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CBC The Nature of Things (2019.03.24) s58e17 Turtle Beach

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Locals call it the arribada, Spanish for “arrival”: the magical days and nights when tens of thousands of sea turtles come ashore on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast to lay millions of eggs. In Turtle Beach, a documentary from The Nature of Things, Canadian naturalist and cinematographer Hugo Kitching follows a team of international scientists on a groundbreaking expedition to uncover the mysteries of this rare phenomenon.

The star of the arribada is the olive ridley sea turtle. Named for its green hue, the olive ridley is one of the most abundant and least understood of the world’s seven sea turtle species. Female turtles come ashore two to three times per breeding season to lay a clutch of about 100 eggs. To learn more about this elusive creature, the scientists turn to new technologies that allow them a close-up look at sea turtle behaviour.

New discoveries abound as the team investigates the nesting turtles. Biologist Vanessa Bézy employs drones and GoPros to observe the adult females out at sea, tracking their movements above and below water in the days leading up to the mass nesting event. Meanwhile, scientist Lindsay McKenna uses audio recording equipment to eavesdrop on the nests, disproving the assumption that because sea turtles have no vocal cords, they must be silent.

In a scientific first, Roldán Valverde of the Sea Turtle Conservancy takes us into the previously hidden world of a turtle nest through the use of infrared cameras. This unprecedented access allows us to follow the baby turtles on their incredible journey from embryo to hatchling to the day they finally emerge from the nest, ready to take their first perilous steps toward the sea.

MORE:
I missed Christmas with my family to film tens of thousands of sea turtles come ashore in Costa Rica
Fake eggs with GPS trackers could help save vulnerable sea turtles
Turtle teamwork: Sea turtles help each other out before they've even left the nest

By documenting the work of these dedicated scientists, Turtle Beach reveals the many ways that sea turtles must beat the odds in order to survive. For Kitching, who is there to film both the arribada and the emergence of the hatchlings, it’s an amazing experience — one that inspires a whole new appreciation for the strength and endurance of these extraordinary creatures.