Large sea turtle

Homage To A Sea Turtle

September 8, 2017 , In: General

I have had a fascination with sea turtles for quite sometime. Actually, it began one summer when we were vacationing in Florida. We had rented a house on the beach and there were signs all over the house telling us NOT to turn on the porch lights at night because it was hatching season for sea turtles. They are instinctively drawn towards the ocean because of the moonlight reflecting off the water and any outdoor lights can confuse them or alter their sense of direction.  I found this so exciting and I was hoping to be able to witness baby hatchlings. Alas, it didn’t happen while we were there but every time we go to a beach along the eastern seaboard I am on the lookout for roped off areas where sea turtle nests have been identified. I keep hoping I will be there at just the right time to witness the baby turtles making their way to the ocean.

It just so happens that several years ago we were in St. Augustine, Florida in late September. My husband got up early to go for a jog on the beach and when he came back in he said there was a baby sea turtle caught up in a tidepool and he looked as though he was in distress! Being the animal lover that I am and also a background in nursing, I just had to run out and check on this little guy.

Meet little Tommy the sea turtle caught in the tidepool

Sure enough I found him in a tidepool at the base of the dunes about 50 ft away from the ocean. I am assuming that he, along with his brothers & sisters, hatched during the night (it was a full moon) and everyone made it to the ocean except him/her. He was swimming in a circle. One of his flippers appeared to be a bit malformed and not working properly, which caused him to keep swimming in a circle. I was heartbroken for him. I wasn’t sure what I could or should do. You are NEVER supposed to pick up a sea turtle. I didn’t know if I should try to get him in the ocean since he was swimming in circles or call someone. Within 10 minutes of watching Tommy (yes, I had to give him a name) there were several more people gathering around to see what I was doing. Someone suggested we carefully pick him up and take put him in the surf and hopefully he would find his family. Well, I picked him up and took him to the water. Carefully placed him in the surf and he couldn’t quite handle it. he got thrown up on shore repeatedly. I felt horrible. So I picked him back up and put him back in the tidepool.


I figured there had to be some sort of sea turtle rescue organization in the area, so I went back to the condo and started making phone calls. After numerous phone calls to various wildlife organizations, sea turtle rescues, local sheriff’s departments, etc., I was able to leave a message on a rescue site. Worried that Tommy might get grabbed by a pelican or seagull or curious kid, I ran back out to the beach. I took a plastic bowl with me, filled it with sand and some seawater and place little Tommy in the bowl. That is Tommy in the above video swimming in circles with a bad flipper. (And yes, of course the only way he could swim once I captured him in this bowl was in a circle but believe me-he was doing the same thing in the tidepool which was at least 15 ft long and about 18″ wide.)  At this point I was getting frantic about having this poor little guy confined in a plastic bowl but what else could I do? So, I took him back to the condo to wait for a phone call from someone at the turtle rescue.

Finally a volunteer called and said she would come pick him up. She wasn’t sure if there was anything that could be done with him as it sounded as though he may have some sort of developemental and possibly neurological thing going on. She also told me I shouldn’t have kept him in water over his head. Which surprised me since they are sea turtles and they generally live under the sea! But since he had worn himself out swimming in a circle and was also stressed out about being picked up by a human he probably just needed to rest on wet sand for a while. Anyway, she took him away and I never found out the fate of Tommy the turtle.

In hindsight, I should’ve gotten her phone number to call and check on him. Or at the least, I should have called the rescue number back to check on him… I do hope he survived!

When I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about him, so I decided to create a necklace to honor him. I had picked up this really cool stone on the beach near where he was caught in the tidepool. (didn’t find any cool shells that trip) I also had a carved bone turtle bead that I knew I wanted to use and a piece of green beach glass. The trick…putting all these components together.

The beginnings of my freeform beadwoven necklace

First, I looped wire around the stone to capture it, drilled a hole in the beach glass so I could suspend the wire looped stone from the beach glass. (see photo below)

The necklace portion was done in a freeform style of beadweaving. I used the book ‘Beaded Colorways’ by Beverly Ash Gilbert as a reference for creating the freeform necklace. I highly recommend this book! Before I bought this book I was afraid to do any wort of beadweaving, so I thought something that didn’t really have a definitive pattern to follow would be a good place to start. This book gave me the courage to finally try peyote, ladder, netting and brick stitching.

Still on the mat at this point, just building up the freeform necklace and adding in the focal beads like Tommy the turtle

I kept adding layers of seed beads interspersed with larger focal beads until I was satisfied with the overal look.

As you can see in the above photo I concentrated on using mainly green beads on one side and tried to stay with mostly tan/sandy colored beads along the other side with the carved bone turtle.

Completed ‘Homage to a Sea Turtle’ necklace

It is a rather substantial necklace- in that it weighs a few pounds.  It makes me smile to wear this necklace honoring the little sea turtle that we found.

Fully extended view

Back to a little info on sea turtles–The species of sea turtles that inhabit the southeastern United States  are loggerheads, green turtles and leatherbacks. (more than likely, Tommy was a loggerhead) The loggerhead was listed on the threatened species list in 1978, the green turtle was placed on the endangered species list in 1978 and the leatherback was placed on the endangered species list back in 1970. They nest in warm months , usually May to October all along the southern coast from NC to FL. If you’d like to read a little more info here’s a link to sea turtle faq’s 

baby sea turtles- photo courtesy of National Park Service

Good news– this has been a banner year for sea turtle nests along the southeastern coast. Hopefully, they will continue to thrive! And just maybe one day I will have to opportunity to view the hatchlings making their way to the ocean. If you’d like to view this magical event here’s a youtube link of baby sea turtles hatching at a beach in North Carolina. Enjoy!

Cathy Spivey Mendola

Cathy Spivey Mendola has been creative her entire life. After a short career in the medical profession she became a stay-at-home mom which allowed her to dabble in various arts and crafts. Many years and mediums later she has finally found her passion-bead embroidered jewelry. When she needs a break from jewelry she creates bead embellished art quilts and wall hangings.
    • Kat Newman
    • September 8, 2017

    Absolutely stunning! And a lovely story of Tommy, hope he survived – he’s probably living the high life in a tank somewhere getting the best nosh 🙂

    • Kathy Lindemer
    • September 20, 2017

    I love how you incorporated shells, carved turtle, beads and leaves into the necklace. The sea glass and netting create a stunning focal. Great pieces of art jewelry.

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