Marine biologist John C. Fine penned a remarkable story for the editorial page of the Sun-Sentinel on June 27. While diving off Delray Beach in January, he reported, he had spotted and photographed a sea turtle never before seen off Florida's eastern shore.
Like any good sleuth, Fine had sent a pic of the carapaced critter to Jack Frazier, a turtle expert at the Smithsonian Institution. Frazier confirmed that the animal was a rare Kemp's ridley, which traditionally nests far, far away, near a country called Meh-hee-ko. (Hint: It ain't Pompano.) "They had not been reported on Florida's Atlantic Coast," Fine mused. "How the Kemp's ridley came to be in the waters south of Delray's public beach, where it came from, and where it went are mysteries that have no answer."
We at New Times just love turtle mysteries. Yertle got us started. Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello turned 'em into something of an obsession.
So when we read Fine's story, we phoned him up. Couldn't reach him, though. Next we tried Frazier: He suggested that the Kemp's ridley had, duh, traveled along the Gulf Stream. "All I did was send [Fine] an e-mail saying, 'Those are ridleys you've got,'" Frazier commented. "Every season, Kemp's ridleys come right up the U.S. Atlantic Coast as far as Massachusetts."
Wait a ding-dong minute there. So they're not unheard-of down here. Then we checked with some more turtle-ologists. These Kemp's ridleys have been spotted hundreds of times on the Atlantic Coast in the past ten years. In Brevard County, Jacksonville, and even Cape Cod. Nests have turned up in Volusia County and near Port St. Lucie. The Florida Marine Research Institute reported that 35 had been spotted in 2002 alone, and the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton even kept a Kemp's ridley named Rocky.
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After learning all this, we wanted to see the Kemp's ridley in its natural habitat. Maybe this guy Fine was onto something.