Rare leatherback turtle nest hatches in Carolina Beach

By Kristy Ondo - bio|email

CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) Monday night, hundreds gathered along Carolina Beach for the culmination of more than two months of anticipation.

70 leatherback turtles made their way to the ocean, with some help from volunteers.

The baby turtles will follow whatever light they see, so about 200 Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project volunteers used infrared and fluorescent lights to guide the turtles to the water. They also built ridges out of sand to help keep the turtles on a straight path.

Leatherback turtles are an endangered species. This is the only time a leatherback nest has ever hatched on our area beaches.

The nest was discovered on July 7 by a Carolina Beach Police officer. Witnesses who were walking the beach late at night said they saw a turtle the size of a small car crawling up the beach and making a nest.

For the past several weeks, volunteers watched the nest around the clock. A small depression or hole in the nest formed around 8:30 p.m. Monday. The first turtle climbed out around 10 p.m., and all 70 made it to the water within the hour.

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