1-24  The First Twenty-Four
25-48  The Second Twenty-Four
49-72  The Third Twenty-Four
73-96  The Fourth Twenty-Four
97-120  The Fifth Twenty-Four
121-144  The Sixth Twenty-Four
145-168  The Seventh Twenty-Four
169-on  The Eighth Twenty-Four

97  A Family Visit, part 2
98  Wunderkammer XI
99  Wunderkammer XII
100  Ponogram Index
101  Michigan Outlines
102  Hawaiiana 9
103  Kids of Maine - 1
104  Kids of Maine - 2
105  Clarence Sandin
106  Tech House
107  Hawksbill Hatching
108  Facial Recognition
109  Hawaiiana 10
110  Spring in Maine - 1
111  Spring in Maine - 2
112  Wunderkammer XIII
113  Wunderkammer XIV
114  Wunderkammer XV
115  JOVIAL Programming Language
116  "Big Like a Soldier Officer"
117  TV Shows That Never Were - 1
118  Gecko Rejects Moth
119  TV Shows That Never Were - 2
120  The Story of Four




Hawksbill sea turtles are a critically endangered species.  A precious few of the females choose Maui to lay their nests.  One such is Orion.  Orion has visited Maui off and on over the years and has had a history of successful nests.  This is the story of the fourth nest she laid on the world-class Makena Beach, aka Big Beach in 2004.

Orion later completed her last of five nests on Maui and took a victory lap around Molokini, with stops on Kaho’olawe and West Maui, and then back past the nests on Big Beach.  She headed north between Maui and the Big Island, then northwest.  Fortunately she’d been fitted with a monitoring device so her extended journey was tracked nearly to Kauai.  Her Maui nests were left to those who care.

Unfortunately, Orion was not observed making her fourth nest, so its precise location was not known.  Her monitor showed where she had hauled out and tracks showed the approximate location.  The area was nice, clean sand, about 125’ from the ocean.

Makena Beach aka Big Beach 

This is Makena Beach in South Maui.  The point of the arrow marks the approximate location of Orion’s 4th 2004 nest.


 Hatching sea turtles

This is an artist’s conception of a typical sea turtle nest at the time of hatching.

On October 14th, 59 days after Orion’s work, a crew of volunteers stayed all night with this nest.  Our job was to inspect the area regularly to see if the nest reveals itself with activity and then be ready to protect the hatchlings in their trek to the ocean. 

Just as dawn was breaking on the 15th a cone shaped depression formed about 8” around and 4” deep, finally revealing the location of the nest.  A secondary hole about 4” by 2” overlapped the larger hole.  At about 5 minute intervals low levels of activity could be seen.  This went on for what seemed like forever.  The sun popped out over Mt. Haleakala and concern grew.  Daylight brings out mobs of beach visitors and predators, and the risk of overheating.

Judy called Cheryl the turtle lady for instructions.  Cheryl said that a daytime crew would soon be there and that she would come by as soon as she could.


Orion, hawksbill mom    Hole in sand locates nest

    Orion, Hawksbill Sea Turtle Extraordinaire             Hole below the V of the left chair leg

The five-minute activity “surges” continued.  The first of the day crew showed up.  Finally a head popped up in the smaller of the two cones.  The eyes were totally obscured with caked sand and the head was very still.  The next surge revealed shoulders and front flippers but no apparent enthusiasm to get moving.  The body was oriented vertically.  One more surge and the body was clear of sand and mostly horizontal, but the hatchling seemed lethargic.

 First head breaks out   More body parts emerge

By this time, just a very few humans were on Big Beach, only one group nearby.  Mirna took a break from smoothing a track from the nest to the ocean, went over to the couple with a small child and invited them to observe.  The boy and his mother came over to the nest and the father went in the water with a camera.

More surges revealed odd flippers, heads and backs.  The first hatchling remained quiet.  Then a major surge released about ten hatchlings raring to go.  The first guy caught the fever and they all headed for the ocean.  Almost immediately the nest erupted with wave after wave of healthy, energetic, seemingly identical new lives.  They headed unerringly, straight for the ocean, stumbling over human footprints, plunging over a 2’ to 3’ berm, righting themselves and trotting right into the water.

First group   Takeoff

Rush for water   More surges

There they go ...   ... here they come

                     There they go…                                              …here they come

About 180 hatchlings came out of the nest, made it to the water and of course disappeared to our view.  Once the first group of ten came out, it was all over within about 15 minutes.  No land predators, humans, or obstacles made claims.  Inspection of the tracks shows that not one went in a wrong direction.  The “fan” of tracks started at 1’ wide at the nest and expanded to only about 20’ wide at the water.  Wave action spread the hatchlings over about 150’ before they all got into the water.

Over the berm   Next the waves 

Wave encounters   Trek resumes 

Tumbles in the waves caused temporary delays but upon stabilizing the trek resumed.

Orion was no longer concerned, but with her excellent work on this nest and the protection of caring volunteers and naturalists, perhaps some small number of these new hawksbills will survive, mature, and come back to Maui nei in a few years to help pull the hawksbill turtle back from its endangered status.

That young man who observed this miracle has no idea how privileged he was, but the other handful of us who witnessed it feel deep gratitude.

Orion was the only hawksbill known to have nested on Maui in 2004.  She left five nests with varying degrees of success.  She was fitted with a transmitter as she worked on an early nest, so her activity on this nest was electronically detected.  A few “props” were left around the general area making it look occupied, hopefully to keep beach visitors from walking on the nest.

Starting on day 58 and extending for an optimistic five days, Cheryl developed a duty roster of volunteers to watch over the nest.  A bunch of people showed up early evening on day 59 in the hopes of seeing action, but they thinned out one by one, leaving Eric, Judy and Pono for the long haul.  Next morning, Mirna was the first dayshift to show up.  These four, the boy and his mother were the lucky witnesses.  Lots of people showed up after the event to marvel at the fan of tracks and to hear the story told again and again by those who saw it.

Mahalo, Orion – a hui hou!

The rest of the story:

Friday night Tom and Jan sat with the nest.  Two single hatchlings came out some 8 hours apart and made it safely to the water.

Sunday evening Skippy and Glynis, aided by Cheryl, excavated the nest.  They found three more hatchlings and just a few undeveloped eggs.  They took samples of the sand on the top and bottom of the nest, counted and saved the shells, measured the hatchlings and the nest, took a GPS reading of the nest and an accurate measurement from the nest to the water.

Orion produced about 190 eggs in nest 4 of which 185 hatched and made it to the ocean.  This was the most productive of her five nests on Maui in 2004.


Excavation   A few hatchlings stuck in nest

Skippy and Cheryl excavate the nest…             …and find a few more hatchlings

Release of last few   Memories 

         Which are measured and released…                   …leaving nothing but memories



The excavation pictures were from Orion’s fifth nest, but the nest post-processing is always pretty much the same.  Excavation observers get a close-up of any leftover hatchlings and see the nest being disassembled.

The experience was unforgettable!  The event was just before my colon cancer surgery and I’m sorry to say I haven’t felt quite up to spending another overnight on the beach since then.  I could also volunteer for the morning patrol looking for turtle tracks from hauling out to leave a nest, but my dermo won’t let me go out in the sunlight.  I still often think of the night breezes, the Milky Way, meteoroids, planes and other sights and sounds of the evening, night, and morning in support of the hawksbill.