Turtleback Secret: A Threat To Tourism?

The orca box turtle lifting its head from the earth

The orca box turtle, momentarily visible from a distance / Photoshopper: Thian Armenia

Orcas Island is a very popular tourist destination. The county knows this, and wants to make the summer times even busier with tourism. So, to draw more adrenaline-junky tourists, the county, with the San Juan County Land Bank’s permission, has decided to fund the construction of a zipline all the way from the top of Mount Constitution to the top of Turtleback Mountain. It will break the record for the highest and longest zipline in the world, plus it will have many fantastic views. Part of it will even go across the water. As a safety feature, they will have a check at the top to make sure the participant is in an able state. They will also equip each person with a parachute in case something goes wrong.

There is one small problem. Lincoln Bormann, the director of the Land Bank, forgot to mention one very important but widely unknown fact about the Turtleback Mountain Preserve. It was originally made to protect the mountain, but the interesting thing is that it is not actually a mountain at all. It is a giant turtle.

As the story goes, as can be told by a select few people on the island, it was first discovered that Turtleback Mountain was a turtle only 15 years ago, on Aug. 25, 2005. It was a group of tourists who found out the secret. Aiden Reid, Sidnay Miles, and Tanya Danielson were walking among the trees on the north side of the mountain when they felt the ground start to rumble. Looking around, they found themselves face to face with a giant yellow eye. Frightened, they froze until the eye slowly closed, blending perfectly into the background. Taking a sample of a tear that had come out of the eye, they quickly ran towards town. They decided to keep their encounter a secret in order to make sure that nobody disturbed the beast. A week later, they brought the sample to a lab to look for DNA, and sure enough, they had discovered a new species of highly dormant land turtle, the Terrapene orcus, or the orca box turtle. By covering themselves in soil and rocks, they can maintain enough moisture to survive. Reid, Miles, and Danielson decided to immediately speak with the Land Bank to see if the Land Bank could purchase a property large enough to contain the large animal, and the Land Bank agreed, and in 2006, they purchased the property from the Medina Foundation for $18.5 million. Ever since, it has been a wonderful place to hike.

However, this place could all be ruined. We need to channel our inner environmentalist and take action to save the turtle. A petition will be passed around the island to prevent the construction of the zipline, or else the orca box turtle may decide to leave, which could cause many problems such as the early onset of the predicted major earthquake and much property trampling.

A turtle ponders people

Doodler: Maurice Austin

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