Episode 20 - When the legend becomes truth

Long before we arrived at the Mulberry Ridge, Marines training with the Weapons Field Training Battalion have reported sightings of a strange creature roaming the pond's surrounding areas. The sightings were mostly rumors and grew stronger when a few soldiers disappeared in the 1970's. With Sergeant Palmer's return, the test results from the scute found by Corporal Grisham also came back. Arriving later than we expected, the results confirmed the rumors that started 3 decades ago. As it turned out, the scute was lost by an actual turtle and according to the Carbon14 test results, it was shed some 40 years before we found it. Considering the recent events I found myself puzzled. Are we seeing a new generation of turtles or are we dealing with the same ancient animal? Dr. Johnson tried to reason that some turtles can live over 100 years. A turtle's level of activity depends upon the temperature of its surroundings. A non-hibernating turtle would die in the cold weather. Being a cold blooded animal, a turtle needs to increase its body temperature before becoming active to hunt, mate and to escape predators. How was our turtle doing all this during the winter? Basically, the more we tried to understand what was going on here the more confused we got. Why did we find turtle eggs in the middle of winter? We didn't have answers for any of our questions. The laws of nature didn't apply here. The sarge arrived early on Friday morning. Captain Schneider was back as well. She landed the helicopter by the watchtower where the turtle eggs were stored a week ago. Grisham and I drove the jeep up the valley to meet them. I was really concerned that the sarge was bringing reinforcements, perhaps another team to join us but he was alone. - G' morning, Corporal Harris! I see Major Munsch was good to you boys, ah? - said the sarge referring to the old Jeep. - Let's take a look at those eggs, shall we? - he continued. We started to climb the tower's ladder. I managed to look over my shoulder and saw Jillian (the Captain) winking at me. Once inside, the sarge had already opened the wooden box and then gave me his orders. From the 7 eggs found, 3 were to go to Marine Corps Research Base Quantico in Virginia, 2 to be sent to the EPA Lab in Alabama who Dr. Johnson once worked for, the remaining 2 were to stay here with the Professor and the Doctor. We then brought the wooden box down the ladder. While packing the eggs for their respective trips, I noticed they were chalking, a characteristic of fertile eggs. Grisham helped me load the eggs into the helicopter and we said goodbye since he was leaving back to Camp Lejeune. I talked briefly to Jillian and said goodbye to her as well. With so much in my mind, I forgot to bring the Captain's present that I bought in Philly during Christmas leave. I'm affraid I'm loosing my momentum with her. It's been almost a month since I last seen her and the way things are going around here, my opportunities to make a move are getting slim. I need to write her a letter. Back at Camp Kowal, our Base Camp, Dr. Johnson had a huge smile on his face. Not only some of the eggs were sent to his laboratory but he got to keep one egg for experiments. - Don't worry Harris, I always get what I want anyway, beside you were just following orders. - said the doctor referring to our argument about the eggs the week before. His cockiness started to make me mad but I had other things to worry about. Later this week we reviewed the video sent by Argo3 where the turtle was first captured on film. The sarge's biggest concern was for the Cobalt Bomb. The video showed the turtle climbing on top of the missile underwater, which could've disrupt the tritium bottle and the plutonium. We could see that some of the electric cables on the missile's side panel were chewed up. By Argo3's readings, acceptable levels of radioactivity are present in the bottom of the lake, so far nothing to worry about. The mini-sub is still functional but the underwater cameras started to show signs of malfunction. - They're not designed to withstand long periods of freezing temperatures - said Roy, who is our communications officer and the man responsible for the cameras. The professor built a homemade incubator for one of the eggs and along with Dr. Johnson, they've been spending most of their time conducting experiments on their tents. Ben, Roy and I spent the rest of our days checking caves and small holes by the pond. We are trying to diminish the number of hiding places for our giant turtle. We used plastic explosives to seal the mouth of the big cave located on the west side of the logging road. We also found a few new tracks by the cattail thicket, the same place were the nest was found. So the sarge allowed us to fire our carbines and rifles on a target practice exercise on Tuesday. The problem with "trouble" is that it usually starts out like fun. And I'm pretty sure the fun part is about to be over.

by Corporal John Harris, January 26, 2006