The Pull Of The Ocean

Uniola paniculata (sea oats) at Emerald Isle

Uniola paniculata (sea oats) at Emerald Isle

Within a garden I am uplifted. I find joy and peace. But at this time of year as the season wanes, the beach pulls and pulls and I long to see the expanse of sand, feel the rhythm of the water and experience the richness of blue.

On the coast of North Carolina we are fortunate to have many beautiful beaches. At Emerald Isle, where I stayed last week, the views were without flaw. I soaked them in each day and finally about 8:30 a.m. on the last day, with the car packed up for the 180-mile return trip home, I took my camera down to the shore to say goodbye.

A boardwalk from the condominiums where we stayed led from pavement toward the sand, lifting vacationers over the fragile dunes that protect the coast.

On the boardwalk, heading to Atlantic Ocean

On the boardwalk, heading to Atlantic Ocean

Walking above the surprisingly green tangle of wind-blown shrubs and scrubby foliage, I noticed many birds had found shelter there. They darted around seemingly carefree and talked among themselves.

During my stay I also observed many dragonflies and captured one in this photograph as I made my way to the shore on that final day.

Each time I saw a dragonfly last week I was reminded of a remarkable experience my family shared one August while vacationing at Sanibel, Florida.  We unexpectedly witnessed a dragonfly migration taking place at the water’s edge. Imagine our surprise upon seeing thousands of dragonflies dodging us to form a traffic lane along the shoreline, their destination unknown to us.

Dragonfly at eye level along boardwalk

Dragonfly at eye level along boardwalk

Back at Emerald Isle though, the boardwalk ended, opening up a path through deep sand.

Where the boardwalk ends

Where the boardwalk ends

Vegetation decreased. Bird traces marked the sand.

Bird tracks along the sand

Bird tracks along the sand

Sea oats swayed and glistened in the early sun as I passed by.

Uniola paniculata (sea oats) at Emerald Isle

Uniola paniculata (sea oats) at Emerald Isle

And finally the water.

Beach just after high tide

Beach just after high tide

Beach just after high tide

Beach just after high tide

Once on the beach I took a moment to look back toward land. This is the condominium complex where we spent the week.

Looking back toward the condominiums

Looking back toward the condominiums

Fifty-one loggerhead sea turtle nests have been marked this season on this section of Emerald Isle. Just in front of where we were staying sat number 49.

Sea Turtle Nest Number 49, Emerald Isle

Sea Turtle Nest Number 49, Emerald Isle

Sea turtles are protected and hundreds of volunteers patrol the beach, watching for new nests, searching for signs of activity within the marked nests and picking up trash that can harm turtles if ingested.

Sea Turtle Protection

Sea Turtle Protection

As I made my way to the ocean on my last morning I passed a woman on the boardwalk who was coming in off the beach. She said there must have been a hatching overnight, because a long trench had been dug at two of the nests.

Once on the sand I immediately saw one of the trenches she had mentioned, nest 25, and I decided to take some photos.

Nests 35 and 25. Newly dug trench at Nest 25.

A sea turtle patrol volunteer came up to me curious if I had spotted activity. It turned out there had not been a hatching the night before after all.

But, someone had noticed a signal that one might soon occur. The patrol member explained that two or three days before sea turtles hatch a tiny indentation becomes visible. If you look closely you may see just a minor depression in the middle of the triangle.

Trench ready for hatching at Nest 25

Trench ready for hatching at Nest 25

I would love to have stayed a few more nights to see the nest boil for about thirty minutes as 100-120 young creatures emerge from their eggs and make their way down to the sea. Sadly their odds of survival are not good.

The volunteer said there are usually some stragglers for a couple more nights after a hatching. Then on the third evening, volunteers carefully dig out the nest and count any eggs that did not survive. The area then is filled and protective fencing is removed, leaving no trace of the sea turtle activity.

Nest 25. High tide water mark visible at bottom of trench.

Nest 25. High tide water mark visible at bottom of trench.

I did not get photographs of everything, but I will keep some images from this trip  in my head. This area is a good spot for collecting shells. My initial day on the beach I picked up nearly perfect specimens of a sand dollar and a whelk, firsts for me.

Another day I walked not far from where we were staying down to the Point, the confluence of the ocean with the sound. Dozens of varieties of seabirds were nesting in a protected area that was unobtrusively fenced off from public access. Outside the designated space many more birds had settled closer to water’s edge. When I was there only a handful of people were out and everyone was respectful of the nests.

Two of my three sisters visited us during part of the week, bringing along a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle which we embraced. Late one night, by the time it was nearly completed, my husband had already gone to bed, but my sisters wanted to save the last piece for him. We left it sitting on the box.

Nearly completed puzzle

Nearly completed puzzle

With my sisters we also explored the city of Beaufort and there saw a portion of Blackbeard’s treasure at the North Carolina Maritime Museum.

I realize not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the ocean, but a week at the coast works some magic that cannot happen any other place. I feel I have found myself again.  Renewed, regenerated, recharged.

Oh, and I saw a dolphin!

 

39 thoughts on “The Pull Of The Ocean

  1. Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

    Well, here’s one reader who shares your enthusiasm for the ocean. I think my blood pressure goes down 10 points as I even approach it. 🙂 It sounds like you had a marvelous week with family. Nice of your sisters to save the last piece for hubby. 🙂

    Reply
  2. theshrubqueen

    Loved your post. I live near the ocean and am learning about the Sea Turtles, just amazing creatures, there are 5,000 nearby they are monitoring. Interesting fact that came up at a seminar the turtles seem to be producing too many females due to the extreme heat we have been having lately -global warming? don’t know. We see the swarms of dragonflies fairly regularly when it rains and mosquitoes or something hatches out – in my backyard! Quite a sight.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      That’s exciting. I envy your proximity to the ocean. Interesting about the excess females. The dragonflies are fascinating but can do without mosquitoes.

      Reply
      1. theshrubqueen

        The dragonfly thing is funny, maybe I need to try and take pictures or it may be a result of my no pesticides thing. I think they eat the mosquitoes-or whatever else is around. My husband refers to them as the Army Air Force (his Dad was in the same in WWII) the wildlife biologists seem to be waiting to see if MN corrects the turtle dilemma.

  3. rusty duck

    Susie that sounds wonderful. And best of all, the lengths they are going to to encourage and protect wildlife. I once came across a turtle laying her eggs on a beach. Just her and me, nobody else around. Brilliant.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      It was a great trip. Seeing the protections in place for wildlife made me happy. You must have been so thrilled seeing the egg laying. That is very cool.

      Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Hi Alice. Thanks so much! I tried to take advantage of every minute we were there. Was glad I took some pictures on that last day. Looking at them sends me right back to the water. Missed you at the retreat. Hope you’re having a good summer.

      Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Excellent John. Haven’t been to Topsail in a long while. Have one more beach time coming up, a long weekend with some college friends in a couple of weeks at Holden’s.

      Reply
  4. An Eye For Detail

    I know exactly what you mean: there is nothing like the ocean! I feel absolutely rejuvenated and so relaxed after just a few hours. We’re lucky to live not too far and to have such a choice in beaches! So glad you had the week there.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      I do feel lucky Tammy! It’s been a number of years since we’d stayed at that beach and whatever protection programs there were back then were not obvious at all.

      Reply
  5. Kris Peterson

    Your photos are beautiful, Susie. The beaches here, although close, are very different – crowded with people at all hours. They’re lively and often interesting but not really peaceful. I much prefer your shoreline and those dunes with their grass-covered tops. It would be absolutely wonderful to see a mass of dragonflies in flight or the baby turtles making their trek to the sea. There are sea turtle nurseries to the north, in the Carmel-Monterey area, but I can’t say I’m aware of any activity of that nature in the South Bay.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks Kris. I’d expected more people but school is starting back. Sadly not every beach here is as lovely or as protected as this. Many are lined with high-rise hotels and condos that create a very different feel. I have a friend who works at MBARI in Monterey–beautiful area.

      Reply
  6. Pauline

    What a wonderful spot you found, the perfect getaway to re-charge your batteries. Loved reading about the dragonflies and turtles, so good to read that they are protected.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Hi Charlie, I agree wholeheartedly about the restorative powers of the ocean. Decided only at the last minute to take photos and was glad I did.

      Reply
  7. Cathy

    I am so glad this week at the coast helped you regenerate Susie. The whole experience sounds wonderful and relaxing. I also hope to see the sea while on holiday in the UK – you are right, there is something magical about a long stretch of dunes and sand with the ocean beyond. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Hi Jane, I can understand how the mountains call to people too. Hope you get to your “home place” often, even if it’s just when you close your eyes and imagine.

      Reply
  8. karen

    It’s reassuring to see all the efforts being made to protect wildlife. I loved all your photos. I haven’t managed to see the sea this year yet, due to illness. But I’m hoping that after a small operation I will be able to travel to Norfolk and walk along the sand. Thanks for sharing your photos.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it was exciting to see such dedication to protecting wildlife. Best of luck with your procedure. Hope you are soon able to get to the water.

      Reply

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