea. Hike along the narrow, fine-sand beach and turn around after 2.5 miles.