Every winter, hundreds of young sea turtles strand themselves along the beaches of Cape Cod Bay. This large-scale stranding of cold-stunned sea turtles happens nowhere else in the world, perhaps because of the unique geography of the Bay.
According to the New England Aquarium, Kemp’s ridley, green and loggerhead sea turtles migrate up the East Coast in early summer to feed on crabs in the rich, coastal waters. In September, the instinct to swim south is most likely clear, but often these young turtles aren’t able to navigate their way out of Cape Cod Bay. Swimming south, east or west leads to land barriers. Swimming in the counter-intuitive direction of north for 20 miles is the only safe passage past the tip of Cape Cod.
Sea turtles that fail to find their way around the Cape slowly become hypothermic during the autumn months as water temperatures decline. By November, the corralled turtles not only are near death with low body temperatures, but can be dehydrated, malnourished and host to a variety of infections.