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'Central America Journal'- COSTA Rica's conch coast
Explorer Dr. C. B. King
We started our expedition in search of native endangered species that were to be found on the Conch Coast of
Costa Rica just North of Limon, Costa Rica and to fish the fertile waters of the Costa Rican Caribbean... that
Christopher Columbus found in 1502 when he christened this coast 'Costa Rica' (Rich Coast)... we found more than
we expected in this refuge of various species... The expedition group consisted of four of us that included two of
my 'Bros' from the Midwest of the United States & a native guide supplied by an 'Expat' from U.S. that was
domiciled in Cartago C.R. (originally from the State of Florida, U.S.) I will leave the three nameless as to protect
the innocent - and will refer to them as 'Bobacuda','Stingray', & 'Senior Cornbread'.
The plane that we took from Miami, Florida to San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport landed us in the
early afternoon. The group decided to proceed to our destination of Limon by a bus. Bus trips take about three
hours from San Jose and you usually ride with a menagerie of individuals that are picked up as the trip continues.
The fare is around 4 dollars usd for the local bus... there is a direct bus for a few more dollars though. Limon is not
a tourist destination but rather a working port that ships mostly bananas in between the underground movement
of various drug trades... over the years the Caribbean Coast has garnered a reputation as a drug and crime infested
area. Foreigners to this area are of suspect from the locals. Our arrival received a few stares but after a while we
were feeling a little more comfortable as this was October and the Limon Carnival had just started. Reggae was
screaming from the small elaborately ornate buildings that were built by the banana profits many years ago... the
buildings have since decayed in this tropical climate... the streets were jammed with costumed locals dancing and at
times hitting each other in some kind of ritual. 'Stingray' decided that we should check in at the Hotel Acon... it
had airconditioning which is a major luxury in this area. Little did we know that the disco was on the second floor
and was blasting that Saturday night until 4 am! The restaurant was a blend of the Tico/Chinese cuisine that used
hot-hot spices to mask the lack of chicken used in most of the dishes... you can eat for around 7 dollars usd. We met
some other tourists... ladies that were from Canada that were here for the same reasons that brought us to Limon...
the gateway to the famed Tortuguero National Park and the Southern Coastal beaches. 'Bobacuda' fell in love with
the Alberta, Canada 'Snowflake' and we were not able to find him for the next two days as the Carnival continued
24 hours a day! 'Stingray' left earlier joining in the parade dance having decided that he liked the 'tailend' of a
group of local Senoritas from San Jose... 'Senor Cornbread' and I went over the next morning to setup the boat
transportation that would take us in a few days to the Tortuguero National Park... the name means "giant sea
turtles" in Spanish (tortugas) that nested on the beaches this time of year and the reason that we began our
expedition. Transportation to the park would be by boat through the rivers and canals that ran parallel to the
Caribbean Sea. These rain forest highways were lined with the lives of sloths, spider monkeys, toucans, macaws and
of course a mass of nondescript bugs!
The nesting season of the sea turtles had occurred as the moon announced the time for them to congregate by the
hundreds as we could see wall to wall on these pristine beaches! What our investigation had asked is why do these
animals continue to flourish despite findings of toxins being found in a number of sampled turtles investigated over
the last few nesting seasons by the work of our associated researchers from the Key West Institute? The turtles that
use these beaches are Green, Hawksbill, Loggerheads and Leatherbacks. The Leatherbacks are over 1,000
pounds and over 6 feet long. We arrived at the end of the season so most of what we were focused on sampling
were the Greens. The Leatherbacks nest in February to April and the Loggerheads are always rare. Our interest
were in the effects that the predator known as man has had on the species and our interest was not in there natural
habitat competition. Sharks feed on the hatchlings and come in close to shore and inland up the rivers for this
seasonal feast. 'Senor Cornbread' and I assembled our gear and guide and began up the rain forest. We left
behind us the Carnival that just was beginning to peak along with 'Stingray' and 'Bobacuda' still in the center of their
continuing festival explorations. We arrived at the small town and met with the Caribbean Conservation Corp's
Representative who showed us the museum (for more info www.cccturtle.org) and the turtle display.
On the beach at night we found a number of Green Turtle specimens and tagged them along with some other
analysis parameters... measurements and fluids for lab testing. Our field laboratory findings would distill from the
data some interesting reviews... the fluids revealed that the turtles' had exposure levels to various chemicals (Note:
the book Silent Spring was first published 45 years ago. Rachel Carson's depiction of the pervasive and unpredictable
effects of polluting our environment still stands as the most compelling argument for curbing our pesticide habits and
regulating new chemicals. In the past toxins were produced unregulated... now revealed to have affected wildlife
thousands of miles away)... the turtle samples showed they had past contacts with Mercury contaminates as well as
Arsenic, Beryllium, Benzene, Chromium, Chlorobenzene and others? We looked closely for any abnormalities / tumors
in the animals bodys and shells... only one specimen was suspect. Returning by boat to Limon we noticed runoff from
the rivers but were unable to sample the water... but our suspicions are that the registered contaminates were from
far away industrial countries as the turtles circled the globe.
Limon's Carnival in the streets had not stopped and was continuing with the same intensity... and along with 'Stingray',
'Bobacuda' and others 'Senor Cornbread' joined in for his traditional muffin (cornbread based) and a beer. The two
revelers that we left a few days earlier at the Limon Carnival had lived up to their names with the Canadian and Tico
local ladies. The turtles had left the beaches to go into the world's oceans & we sailed away from Limon a day later!
Explorer Dr. C. B. King is a freelance writer & a Nano/Bio Scientist
(Note disclaimer: article does not refer to any individuals either living or dead... any similarity is only coincidental &
article is for entertainment purposes only.)
Additional Turtle resources not mentioned in article... www.georgiaseaturtlecenter.org
Editor's note: "Clothes make the man... naked people have little or no influence on society." - Mark Twain