Surprises at Sunrise

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
March/April 2005

By Maria Lohr, Illustrated by Noel Lunceford

I drowsily woke up to the voice of my sister, Emma, instructing me to wake up. I lifted one of my heavy eyelids and saw that my bouncy sister was hovering over me, fully dressed and ready for the day. She held two buckets in one hand, and in another was a stack of clothes for me. In the back of my head, I vaguely wondered what my sister was doing, bursting energetically into my bedroom at six o’clock on a vacation. Suddenly, something clicked. As I slowly crept out of my warm and comfortable bed, I remembered that every morning our family vacationed to Florida, my sister and I had a tradition of running out to the beach to see the beautiful early morning sunrise. The thought of this tradition fully awakened me, and I carelessly threw on my clothes, grabbed a couple of light windbreakers, and took the extra bucket from my sister. Emma and I dashed out the condo door, sprinted down three flights of steps, and then finally arrived at the wooden boardwalk that led to the beach. We skipped over it eagerly, and then plopped ourselves down on the cool, soothing sand, only a few feet away from the receding tide.

Emma and I had made it just in time. As we faced the vast ocean and gazed out into the deep blue sky, the new sun was just becoming visible. The sky changed into a dazzling orange hue, and splotches of pink, yellow, and blue were overhead. I watched in amazement and was awed at the natural beauty of the Earth.

After the sky had reached a pastel blue color, my sister and I decided to stroll along the shoreline. We each held a blue bucket that was empty at the moment, but would soon fill up with unique shells and smooth sand dollars. During our ten-minute walk, Emma and I were too overcome with the beauty of the scene to say anything to each other. Just as we were about to turn back, something caught my interest. Barely fifteen feet away from the coast was a sandbar which was clustered with a large number of seagulls. The seagulls appeared to be circled around some inanimate object. Each gull was screeching at the top of its lungs. Although I had seen many seagulls before, I had never seen anything quite like this. I suggested to my sister that we discover what the commotion was all about.

We waded out to the small sandbar. As I got closer to the rambunctious birds, I noticed that they were pecking at little brownish things. Emma ran to the cluster of gulls, and a few of the birds decided to leave, but most remained. Now I could clearly make out what the birds were fighting over. Ten baby loggerhead sea turtles were helplessly sprawled on the wet sand. The seagulls’ sharp beaks were pecking at them angrily, and a couple of the turtles were even dangling from the gulls’ mouths. I sympathized with the powerless little turtles who were struggling to survive. I wanted to help them somehow, but I couldn’t think of a way. I had tried yelling at the gulls, but they wouldn’t budge. Instead, they squawked back at us, as if they were laughing at our pitiful attempts to save the turtles.

Surprises at Sunrise turtles at the beach

I sympathized with the powerless little turtles who were struggling to survive

After five painful minutes of furrowed eyebrows, I finally decided to run through the huddle of seagulls, despite my fear of the birds, and try to scare at least half of them away. I recounted my plan to myself over and over, and came to the conclusion that it was the best plan I had. I took a deep breath, and trying not to think about the needle-sharp beaks of the gulls, ran through the circle of screeching birds. Several flustered gulls retreated into the sky, but a good portion of them stayed rooted to the sand. I decided to take another shot at it, remembering the saying, “Failure only occurs if you don’t try again.” Keeping this quote in mind, I attempted again, and only a few of the gulls remained. I knew I was getting closer to my objective. With Emma’s help on my third shot, we were finally successful.

My sister and I hurried over to the remaining baby turtles, which were still struggling on their backs in the sand, confused by what had just happened to them. I was hesitant about moving any of them, since I knew that loggerheads were a threatened species. I also remembered that I had read that sea turtles had to make the journey to the ocean by themselves, so they could recognize their native land when returning from the sea to mate. Anyway, I knew that if we just placed them back in the ocean, the movement of the tide would be sure to trap the turtles back on the sandbar. Emma and I knew that we had to make a move, or else the turtles’ chance of survival would diminish to almost nothing when the seagulls returned. After brainstorming together, we came up with a reliable plan. Emma would run up to our condo to fetch our dad, who would call the Wildlife Society. This way we figured that the turtles would be safe. I waded back to the beach and kept a close watch on the sandbar, watching for any signs of high tide. I stretched out on the warm sand and waited for the return of my sister. As I was about to shut my eyes, I felt something small scuttle over my arm. Thinking it was a crab, I jumped up in surprise. I looked down and saw a little brownish creature. I peered closer at it and saw that it was another baby sea turtle, eagerly crawling toward the blue ocean. I looked around in the sand and saw several more sea turtles, also on the way to begin their lifelong journey. I realized that there must be a nest somewhere in the sea oats. At that moment, Emma appeared, followed by Dad. They brought good news with them. A man from the Wildlife Society was traveling to our beach. He would collect the turtles, and make a journey to the Sargasso Sea, where the turtles would safely be dropped off.

Surprises at Sunrise turtles

Within the hour, an official arrived and began to gather the sea turtles. He inquired about where Emma and I found the turtles and how many we saw, and with our answers he was able to find the nest that had once been the home of the turtles. The man also told us that we were lucky to have found the sea turtles, because a few weeks earlier, there had been a tropical storm, and he had been afraid that the high waters had washed away many of the nests along the coast. As a result of the storm, not as many nests had been accounted for as there had been in the past. The man thanked Emma and me again, and left with a bucket of baby sea turtles in his right hand. As the tide started to come in, I remained standing in the warmth of the early morning sun, staring at the nest that had once held many sea turtles, anxious to start their lives in the ocean. It made me extremely happy to realize that I had played a part in starting them on their way.

Surprises at Sunrise Maria Lohr

Maria Lohr, 13
Louisville, Kentucky

Surprises at Sunrise Noel Lunceford

Noel Lunceford, 11
Grandview, Missouri

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