Thursday, September 27, 2012

Steel Rails Across Canada

Rock slides, blasting accidents, scurvy, sunstroke,
frostbite, wild animals, swamps, high mountains:
such dangers were all in a day's work
for those who built Canada's railways.

Before the Grand Trunk Railway bridged the distance between Montreal and
Toronto, it took at least 36 hours to travel between the two cities “by stage coach”.
Remote destinations like the interior of Newfoundland and Labrador or British
Columbia, the Klondike and the Arctic were almost impossible to reach.

Railway mania...gripped Canada at various periods, but not long after the
inauguration of the first railway in 1836, people realized the advantages of
having a line through their towns.

Despite their popularity, most railways were characterized by chronic financial
problems and eventually went bankrupt or were absorbed by larger companies.

By the beginning of the Great War, there were four dominant  independents:
the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), the Canadian North Railway (CNoR…
later known as Canadian National Railway ~ CNR), the Grand Trunk
Railway (GTR) and the Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP).


The advent of war brought the crisis to a head.  The Federal Government had
to act!  By 1923, the GnoR, the GTR and the GTP were amalgamated into
two transcontinentals.  By the 1930's automobiles and buses gained much
popularity and paved roads were becoming a familiar sight.  This crested
a decline in the railway passenger transit.  In the 1940's and 1950's, airlines
compounded the situation.  The 1960's saw the close of an increasing number
of branch lines and many companies folded.

The CPR and the CNR  could not continue operations  as they had in the past
and in 1978 the two companies combined their passenger services to
form VIA RAIL.

Positive Changes

Historically, the CPR is perhaps the best known  railway to Canadians.
It was the CPR unifying the country...geographically and politically...
that comprised John A. MacDonald's  “national dream” !
Connections to the Canadian National Railway was a promise made to both
British Columbia and Prince Edward Island to ensure their entrance into
Confederation in 1867.

               A railway line was like the “golden touch” to a town or region:
               Real Estate prices jumped!
               Employment was plentiful!
               Labourers were in demand to construct roads!
               Trains needed crew members, technicians for maintenance,
               providers of cord wood (in the early days) for fuel!
               This led to a  boom (along with other factors) in the fledgling
               travel and tourism industry!

The CPR emerged as an advertising master.  The well-heeled-travelers in the
1920's might not have appreciated the natural beauty of the Rockies and its
lakes and rivers without the man-made-pleasures of CPR's Banff Springs
Hotel and the Chateau Lake Louise.

The CPR was incorporated on February 16, 1881. Less than 5 years later,
a ribbon of steel united Canada when the line to the Pacific coast was
completed with “driving the last spike” at Craigellachi, British Columbia
on November 7, 1885.

In 1909 construction began on Canada’s 2nd transcontinental railway line…the
Canadian National Railway.  Today it is the largest railway in Canada in terms
of revenue and physical size of its rail network and is currently Canada’s only
transcontinental railway spanning from the Atlantic coast in Nova Scotia  to
the Pacific coast in British Columbia.  The CNR is a public company with
22,000 employees…has been a Crown Corporation…privatized in 1995.
Due to its numerous acquisitions in both Canada and United States,
CN’s slogan is…North America’s Railway

Canadian Pacific Hotels

CP Hotels were a dream of CPR that operated a series of Hotels across Canada.
Most of these resort hotels were originally built and operated by the railway's
Hotel Department...a few were acquired from Canadian National Hotels.
Today, these are operated under the Fairmont name...and remain some of
Canada's most exclusive hotels

Today Fairmont Hotels are located in major cities across Canada and United
States and other significant tourist destinations:  Mexico, Bermuda, Barbados,
the United name a few.

Remote Tourist Locations

As in the state of Alaska and our Yukon Territory, where there are settlements of
villages and towns, the residents can only be accessed by “Bush Pilots”.

Canada has a couple of tourist destinations which can only be reached by railway
(two of which I am aware around James Bay). Others, probably in other provinces.

Polar Bear Express:  From Cochrane, Ontario, you travel through some of the
most beautiful and remote wilderness in this province.  The woods almost seem
haunted.  At mile 186 you arrive at Moosenee...a very unique place at the southern
tip of James Bay.  Its population of about 2500 is 85% First Nations people.
Visit a First Nation's museum and Moose Factory (not a moose-breeding facility).
Also tour Moose Cree Outdoor Discoveries and Adventures.
                                                      Ride the Rails to Historic James Bay
                                                      for a Canadian Heritage Experience!

Churchill, Manitoba:  “Polar Bear Tours” invite you to see the King of the Arctic
...its wild home in The Great White North offering exciting encounters with polar
bears as they wait for Hudson Bay to freeze over so they can begin their annual
hunt.  Churchill is most famous for the many polar bears that move toward the
shore from inland in the autumn...lending the name,
                                               Polar Bear Capital of the World...
                                    to this town of Churchill's growing tourist industry.

                             There are a few ways to get to Churchill at the northern end
                             of James Bay:   dog team
                                                      stow away on a ship
                                                      drive a car along the rails...or
                                                       take the train!


 Canada is by size, the largest country in North America
and second in the world overall (behind only Russia).

Canada is renowned world-wide for its wilderness,
for its vast untouched landscape, for its unique blend
of cultures, for its multi-faceted history
and one of the world's wealthiest countries.

“Pearl of Wisdom”

Our Dreams of this Beautiful Country
will Never Die!
(Pierre Trudeau...Prime Minister of Canada
from 1968 to 1980).

Merle Baird-Kerr … written September 17, 2012
If this has been an inspiration, you may leave a comment
(scroll down...may sign in as “anonymous”)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lure of the Train...Part II

(continued from Part I)

Agawa Canyon

When my son was a small boy, twice we drove my MGB to Tobermory
to visit friends. We rode the ferry to Manitoulin Island; crossing it, then bridged
to Espanola on the mainland then north to Sault Ste. Marie. One fine autumn day
with Jackie and her son, we boarded the Agawa Canyon Tour Train ~ a one-day
wilderness excursion that was truly breathtakingly brilliant with fall colours. 
We traveled 114 miles north of  The Soo. The scenery:  towering trees alongside
pristine lakes and rivers, trestles that crossed deep valleys, through awesome
granite wall formations and vast medieval forests of the Canadian Shield. 
At mile 102, the train began its descent into the canyon; hugging the canyon wall,
you travel down 500 feet over the next 10 miles to the floor of Agawa Canyon...
which was created 1.2 million years ago. Lunch was served at this stopping point
and time provided to rest, to marvel and bathe in this wilderness wonderland
and for the boys to play before our return ride to the train's station.

Real Estate Challenge

Following 15 years of teaching, I devoted five years as a full-time-mother
for our two children.  It was then I became a Real Estate Sales Representative.
One of my first listings was an “expiry” ~ a semi-detached home on Enfield
Road.  The young couple of two children had been unable to sell their property
through a previous realtor.  The lot, narrow but 210 feet in depth sided along
a trickling stream edged with silvery green weeping willows.  Sounds divine?
The drawback:  14 freight trains noisily sped by daily at the rear of their
property which prospective buyers found very disturbing!

To me, the owners stated, “After living here for two weeks, we really didn't
hear the trains anymore and buyers need to understand that. What can  you do
to sell our home and property?”

It was a “no-brainer”!  The solution was to advertise and promote this property
to...Train Lovers or Deaf Persons!  Within 30 days, I place a SOLD sign
on the standard.  The owners were ecstatic...moving to a new location
which I sold to them.

The Napa Valley Wine Train

It was Labour Day weekend in California.  Visiting my son, we spent a few days
with my nephew and his wife who lived near Oakland.  On Saturday we drove to
Yosemite to view the spectacular Half Dome and the lazy flowing Mercer River.  
For Monday, I had secretly planned  a leisurely journey through the renowned
Napa Valley. What a surprise awaited them! My nephew and his wife were ecstatic
about this venture! We boarded a unique meticulously restored train of vintage cars.

This was not just a train ride…it provided a three hour, 36 mile round trip
going from the historic town of Napa through one of the world’s most well known
wine valleys to the quaint village of St. Helena and back. 
{Guests aboard the Wine Train could enjoy a freshly prepared lunch or dinner
inside a fully restored1915 to 1917 Pullman Dining Car or the 1952 Vista Dome
car  as they pass the many lush vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley.} 
We relived the luxury and tradition of railroad dining as the steward seated us,
offering white linen service for half the journey along this scenic valley,
then led us to the comfort of the lounge car for delicious coffee and dessert.  
How Royal!

He told us the wine train had two engines, three kitchens on board
and a collection of early century rail cars that are pure "Americana". 
The tracks upon which the train runs were originally built in the 1860’s.  
I definitely felt we were “reliving history”… a marvelous and unforgettable
train experience for the four of us.

GO Transit

These trains have been operating from Burlington to Toronto for many years.
Currently, we now have three GO stations in our city....parking lots are full
during the work weeks for this rapid passenger transportation.  

VIA Rail which travels across Canada stops at our Aldershot GO Station.

The complement of the VIA Rail and GO Transit locations allows the two
companies to offer efficient train travel and connection to Pearson International
Airport and two other mid-size airlines.

GO Transit is Canada's first and Ontario's only inter-regional public transit
system...linking Toronto  with the surrounding regions of  Halton, Peel, York
and Durham.  GO Transit offers 180 train routes and 1,973 bus routes.
GO connects with every municipality transit system  in the Greater Toronto
and Hamilton areas.


Recently, I created a “Wish List” of 10 or more things I'd like to achieve during
my lifetime ~ a few were definitely “wishful thinking” ~ others achievable!

The Rocky Mountaineer:  Although I've crossed Canada a few times...twice to
the eastern Atlantic coast and 4 or 5 times to British Columbia's Pacific Ocean,
the Joy of my Lifetime would be to travel by train from Toronto to Calgary...
then boarding The Rocky Mountaineer.

It's a picturesque experience to ride the rails north from Toronto through
the Canadian Shield’s forests and rock...then viewing the rugged shoreline
of Lake Superior, Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River areas before crossing
into Manitoba. I love the golden prairies of this province and of Saskatchewan
and the arrival in Alberta where from Calgary, one views the foothills of the
Rocky Mountains.

The Rocky Mountaineer will present the pinnacle of dramatic beauty
from its glass-domed train...breathtaking scenery of glacier-fed lakes,
majestic mountains, ferocious rivers.  Views from sea to sky...from
skyscrapers to old-growth-forests, from deep valleys to snow-capped
peaks....a Journey of Exhilarating Contrasts.

What makes a street scene beautiful
is that someone is impressed with something special is a viewer of a painting in a gallery of art.

I invite you to read a subsequent article to the foregoing
titled...”Steel Rails Across Canada”
to be later posted.

Merle Baird-Kerr … written September 16, 2012
Comments are Welcome...scroll down...may sign in as “anonymous
or e-mail…

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lure of the Train...Part I

              It is dusk in downtown Toronto...low-hanging clouds in the darkened sky.
              The Royal York Hotel takes center stage in this scene ~ the “grand lady”
              that she is , displays her magnificent red-awning-facade with hundreds
              of interior lights ablaze with activity.  The front entry welcomes visitors
              with its pole-mounted flags...colourfully a-flutter in the evening breeze.

              Three steam-engined trains with smoke swirling into the night sky,
              enter the scene from the right....puffing gingerly along as they leave
              the prestigious Union Station on Front Street (across from the Royal
              York Hotel...for those, not-in-the-know, there is direct tunnel access
              from the Station to the Hotel's lower level and to numerous trendy
              shopping boutiques along the tunnel walkway.)

              The scene is of a “bygone era”, it seems...more like a desirable
               painting  to wall-hang in one's home. So glorious! These powerful
              locomotives are an engineering feat as their wheels clickety-click,
              clickety-click along dual rails carrying passengers or cargo to
              designated towns and cities.

Many times, I have traveled to and from Union Station to reach destinations
west, east and north.  What a vital transportation people-hub this is!  Recently,
Diana Krall, a Canadian chanteuse of  “torch music” performed live in the vast
foyer of the Station with hundreds of listeners appreciating her renditions.

Friends recently attending a cross-Canada conference held at the Royal York
Hotel (while TIFF ~ the Toronto International Film Festival ~was in full
progress), sent me a few photos of the famed of which was the
night picture as described above.  The trains portrayed, especially captured
my attention and clicked into my memory bank of train experiences.

Train Whistles

From my childhood farm, we could see freight trains as they rumbled the rails
a couple times a day...delivering and taking on cargo as they chugged from
station to station.  My father enjoyed the “whistles” as they crossed the
several intersections and was elated, when driving, to stop and revere
these locomotives with their snake-like trail of cars, tailed by the red
caboose.  Secretly, he yearned to be a “train engineer”.

Visit of Queen Elizabeth and King George VI

It was a huge world event when the royal couple visited Ontario on their 44-day
tour across Canada.  Brantford was only a “whistle stop” ~ the King and Queen
stepped onto a platform to welcome the immense standing crowd and receive
their ovations while gifts, flowers and flags  were presented to them.  To me,
this was the decorated “Queen's Train” as my Uncle Jim  held me in his arms
so I could see the royal couple. Today, this scene is vividly remembered!

Thousands of Miles by Train

While at College in Toronto, I longed for adventure and a summer paying job. 
With a friend, Jane (from Springfield, Mass.), we traveled by train from Toronto
to Vancouver  (“student rates”) to be assigned jobs in rural British Columbia.
We conducted 2-week camps for children, teaching crafts, games, overseeing
recreation, instructions in music and Christian principles. The summer gave us
four different locations in the mountains, the rolling hills amid lakes and rivers.

Living “on the train” 3 or 4 days each way was a true adventure.  At “whistle
stops”, we bought food stuffs for sandwiches and drinks.  At night time, we
washed our “undies” and often were fortunate to locate double seats facing
each other upon which to sleep.  Returning with Jane, we by-passed Toronto
to reach Montreal.  There was no train to Springfield until next morning.
We slept on hard benches in the station overnight.  Jane's family welcomed
me while we spent several days prior to our train return to Toronto and
studies for another year.
     Of  Interest:  Following graduation, Jane returned to 100 Mile House
      in British Columbia to marry Henry....whom she had met three years
      previously when we were there! Of course, she traveled by train.

CNR Station (Canadian National) in Hamilton

A Hamilton High School teacher friend left his position of  teaching French,
Latin and English to become a Presbyterian Church Minister.  Three  years
he spent at Trinity College (University of  Toronto) to gain his Theology
Degree.  Many Sundays, I traveled by train from Hamilton's CN Station
to Union Station in Toronto.  There, we'd attend an afternoon rehearsal
of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Massey Hall at reduced ticket cost.
Following dinner together, I'd return to Hamilton and he to his classes.

Today, the old CN Station, once elaborate in its original architectural
design has in recent  years been the center of “movie takes”.  It has now
been remodeled and updated, retaining its former beauty and attraction.
Now called LIUNA Station, it functions for social, political and
commercial events.  She was and of Hamilton's Grand Ladies!

               Train Travel was Enjoyable! 
               By car or bus, I could not read without headaches.
               Trains allowed me to walk freely from “car to car”.
                I could stand at the rear of a car to feel the wind through my hair.
                I could openly view the scenery as we sped past
                I could leisurely enjoy a beverage and food  in the dining car.
                Its uniformed conductors were friendly and polite.
                Scheduled timetables were reliable.
                Accesses to and from stations were convenient.
                The train and its silvery rails were a great avenue of travel.

Story Vignettes continued on
Lure of the Train…Part II

Merle Baird-Kerr…written September 16, 2012
Comments are welcome…scroll down…may sign in as “anonymous”
Or e-mail…

Friday, September 14, 2012

Difference Between Rich and Poor

(by “Autumn Rose” Ernesto Cortazar)

This article, accompanied with colourfully depicting scenes, came recently to me
from one of my long supportive and inspirational readers. I was so impressed
(since I too was raised on farms until 18 years of age when I left for post-
secondary education) that I yearn to share this with you. 
The message sheds “a new perspective”!

Scene Opener:  View of a farm setting with green barn and grey silos, shed
and red-roofed home of white siding; of background woods and forefront trees;
of gently rolling land; of low crop field and green pasture grass.

One day, a very wealthy man made arrangements for his son 
to spend time on a farm. His express purpose was to show the boy
 how poor people must live.

Autumn scene of rolling hillside, ablaze in reds and golds;
of billowy white clouds against an azure sky.

On his return, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”
“It was great, Dad.”
“Did you see how poor people live?”
“Oh, yeah,” said the son.
“So tell me...what did you learn?”

A pastoral scene of red barn and mature trees
beautifully reflected in a serene blue pond.

A close-up picture of a grey-siding barn and trees;
and four playful dogs in the foreground.

The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog.  They had four.   
They had a pool that reache to the middle of our garden and they have a creek 
that has no end.

A blue-water-creek that wanders through brush and trees.

We have imported lanterns in our gardens....and they have the stars at night.

Scene:  Silhouetted trees against a night sky studded with stars.

Our patio across the back of house, reaches to the front yard;  they have the whole horizon.

A grassy green field dotted with trees
stretching to the low-rise grey hills far away.

We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.

A healthy and tall, lush cornfield...soft white clouds drifting in a pale blue sky.

We have servants who serve us ...(an elaborate staircase-foyer with apron-clad female
                                                       servants and several men, black-suited and tied)

...but they serve others.     A  farmer astride his stool, hand-milking a cow; a red
                                         tractor working in a field; hands planting a small sapling                                          tree in rich brown soil...

                                          plus a scene of many cattle grazing on a rolling hillside.

We buy our food, but they grow theirs.

Hampers and baskets of tomatoes and sweet green peppers;
of red potatoes and green beans; of lettuce and hot chili-peppers;
of carrots, radishes, corn and apples;
plus planted rows of produce later to be  harvested.

We have walls around our property to protect us.”

Scene:  A  ripening field of grain with family and neighbours
chatting together (who  protect each other).

The boy's father was speechless!
Then his son added, “Thanks Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”

A glorious night time view of the farm
with buildings, silos and trees ~  their shapes
highlighted afore the orange sunset

Isn't Perspective a Wonderful Thing?
Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks
for everything we have...instead of worrying about
what we don't have.

Scene:  A golden sunset blazened across farmland
and of buildings, trees and a lone hydro pole.


Scene:  A young girl with brunette hair, dressed in aqua
holding up her front skirt hem
with a grey-striped kitten nestled warmly inside.

Final Scene:  A midnight sky viewed through trees
with a full silvery moon resting on a hazy cloud.

Life is too Short
Friends are Too Few.

Merle Baird-Kerr...written April 3,2012
Comments welcome...may sign in as "anonymous"

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Loggerhead Turtles Return...Part II

 A Few Quotes from “The Beach House”
 ( written by Mary Alice Monroe)

          The temperature of the sand during incubation plays a role in determining
          the sex of the hatchlings.  Cool sand produces males; while hotter sand
          brings females.

          Sea turtles travel long distances as they migrate between their feeding
          grounds and nesting beaches.  Although there are many theories, no one
          is certain how the turtles navigate their way.

“Turtle Walks”

These started decades ago as wildlife officials and volunteers combed the beaches
to mark nests and tagged turtles to keep track of their numbers.  Federal and State
laws protecting the species allow beach viewers to watch only the threatened
“loggerhead turtle” laying her eggs.

          Hatching time approaches.  Inside the nest, the baby turtle picks away
          at its shell with an egg tooth.  The hatchling will remain underground
          for several days to absorb every bit of the important yolk sac for the
          energy to survive.  It also needs to allow its curved shell to straighten.

          The hatchlings remain quiet during the heat of the day, but at night,
          they scrape with their flippers, plowing through broken shells and
          compact sand, working as a team.  This causes the floor of the nest
          to slowly rise to the surface.

David Porter, a volunteer from the Marine Life Centre (Juno Beach, Florida)
has a walkie-talkie hooked to his shorts so he can keep in contact with the
dozen volunteers spread out over a mile on the beach.  Armed with radios,
night-vision scopes and bug spray, the volunteers quickly scout the beach
for signs of a turtle emerging from the water.  Within the first two  hours,
volunteers spot 2 loggerheads , but both crawled back to the ocean before
digging a hole or laying eggs.  The long night of waiting requires patience.
About 10:30 pm the volunteers heard a commotion on their radios.
A third turtle was spotted and started digging her nest ~ a sure sign she
will stay for as long as two hours or longer.  Nearly three hours later,
the turtle makes a slow turn toward the ocean.

          The hatchlings (about 3 inches long) are drawn to the brightest light. 
          In nature, this is the white light of the moon or stars over the ocean. 
          Artificial lighting can confuse the hatchlings and lead them to death
          in tangles of beach grass or on busy streets.

          The minutes spent dashing from the nest to the sea are very
          dangerous in a turtle's life.  This is the time for predators to
          attack the hatchlings.  If and when the hatchlings reach the ocean
          and get their first taste of the sea, instinct kicks in.  The crawling
          motion is replaced with power strokes by front flippers.
          The turtle will go nonstop for twenty-four hours in what's called
          a “swimming frenzy” to reach the Gulf Stream.  Once there, it will
          hide and feed in the relative safety of enormous floats of sargassum
          weeds and flotsam.

          The hatchlings are carried by the North Atlantic system of gyres
          to the islands off West Africa where the now-dinner-plate-sized
          loggerheads may remain for a decade or more.  When seen again
          along the eastern seaboard, the juveniles have grown considerably
          in weight and size.

          Hatchlings dine on small snails, microplankton and invertebrates.
          After they reach adulthood, their powerful jaws can crush heavy-
          shelled crustaceans and creatures that reside in reefs and rocks.
          Jelllyfish...are like candy treats!

“Turtle Friendly” Rules to Follow at the Beach

LIGHTS OUT!  Turn off the lights at dusk that are visible from the beach!
Close blinds and drapes on beach-facing-windows. Use motion sensor
security lights instead of outdoor porch lights.

STAY AWAY FROM NESTS!  Do not touch or disturb turtle nest markings.
Walking on the nest can crush the eggs below.  Please keeps pets on a
leash away from the nest.

DON'T PICK UP THE HATCHLINGS!  Crawling to the surf on their own
helps them to orient when they enter the sea.  When the female is mature
in twenty years, they will return to nest.

FILL IN THE HOLES!  Baby turtles can navigate a footprint, but large
moats around sand castles, etc. can trap them  Adult seas turtles can be
trapped as well.

mother turtle is disturbed by lights or people, she may abandon her
effort to nest.  Stay behind the turtle so that she can't see you and
do not try to touch her.

NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!  Both the adult turtle and the
hatchling can be disoriented by the bright light.  It may be tempting,
but please avoid flashes from cameras or the white light of  flashlights.

REMOVE BEACH AND BOAT LITTER!  Balloons, plastic bags and
other non-degradable pollutants cause the deaths of turtles who try to
eat them.


Mary Alice Monroe dedicated this book
to her 13 fellow members  of the...
Isle of Palms/Sullivan's Island Turtle team
    and to all Turtle Volunteers here and elsewhere
who walk the beaches every morning
  to help our beloved loggerheads.


Consider the Turtle

Consider the turtle!  Perchance  you have worried , despaired of the world,
meditated the end of life...and all things seem rushing to destruction, but
nature has steadily and serenely advanced with the turtle's pace. 
The young turtle spends its infancy within its shell.  It gets experience
and learns the way of the world  through that wall.  While it rests warily
on the edge of its hole, rash schemes are undertaken by men and fail.
French empires rise or fall, but the turtle is developed only so fast..
What's a summer?

Time for a turtle's egg to hatch.  So is the turtle developed, fitted to
endure for he outlives twenty French dynasties.  One turtle knows
several Napoleans.  They have no worries, no cares, yet...has not
the great world existed for them as much as for you?

Henry David Thoreau
Journal ~ August 28, 1856,

Believe I shall reread this fantastic and inspiring, novel, The Beach House,
about Caretta Rutledge who heads back to the scenic Lowcountry
of her childhood summers (just as her life is spinning out of control).
Before long, the rhythms of the island open her heart in wonderful
ways as she repairs the family beach house, becomes a bona fide
“turtle lady” and renews old acquaintances long thought lost.

Merle Baird-Kerr … written September 4, 2012
Comments welcome...scroll down...may sign in as “anonymous”

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Loggerhead Turtles Return...Part I

The magnificence of Internet ~ the camera, the location, the photography,
the story. Recently, my son forwarded a sensational picture of baby loggerhead
sea turtles (about 20 or more) scrambling and hustling to the seawater for their
lives' survival. The drama of this photo recalled to my memory a novel I read
several years ago ~ The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe telling of
a woman's return to the family's island beach  house along the South
Carolina coast and becomes a “turtle lady”.

          “What is a loggerhead?”...I asked myself:
            a)  a tropical sea turtle with a hard shell and large head
            b)  a stupid fellow or blockhead  
            c)“at loggerheads” is to be in disagreement; in a quarrel

Loggerheads are oceanic turtles throughout the world inhabiting
the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean and Indian ocean/sea waters. 
The females tend to return to the beach on which they were
hatched...every 2 to 3 years to nest.  Mating season usually
starts around late March and may extend until early June. 
An adult loggerhead may weigh 170 to 350 pounds or more.

The female comes ashore to lay her 80 to 150 ping-pong sized
eggs in the nest that is 18 to 22 inches deep in the sand. 
They usually hatch within 45 to 65 days.
An estimated 14,000 females nest in the southern US each year
from South Carolina to Florida.  If the hatchlings make it to shore
...and eventually adulthood, they may live 30 to 50 years or more.

Preceding each chapter are loggerhead facts to inform the reader.

My recent blog, Mourning Dove Family III, so immensely impressed
me.  The parents are so loving, so dedicated, so protective of their
two-egg-babies called squabs...caring for them 24 hours a day
(2 weeks of incubation and 2 weeks of raising these wee ones
to a mature physical size enabling them to fly with their parents).
Now “time to face the world” learning how to survive!

          At last, the loggerhead arrives in familiar waters.   She waits
          in the swells near shore as a moon rises above the Atlantic.
          Her home is the sea, but instinct demands that she leaves
          all she knows and face the unknown dangers of the beach
          to nest.  Is it safe here...or should she swim further on?

          She has a keen sense of smell and even keener instinct
          for survival ~ one that has kept the species alive
          since prehistoric times.

How different the lifestyle of mating pairs of Mourning Doves and
the Mother Turtle who lays her eggs and then lumbers back to sea water
...never to return to her nest:
          leaving her eggs to “hatch alone”
          leaving the baby turtles to alone dig out of the sand
          and totally alone against predators
          and totally alone as they dash across the beach sand
          to reach deep water's safety.
Only one sea turtle out of 10,000 will ever reach adulthood
because she has left her 3-inch-long-hatchlings to wiggle out of
their sandy pits, into the water and away from the many predators
lurking nearby.  Some never make it out of the nest before they
are snatched up by some marine birds, by some land animals,
by reptiles and by humans (who illegally sell turtle eggs...
considered an aphrodisiac in some Caribbean culture).

          Though the mother loggerhead is tired and hungry,
          her work is just beginning.  She will nest an average
          of four times during this season, resting two weeks
          between each nest.

          Under the cloak of night, the loggerhead comes ashore.
          She slowly drags her body in a tanklike crawl to a dry
          sight high on the beach.  Only the female comes ashore.
          If the site doesn't feel right or encounters a root or rock,
          or if  senses an intruder, the loggerhead will return to the
          sea without laying her eggs...(known as a “false crawl”)

          The turtle uses her hind flippers in an elaborate digging
          ritual, alternately digging out scoops of sand to create
          an egg chamber  She then deposits her leathery covered eggs
          into the nest cavity, laying 2, 3 or 4 ping-pong sized eggs
          at a time.  While she labours, the loggerhead's eyes stream
          with tears.  These “turtle tears” are produced to rid her body
          of excess salt from drinking salt water.

          Her eggs laid, the mother loggerhead now uses her rear
          flippers to rake sand over her nest and her front flippers
          to throw sand to disguise the area.  When her work is done,
          the mother lumbers back to the safety of the sea.
          She'll never return to her nest.

Dear Readers....In Part II...I write about the Volunteers and their
contributions to the protection of these loggerheads.

I leave you with this quote from
Mary Alice Monroe's novel...the Beach House:

Life's most precious lessons ~
True love involves sacrifice.
Family is forever
Mistakes of the past can be be forgiven.

Merle Baird-Kerr … written September 3, 2012
Comments welcome...scroll down...may sign in as “anonymous”