Green turtle hatchling on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia.
Green turtle hatchling on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. Dr Dean Miller

'Turtle volcano' on Heron Island

A TURTLE volcano was how Dr Gaston Boulanger described the video he took on Heron Island recently.

Dr Boulanger had finished his regular clinic on the island and was walking along the beach when he noticed a turtle nest breaking open in the sand and immediately recorded it.

"Normally one or two will pop out of the nest, but this time they seemed to explode out of the sand just like a small turtle volcano," he said.

Adult green turtles usually arrive on the island from October to March and build nests up to 60cm deep.

"Each nest holds approximately 100 eggs and baby turtles take six to eight weeks to hatch, but only one in a thousand make it back," Dr Boulanger said.

Once the hatchlings have broken out of their shells it can take them two days to reach the top of the sand where they will wait for the right time to dash to the water.

"Usually it's late afternoon or night time when the sand is cooler and it's harder for predators like seagulls, fish and sharks to see them," he said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Environment said that records indicate that this year is the fifth largest nesting population recorded on Heron Island since monitoring began in 1964.

"More than 1,400 green turtles and about 14 loggerhead turtles were recorded ashore for nesting," he said.


Green turtle
Mature green turtle Govt photographer

It takes 20-30 years for a turtle to reach breeding age and adult females usually return to their birthplace to nest.

The Heron Island Research Station is one of the longest running marine turtle census studies in the world.

According to Dr Boulanger Heron Island is one of the best places to see hatchling turtles dash to the water.

"Unlike some other places on the Queensland coast Heron is not very crowded so everyone gets a good view of the turtles," he said.