There’s always one moment when a factoid emerges that endears me to a critter in some silly, but permanent way, propelling me forward on a quest to know more. Discovering otters juggle rocks fueled an ongoing obsession. Learning octopuses are notorious escape artists came with a permanent membership in the cephalopod fan club. An albatross’s roundtrip thousand-plus mile flights to feed their babies, made me a student of seabirds.
When a mamma sea turtle works her way up a beach to lay her eggs, her fins leave this wonderful squiggly pattern in the sand. It’s a straight line from the salty sea to a future where hundreds of little squirming baby sea turtles hatch and return to the ocean about 60 days after mom’s labor is done.
The fact that this squiggly pattern can be recreated with a simple series of repetitive twists and turns in some super-soft yarn is, perhaps, the ultimate bonus for science-loving knitting nerd such as myself. But, before casting on, let’s talk turtle.
There are seven species of sea turtles in our world ocean; six of them can be found in U.S. waters (green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley).
All six species are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. According to US Fish and Wildlife, a species is listed as endangered if it is at risk of extinction, and it is listed as threatened if it is likely to become endangered.
Like many marine mammals and seabirds, sea turtles are at risk from ship strikes, entanglement, plastic pollution, and climate change.
These air-breathing reptiles have roamed the Earth for over 150 million years. Some species, such as leatherback sea turtles, weigh anywhere from 500 to 2000 pounds and can dive up to 4000 feet deep. Leatherbacks have been known to migrate thousands of miles for jellyfish, their preferred prey, but nibbling on squid, sea urchins, and floating seaweed will serve as a tasty meal too.
We haven’t always known much about their lives because we can only observe what we see on land. As technologies like satellite trackers and accelerometers get smaller and more cost effective, scientists are on a path to learn much more about the mammals and seabirds who spend much of their time out in and over the open ocean waters. In 2016, researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) used specially engineered cameras to capture rare images and oceanographic data of leatherback sea turtles in the wild. This information will help scientists learn what the critters are eating, where they travel, and what hazards they encounter along the way.
You can learn more about sea turtles by visiting NOAA Marine Life Education Resource Collection, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge or the Marine Turtle Research Group at University of Central Florida.
If you’re interested in casting on and knitting some sea turtles, I really enjoyed Heather Anderson’s designs. I made her shawl and then modified the pattern to make a baby blanket for a dear friend and a scarf for my mom. She generously offered a coupon to our readers for her Turtle’s Journey Scarf, which you can find here; use PROTEUSTURTLE promo code on Ravelry (a well-known knitting site) and download the pattern for free. The coupon is valid through January 31, 2019.
Jenny Woodman is a writer and educator; she knits a lot. Follow her on Twitter @JennyWoodman
Heather Anderson is an avid knitter who lives not too far from the ocean in New Hampshire. She teaches knitting classes and designs knitting patterns that keep her learning new things all of the time; you can view her pattern collections here.
This post was updated Dec 7.
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