Monday 26 August 2013

A Rare Encounter

Whilst I have noticed a decline in the fish life in Moreton Bay in recent years, I have still been surprised by the diversity of wildlife I have come across.

On one of my first Sea Kayaking trips on Moreton Bay, a friend and myself went out for a Sunday afternoon paddle and came across a fully grown Leatherback Turtle less than a kilometer off the shore front at Nudgee Beach. We didn't know just how rare these sightings were at the time and that these turtles are an endangered species in Australia.

We had no idea what we had come across and it took us a while to decide to paddle over for a closer look.  All we could see in the setting sun was a gaping pink mouth, followed by some barnacle encrusted ridges.  The pink mouth/esophagus we could see turned out to be something from a horror movie (I think George Lucas might have borrowed this look for his Sand Worms).

Photo: Karumbé

According to some research I have read, these turtles can grow to 2 meters, but I have read reports of them in excess of this size.  They are the oldest of the marine turtles as well as the largest. They primarily eat jellyfish, and can dive in excess of 1,000 meters in depth.  Those flippers get a work out as they have been known to swim 6,000 kms between breeding and feeding grounds.

Photo: Scott R. Benson, NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

I feel privileged to have seen and paddled with one of these creatures, not to mention amazed that we did so in our local waters. It was this sighting that convinced my that I needed to get a waterproof camera to capture these once off encounters.

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