Noke, a/k/a Lefty [1990 Turtle 8]

Fetches a 51K JPEG

That was then (inset, 1992) and this is the last time we saw her (1994).

Quickstats: Seen in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994. Summer updates: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.

We first met this turtle in 1990. We saw her just once that summer. Most of her lay hidden under a ledge and only her head protruded, large eyes having a look around. As we approached, we noticed she had only a stump where her right flipper should be.

For this reason, we called the little creature Lefty, because like most humans, we mistakenly saw a disability where there really was an individual. We saw Lefty each summer after that, right up until last year--but we only ever sighted her once a season.

Each yearly contact seemed to terrify her, so that she would wobble away, not to be sighted til the next year. No other turtle we have ever met reacted to us with the fear she showed in her eyes. Something big hurt her once. Something big tore off her right flipper, and that experience has stayed with her.

Two divers are something big that is not welcome in her ocean.

Last summer, we saw her twice. At our first sighting, we were shocked at what we saw. Lefty, who already had one strike against her because of the loss of a front flipper, was now disfigured by fibropapilloma tumors. We had only seen her from a distance in 1993, and so had not noticed the "salt and pepper" white spots that we recognize as the beginning of tumors.

Her disease seems to have progressed faster than in other turtles, and in two summers she had already become weak and emaciated. The photo above shows her during our second sighting. She was resting in shallow water, in a bed of seaweed with another badly tumored turtle. We have come to call this area The Graveyard, because the only turtles we ever see there are the worst tumor cases.

This photograph was shot through tears. It is hard to see individual animals you have known for years sicken. We are only beginning to understand how people feel when a loved one has a terminal illness. There is a sense of loss, a sense of guilt at what humans are doing to these creatures, and looking at her on that last sighting, we felt a sting of shame because we'd called her Lefty, at having focussed on the disability like that.

Over the winter, we got out the Hawaiian dictionary and renamed her. She is now known as Noke. Noke is the Hawaiian word meaing "to persist, continue, persevere."

Turtles have taught us many things, but this turtle holds a special place in our hearts. Snorkellers seeing her, like us, would have seen only a small, flipperless turtle--but Noke has taught us about what is admirable: to persevere against obstacles.

We don't expect to see her in 1995 and as we prepare this page, we doubt she is alive.

Summer 1995 Update

Noke was not seen in 1995.

Summer 1996 Update

Noke was not seen in 1996. We believe Noke is dead.

Summer 1997 Update

Noke was not seen in 1997.

Summer 1998 Update

Noke was not seen in 1998.

Summer 1999 Update

Noke was not seen in 1999.

Summer 2000 Update

Noke was not seen in 2000.

Summer 2001 Update

Noke was not seen in 2001.

Summer 2002 Update

Noke was not seen in 2002.

Summer 2003 Update

Noke was not seen in 2003.

Summer 2004 Update

Noke was not seen in 2004.

Poino [1991 Turtle 4]
Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai
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Last modified 04/09/11
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