The 1997 French Frigate Shoals nesting season was the best ever, giving rise to much optimism and happiness. Here at Turtle Trax, we are excited too. Four of the Honokowai tagged females were "home" with us last summer. For whatever reason, they took 1997 off from their reproductive duties.
These turtles include Tutu (U 521), whom we’ve known since 1990; McTaggert (F 765), known since 1992; Mendelbrot (U 359), known since 1993; and Shredder (A 240), known since 1995. How many of these will make the 25th Anniversary run has yet to be determined.
Either way, as always, George Balazs will inform us (and we'll tell you) when any of the Honokowai honu show up at the French Frigate Shoals. If we're lucky, we'll be underwater when they complete the migration back to their home foraging grounds at the end of August. If that happens, we’ll report it as well.
On the evening of June 29th, 1998, we received a message on our answering machine. Mendelbrot was sighted on East Island laying her eggs. She is U 359 and the good people monitoring turtles there this season took a picture of her.
George Balazs said he will send the photo to us to post on Turtle Trax the moment he receives it. This makes Mendelbrot the first Honokowai turtle for which we will have a photographic history in both nesting and foraging habitat.
On our morning dive of August 16th, 1998, we sighted Mendelbrot. We recognized her by her facial markings and the lump under her right "armpit", a tumor that continues to regress with each year.
On our morning dive of August 16th, 1998, we sighted Mendelbrot.
Her shell was typical of a turtle who's been out a long time in open ocean--spanking squeaky clean with no hint of algae. The good hearts at FFS also gave Mendelbrot a new "paint job."
She has D 62 painted on the right rear portion of her carapace. We notified George of the sighting, and here is a portion of his reply:
U355 RHF (right hind flipper) and U359 LFL (left front flipper proximal tag site). CCL= 105.5 cm, SCL= 98.0 cm. First seen in 1998 nesting on East 6/5/98.
So the cycle is complete: from Honokowai to East Island and back to Honokowai, 1600 km or so. What a lady!
It took longer than we had anticipated, but we finally have the pictures. They were delivered to us at the 19th Annual Sea Turtle Symposium on South Padre Island, Texas--but there's more. By an astounding coincidence, we got to meet the person who tagged Mendelbrot and took the photos! He's Tim Clark, who just might hold the record for the longest tour of duty at East Island next to Balazs. Tim took this photo of Mendelbrot (U 359) while she was nesting at East Island last June.
Mendelbrot (U 359) while she was nesting at East Island last June.
It's one of those rare occasions where a turtle seems more beautiful on land than in water. We believe that this is the first time in FFS history that a turtle at East Island has been matched to her foraging grounds by her facial markings and the first honu that has a documented history prior to her receiving tags.
French Frigate Shoals--25th Anniversary
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