Who's Afraid of Sea Turtles by Jill Nogales
Illustrated by Margaret Dyer
I know what you’re thinking. What would a kid who doesn’t like the ocean be doing on an island? I mean, islands are surrounded by ocean, right?
It all started when Aunt Jess invited me to visit her. No big deal, except that Aunt Jess lives on an island. Hawaii, to be exact.
And did I mention she loves adventure? Sailing, surfing, bungee jumping. Nothing scares her.
How could I tell her the ocean makes the skin on the back of my neck crawl? All that deep, dark water with who-knows-what lurking below. If she found out, she’d think I was a wimp.
The first day of my visit wasn’t too bad. Aunt Jess and I hiked through a rain forest to see a waterfall. We got rained on the entire time. Pretty awesome, actually.
The real problem didn’t come till the next day.
“Guess what I have planned for us, Mike,” Aunt Jess said. “We’re going snorkeling!”
I almost choked on my scrambled eggs. “You mean in the ocean?” I asked. I don’t know if you’ve been snorkeling before. But let me tell you, it’s really hard to do without water.
Aunt Jess laughed. “Of course,” she said, messing up my hair. “Hurry and put on your swimsuit. We don’t want to miss the boat.”
Missing the boat sounded like a good idea to me. But I couldn’t admit that to Aunt Jess. So I put on my swimsuit. The next thing I knew, we were getting on a boat.
“Aloha,” said the captain. “Welcome aboard.”
I hung onto the railing. Tightly. I almost wished boats made me seasick or something. Then I’d have a reason to go back to land.
The breeze smelled like flowers. The boat rolled over the waves like a mom rocking her baby.
“Don’t you love the ocean?” Aunt Jess whispered. The sun made her cheeks glow. For a moment, I wished I could love the ocean like she did.
Then I noticed the sharks. Seven or eight of them, at least. They were chasing our boat.
“Look, Aunt Jess, sharks!” I yelped. No wonder I didn’t like the ocean.
One of the sharks jumped out of the water. It was the fattest shark I’d ever seen. I figured we were about to be his lunch.
“They’re dolphins, Mike,” Aunt Jess said. “Aren’t they incredible?”
“Dolphins?” I asked, looking at the fins on their backs. Another one jumped out of the water. I think it was smiling at me.
Just as I was starting to relax, the boat eased to a stop. I flinched at the sound of a sudden splash.
“The captain dropped anchor,” Aunt Jess explained. “Below us is a coral reef.” She opened her giant purse. Out came four flippers, two masks and two snorkels.
I was starting to understand. And it was not good. “You mean we’re going to snorkel here? In the middle of the ocean? Don’t we need a beach or something?”
Aunt Jess shook her head. “We can jump right off the back of the boat, Mike.” She handed me my gear and smiled. “You’re going to love it.”
I was pretty sure I was not going to love it. But I put on my flippers and mask. Then I shoved the snorkel in my mouth and jumped overboard.
At first all I could see were bubbles. Then I saw Aunt Jess. Her neon orange swimsuit was easy to spot.
We swam along the surface of the water. It looked like a rainbow had exploded on the ocean floor. Bunches of coral grew everywhere. Some were spiny. Others looked like huge cauliflowers.
Fish swam near the reef. Schools of them, color-coded to match the coral. And for awhile, I forgot I didn’t like the ocean.
Then I came nose to nose with a monster sea turtle. His legs moved in slow-motion as he checked me out.
This was my chance to show Aunt Jess that I wasn’t a complete wimp. Holding still, I let the turtle brush past me.
I thought Aunt Jess might give me a thumbs-up since I was being so brave and all. Boy, was I wrong. She started splashing and kicking like crazy.
I put my head above water and spit out my snorkel. “Aunt Jess!” I yelled as she swam away.
But she couldn’t hear me. She was climbing back onto the boat by the time I caught up with her.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, trying to catch my breath.
“Nothing, really,” she said, taking off her flippers and mask. “I guess that sea turtle took me by surprise.”
“Wasn’t it cool?” I reached for a beach towel. “It was like an underwater dinosaur!”
“I was hoping it wouldn’t get so close to us,” she said, looking away.
And then it hit me. “Aunt Jess, are you afraid of sea turtles?” I asked.
She nodded. “I know it’s silly. They just sort of give me the creeps.”
I couldn’t believe it. My adventure-loving aunt was afraid of something too. Maybe I wasn’t such a wimp after all.
“Did you know sea turtles are an endangered species?” Aunt Jess asked.
I shrugged. “What does that mean?”
“Lots of sea turtles have died from getting trapped in fishing nets. Or from eating trash like plastic bags. Or from being hunted by people,” Aunt Jess explained. “Now there are laws to protect the sea turtles that are left.”
I hoped the friendly turtle I met would keep safe.
“If we see them in the water or on the beach, we’re never allowed to touch or tease them,” Aunt Jess said. She shoved her gear back into her big purse.
“So sea turtles aren’t as tough as they look?” I asked.
Aunt Jess smiled. “I suppose not. But they still scare me. Hey, the captain is going to take us back to shore soon. Would you be disappointed if we spent the rest of the day playing volleyball on the beach?”
“Volleyball sounds fine,” I said. Although, part of me did feel disappointed. Playing volleyball on the beach didn’t sound nearly as exciting as swimming with sea turtles.
About Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles
• Are reptiles.
• Breathe air – but they can hold their breath underwater for about 5 hours!
• Are strong swimmers and excellent divers.
• Can weigh up to 400 pounds.
• Are around 3 to 4 feet long.
• Eat seaweed and sea grasses.
• Cannot pull head or legs into shell.
• Are shy and somewhat curious.
• Lay their eggs on the exact same beach on which they hatched.
• Can live up to 60 or 70 years.
• Are an endangered species. Laws now protect them and their eggs from dangers.
Jill Nogales enjoys writing stories for children. Her stories have been published in several children’s magazines, including the popular Highlights for Children. She and her husband, along with their three children and one funny dog named Ranger, live in beautiful Idaho. They all love to visit Hawaii and swim in the ocean. Especially Ranger.
Margaret Dyer is a fine-artist, having made her living for over 20 years selling her pastel paintings and teaching. She is a Master Pastelist with the Pastel Society of America and an award-winning member of the American Impressionist Society.Since childhood, however, illustrating for children has been one of her goals.
The Pastel Journal (Feb. 2011, Dec. 2005, Mar. 2002, Mar. 2001, Mar. 2000, May 1999)
American Artist Magazine (2010 Cover Competition, Jun. 2001)
International Artist Magazine (Jun. 2005, Aug. 2003, Sep. 2002)
The Artist’s Magazine (June 2002)
Pastel Artist International (Jan. 2001)
“How Did You Paint That? 100 Ways to Paint Figures” (2005 and 2004)
“Pastel Highlights 2” (2004)
“Pure Color: The Best of Pastels,” (2006).