The Hatchery is a place where we move turtle nests to if they’ve laid their eggs in a bad spot. It is a fenced-in patch of sand with some equipment.
Volunteers guard the hatchery all night, every night. I’ve done a couple of shifts. It’s pleasant, low-pressure work. You sit in the dark in the middle of the hatchery with a companion and a mosquito coil for company. The sky is really black and the Milky Way is really bright. There is usually a cool breeze. I spend a lot of my time on my back, studying the stars through my binoculars. Orion, the Pleiades, and Jupiter are especially good viewing. The two-way radio is on so you can hear the patrols on the beach telling each other where they are and if there are any turtles. Since the hatchery is the end point for two of the beach patrols, volunteers on patrol drop by about once an hour for a visit. Every half hour you check the nests to see if any baby turtles have crawled out of the sand, but this rarely happens. Once in a while you scan the fence line with your flashlight for raccoons. After five or six hours somebody comes to relieve you.
Yesterday we were in the hatchery to excavate a nest that never hatched. This happens sometimes; nobody knows exactly why. We dig up all the eggs (they are buried arms-length deep) and open them up to see how far they developed. For these ones, they didn’t get very far. Maybe they were too hot, or too dry, or the turtle just wasn’t very fertile. There are some things we still don’t understand about turtle reproduction. We have a lot of successes at the Hatchery, though.