Books can teach you all about turtles

  • Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Linda Rumph. a turtle volunteer, works at the Mount Pleasant Regional Library. PHOTO PROVIDED

During my stay in Suriname, South America, I had the opportunity to accompany a fellow student to Matapica Beach. A cousin of a cousin of a cousin of a - you get my drift - was organizing a trip to this very isolated stretch of beach which is one of the nesting grounds for the largest living sea turtle, the Aitkanti (the leatherback turtle). It was an amazing sight to see these turtles and to see them lay their eggs. When I talked to my friend about this incredible viewing and mentioned that it would be fantastic to see the little turtles hatch and find their way to the sea, she gave me the following answer: “The chances that these specific nests will hatch are slim because our “trip organizer” will probably return later and dig up the eggs and sell them on the black market in Paramaribo [the capital city of Suriname].”

Even 20 years ago, when this story took place, the leatherback turtles were on the endangered species list, like all the other sea turtles. Although there are international laws in place to prevent poaching, places like Matapica beach are not easily reached and often on the bottom of the priority list for authorities to safeguard.

The beaches in the Charleston area, on the other hand, are somewhat easier to monitor, and the officials are helped in their efforts to protect the turtles and their nesting grounds by numerous volunteers. Linda Rumph, who works in our children’s department, is one of those volunteers. She is a member of the Island Turtle Team on Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island.

On these islands, loggerhead females come ashore each summer to lay their eggs.

Linda is one of only a few volunteers trained and permitted by the Department of Natural Resources to supervise the conservation of these loggerhead nests.

Nesting season runs from mid-May to mid-August; during this time Linda and her fellow helpers walk the beaches early in the morning - around sunrise - looking for turtle tracks.

When a nest is found and the location is safe, they mark the spot and volunteers check on it regularly throughout the approximately 60-day incubation period.

But when a nest is laid below the high tide line, Linda and the team are allowed to relocate the eggs to higher ground.

This year the Turtle Team, under the leadership of Mary Pringle, will be initiating an educational program called “Loggerhead Lessons.”

The program is intended to teach local children the importance of sea turtle conservation.

Two members of Linda’s team are well-known.

Mary Alice Monroe, a New York Times bestselling author of adult fiction, and Barbara Bergwerf, a former Chicago Tribune photographer. Together, they published the children’s non-fiction book, “Turtle Summer: A Journal for My Daughter.”

Barbara Bergwerf also published “Carolina’s Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too!,” this time in collaboration with Donna Rathmell. More information about sea turtles and their circumstances in our part of the world can be found in “Sea Turtles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States” by Carol Ruckdeschel and “Sea Turtles: An Extraordinary Natural History of Some Uncommon Turtles” by Blair Witherington.

Five years ago, the same time her daughter Abby convinced her to join the turtle team, Linda applied for a position at the Charleston County Public Library.

She first worked at the Poe branch on Sullivan’s Island, then she went to work in the Main Library on Calhoun Street. Since August 2012 Linda has worked with us in Mount Pleasant.

She is a great addition to our Children’s Department and, personally, I love the way she uses her creative mind to transform the children’s section on a regular basis into a different “world.” Linda was born in East Douglas, Mass. When she was 2 years old her parents moved to the Isle of Palms. Linda has one sister and two brothers.

When she graduated high school, she was in the first graduating class of the then new, now old, Wando High School.

After high school Linda went to Flagler College in St. Augustine and graduated with a major in English Literature. She married her “boy next door,” Mike Rumph, and is the proud mother of four daughters.

Reading material Linda suggests are the non-fiction “Modoc” by Ralph Helfer and “Grayson” by Lynne Cox. For children, Linda recommends anything written by Nancy Tillman, for instance, “Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You.” This book, according to Linda, should be mandatory reading for all moms. “It was published when my daughter, Capers, was living in Africa and I read it to her (through tears) via Skype. Once, I recommended it to one of our patrons who was kind enough to rush out and purchase two copies of the book, one for me to keep and one to inscribe and give to Capers.

It was one of the highlights of my library career.”

By the way, did you know that the loggerhead turtle is South Carolina’s State Reptile?

Library programs

Earth Day Word Search and Trivia (teens)

April 1-30

Celebrate Earth Day by completing a word search or participating in our trivia challenge.

Correctly completed entries will be entered into a grand prize drawing at the end of the month.

PLAY: National Poetry Month (all ages)

Saturday, April 6, all day

Choose a poem to read aloud to our librarians at the Children’s Department, or have them read the poem to you.

“Downton Abbey” Marathon (adults)

Saturdays, April 6 and 13 from 2-6 p.m.

Enjoy season two of the “Downton Abbey” marathon, starring Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Maggie Smith.

Monday Book Discussion (adults)

Monday, April 8 from 10:30-11:30 a.m.

“The Weird Sisters” by Eleanor Brown. Three sisters named for Shakespeare characters reluctantly return home to care for their ailing mother.

Great Decisions (adults)

Monday, April 8, from 6-7:30 p.m.: Discussion about Humanitarian Intervention and U.S. Policy.

Writing Critique Group (ages 16 and up)

Saturday, April 13 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Library Conference Room. Open to all writers.

PLAY: Pursuit of Happiness Day (all ages)

Saturday, April 13, all day

Visit the happiness board in the Children’s Department, and write or draw about what makes you happy.

Your contributions will be displayed throughout April.

Mirjam Veldkamp works in the reference department at the Mount Pleasant Regional Library Branch, 843-849-6161, www.mtplibrary.blogspot.com, www.ccpl.org.

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