In the month of April, the females leave the water after sunset, in order to deposit their eggs in the sand. By means of their fore-fins they dig a hole above high water mark, about one foot wide and two deep, into which they drop above a hundred eggs; they then cover them lightly over with a layer of sand, sufficient to hide them, and yet thin enough to admit the warmth of the sun’s rays for hatching them. The instinct which leads the female turtle to the shore to lay her eggs, renders her a prey to man. The fishers wait for them on shore, especially on a moonlight night, and following them in one of their journeys, either coming or returning, they turn them quickly over on their backs, before they have time to defend themselves, or to blind their assailants by throwing up the sand with their fins.
When very large, for I should tell you that the usual weight of the turtle is from four to six hundred pounds, it requires the efforts of several men to turn them over, and for this purpose they often employ levers: the back shell of the turtle is so flat that when once over it is impossible for them to right themselves, so there the poor creatures lie in this helpless condition, till they are either taken away in the manner you see in the picture, or deposited by their captors in a crawl, which is a kind of enclosure surrounded by stakes, and so situated as to admit the influx of the sea.
The inhabitants of the Bahama Isles, catch many turtles at a considerable distance from the shore; they strike them with a spear, the head of which slips off when it has entered the body of the turtle, but it is fastened by a string to the pole, and by means of this apparatus they are able to secure them, and either take them into the boat or haul them on shore. The length of the green turtle frequently exceeds six feet. A boy ten years old, a son of Captain Roche, once made use of a very large shell as a boat, and ventured in it from the shore to his father’s ship which lay about a quarter of a mile off. It was in the bay of Campeachy, off Port Royal, where the rightful occupant of this shell was caught.
[Illustration: Wreck of the steamboat.]