[Blog entry by Mike Foley: Originally published May 24, 2009]
After a church meeting today, a friend who has been teaching early-morning Laie North Stake Seminary told me how he still got up early this past week, even though class is over for the school year, and went for a walk on Hukilau Beach — one of the great treasures of our community. He said it was very beautiful and peaceful as the sun came up . . . which reminded me of an experience I had several years ago on the same beach one glorious, golden morning:
That day I was walking north toward Kahuku and the jump-off point for Goat Island. As usual, there were plenty of sand crabs out ahead of me, darting into the holes they had dug the night before, but no “blue bubbles” or waves to dodge. The water was more like a lake than the ocean; and then I noticed something unusual about 200 yards-or-so up the beach.
As I drew closer, I walked right up to a large sea turtle that had just finished laying eggs near the high-water line near the naupaka bushes. The top of her shell was easily two feet or more off the ground, and she was already slowly dragging herself back toward the water. I could clearly see the nest of eggs, only partially covered with sand, and wondered if I had perhaps scared her off — but I didn’t think so. I further covered up the nest and scratched out her tracks in the sand, thinking this might give the future little turtles a better chance at survival. Then I watched until she got enough depth to regain her grace in motion…and finally disappear.
I’ve seen many other turtles in my Pacific life. For example, there were hundreds of them waiting to be eaten in 1982 during the Great Council of Chiefs in Fiji. In other incidents, as a student member of the Turtle Club during CCH [Church College of Hawaii] days, some of the Tongan divers were especially adept at catching them off Laie, which was legal then, and they were particularly delicious when cooked in an umu [similar to a Hawaiian imu or rock oven, but built above the ground].
Indeed, one day when I was a Mormon missionary on the small island of Olosega in the Manu’a group of American Samoa, I had the experience of eating turtle eggs for dinner. This was over 40 years ago for me, but I can still recall the Samoans considered this quite a treat. I was surprised, however, to discover that the ping pong ball-sized egg “shells” were actually supple and leathery…while the “white” and yolks had a very strong, fishy taste.
Now days I occasionally see a much smaller sea turtle about 18-24″ across swimming in the water between the end of Laie Point and “Puka Rock”; but that day at Hukilau Beach was an indelible experience for me: Seeing a full-grown turtle there at her nest, with the rising sun’s golden reflections on the glassy sea, put the perfect punctuation to that glorious morning.
In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever eat turtle again…and certainly not turtle eggs. ALOHA.