Tragic Times

Imagine, a lighthouse, the shining ocean, the moon hanging high in the sky,and the love of your life proposing to you amongst lights he placed on the beach. Très romantic, I agree. What is tragic is that this also caused the mass death of 60 baby sea turtles. Okay, so the man claims he was not aware that lights on the beach would disorient the endangered species journey to the big DEEP but as all Beachside residents of Hilton Head, South Carolina know, from May 1 to October 31, there is an enforced “Lights Out for the Turtles” policy especially, “lights on structures visible from the beach [having to] be shielded or turned off after 10 PM from May 1 to October 31. Any windows facing the beach must also be covered with draperies or shade screens.”

‘It is during May-August that female loggerhead sea turtles climb onto the beach and lay their eggs in nests in the sand. After about 60 days, the baby sea turtles hatch — usually at night — poke their tiny heads through the sand and make the short, but arduous journey to the ocean.

Lights that appear anywhere near or on the beach can disorient the hatchling sea turtles, since they instinctively head for the glimmering ocean. “They look for the natural light reflecting off of the ocean,” Sarah Skigen, a member of the Island’s Turtle Patrol, told WTOC News. “They’re looking for the natural light, the surf, the brightness of the white surf, as well as the general slope of the beach, so they head downwards and make their way to the ocean.”

But last week, a man staying at the Palmetto Dunes, a luxurious oceanfront resort on Hilton Head, placed dozens of glowing white cones of light lit with flashlights all over the darkened beach to create a romantic atmosphere while proposing to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he picked the exact night that the baby sea turtles hatched, reports WTOC News. The hatchlings, disoriented by all the lights, wandered around the dark beach before dying on the sand.

Local resident Tom Skigen and his wife, who keep watch over the turtles’ nests, were devastated at what they found Wednesday morning, reports WTOC News. “Approximately 60 hatchlings disoriented and that means they went everywhere but the ocean,” Skigen told WTOC News. “They went back to the dunes, they got confused by the light on the beach at the times so they go in circular motion and eventually succumb to either crabs, birds or simply exhaustion and die.”

“You’re angry,” Skigen told WTOC News. “it’s just very frustrating to work this hard and to have essentially a whole nest lost.”

Town officials gave the man a warning, who said “he was unaware of the rules and was very sorry for what had happened,” reports WTOC News. The woman he proposed to apparently said yes to the offer of marriage, as she was spotted wearing a ring. The Palmetto Dunes resort said it would do more to educate its guests about the lights out policy, reports WTOC News.’

sad sad

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