The hatchlings sense the direction of the sea. The brightness over the water attracts them. They stream from the nest and begin their race to the sea. Full of life, but defenseless, they struggle clumsily across the beach. Their shells are soft and offer little protection. Swift lizards attack them. Armies of crabs pick them off. Sea birds gather and catch the tiny turtles in their sharp beaks and feast on them. Few hatchlings make it to the water.
And most of these will be eaten by fish: snappers, groupers, jacks, and sharp-toothed barracudas. Only one or two of the hatchlings may live. Where they go to spend their first year of life is a mystery. It is one of nature’s many secrets. Green turtles, for example, are not seen again until they are one year old when they are found feeding offshore in turtle grass beds. They are then as big as a dinner plate.