Yoda the Green Turtle’s two most recent journeys were probably the most stressful ones of his/her life. (We’re not 100% sure of the sex, but genetic testing on blood will confirm this pretty soon).
She arrived by car at Two Oceans Aquarium about a year ago after a good samaritan found her in an extremely weakened state on Melkbos Beach. Today she had to submit once again to the rigours of first the Cape roads (to get to Hout Bay) and then to a bumpy journey aboard the Aquarium 1 rigid inflatable.
The latter journey was probably the most arduous, as the Aquarium Crew – with me and my cameras in tow – had to find the warm sea currents running way off the Peninsula in order to safely release her. This meant a nearly 3-hour swell-bashing run into the open ocean way past Cape Point, into that endless blue roil that is the Atlantic Ocean Proper.
This Big Blue is where green turtles live and thrive, and where us humans pass through on brief journeys, as great pretenders to our own sense of importance. It is a place of monster swells, swooping petrels and a smudge of a horizon; a place perched upon an abyss so deep and unimaginably beautiful that one can hardly breathe when you first stare down into its absolute stillness.
Yoda emerged from the hold of Aquarium 1, still disoriented from the journey, but immediately sensed where she was. While Nick held her, Kevin, George and the rest of the crew suited up to slip into the 22 Degree Celsius embrace of the warm Mozambique current, while I grabbed some final images.
Every single member of this crew had played a massive role in Yoda’s recovery, and I could sense the bitter-sweetness of their emotions as Nick held the young turtle over the side of the swaying boat. Yoda, however, knew where she wanted to go. Her ocean was calling her, and you could see the need to dive into her aquamarine element vibrating through every pore of her turtle being.
As Nick gently placed her into the water, her flippers churned into motion, so much so that she flipped herself over onto her back. I would like to think that it was to say goodbye to her human charges, but I fear it was more a primeval need to return to that vast, aquatic world of suffused light and utter quietude.
A final splash of a flipper, a ripple, and then she was gone. I dove in with my waterproof camera, hoping to get one or two more shots, but it was just us humans floating about within the vastness of the Atlantic’s underwater wonderland.
Together with the Two Oceans Aquarium crew, I glided around underwater; they were strangely more adapted to this serene world. And, I imagine, linking their thoughts to a young green turtle diving ever deeper, and maybe remembering – somewhere within the phyletic structure of her reptile brain – the intrinsic goodness of those humans who helped save her life.
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