A few months ago we saw the sandpiper or dredge sucking up water, sand and seagrass and pumping it unto the beach. The water ran off back to the sea and the seagrass and sand settled on the beach. Complicated method, right? It takes a barge, huge water Pumps, hundreds of feet of pipes and many men to get the system going, The result is a wide sandy beach and a side effect is a large clear white spot, which makes excellent swimming areas.
Twenty five years ago the fishermen did these white spots or swimming areas without lifting a finger. Sea grass has always grown profusely along the coast of Ambergris Caye and from time to time fishermen had need to re- move the grass to deepen the area for their boats to come closer to the shore. A few men used the shovel to accomplish this arduous and tedious task, but after several weeks of shoveling in their spare afternoon time, they ended up with a nice white spot 20 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep. This was enough to anchor their small boat just 30 feet off the shore and also an excellent swimming spot for the children.
Now here is where comes the "living-economical dredge"- a loggerhead turtle or the "lagrahead' is it is called in Creole or "cawamo" in Spanish. This sea creature was very useful in making these clearings in shallow water. How? Very simple and discovered by accident. When fishermen caught a turtle, they would leave it on the beach with its arms tied tightly until they were ready to kill-it for its meat. This could be 4 to 5 days and the animal would grow -cry lean and sick. So a hole was drilled at the back end of the turtle's shell, which was tied with a rope and then , released in the sea tied to a post.
The loggerhead would spend the day swimming, digging and eating seagrass and consequently making a nice clearing. Every day the rope was-lengthened another two feet and the white spot got bigger. When this was discovered, two or three turtles would be tied at the same post and soon these reptiles did the job that would take a man several weeks to accomplish. And what was best, when they were ready to be eaten, the turtles were well fed and the meat was fresh, plump and juicy.
If you were to do, this today, you, would probably be accused of animal abuse, but 25 years ago this -was a mutual thing. It would seem like the turtle helped. man and man helped the turtle, which was kept well fed instead of being tied defenselessly on the beach.