Imagine being trapped nearly 2 feet underground, being covered in sand, with 180 of your brothers and sisters! That’s how many eggs average in a hawksbill sea turtle nest (234 has been the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund’s highest recorded number). But because of environmental factors (temperature, moisture, sand grain size, oxygen diffusion), they never know how many hatchlings will actually develop and be strong enough to crawl out of the nest.
It takes hatchlings about 3 days to climb to the top of their nest (longer for the ones on the bottom). As they move around together (called “social facilitation”), the sand falls beneath them, and they ride a “sand elevator” to the surface of the nest.
Nest camping is a patient process, as the turtles can emerge any time, day or night, though nighttime is most typical, when the sand is cool. Once the first hatchlings emerge, they wait 2 to 3 more nights to give the rest a chance to crawl out, then we dig into the nest to help the ones who can’t make it on their own.
If you want to join the HWF turtle nest monitoring crew, email email@example.com with your availability. They could use volunteers day and night, and the season will be over by mid-November—so now is your chance!