Turtle Talk: Castles Made of Sand

Have you ever heard the saying, “What goes up must come down”? 

Not only is that the basis for Newton’s Law of Gravity, but it also applies to things like birds in flight, the city of Rome, and even moods. All things have their moment of peak glory, but then they usually have to come back down. And nowhere is this truer than at the beach.

Our beaches of South Walton are famous for their sugar white sand. This sand is so soft that sometimes you sink up over your ankles with each step. It makes for beautiful pictures of the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, our sand is without question one of our beaches’ best features.

It’s also the perfect sand, and I do mean perfect, for building sand sculptures.

The sand along 30A will mold easily to any shape. You can use buckets or pre-formed molds to build castles or critters. It’s also perfect for those with artistic talents to shape and sculpt almost like clay. And our seaweed, driftwood and shells can add to the interest, so it’s not unusual to see some breathtaking sand sculptures along our coast.


Now, if you’ve been following our blog posts and our social media, you might recall our catchphrase: #cleandarkflat. 

We’ve talked about the danger’s holes can cause to sea life, especially our nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. Mama turtles coming ashore to nest can fall into holes and get stuck. This happened last year in Walton County, and it took several people to help a mama turtle out before she suffocated. So, we’ve established that holes are fun during the day, but they should be filled in before you leave the beach.

But the other part of leaving the beach “flat” is the opposite of filling in holes. Brace yourselves because you may not like this one.

No matter how much time you’ve spent on that sand mermaid sculpture, no matter how tedious it was to build that three-foot tall sand wall, no matter how much water you hauled to make that sandcastle and moat…..

You have to knock it all down.

Feel free to take pictures. Leave it up all day for others to see and enjoy. Take pride in the hard work and sweat that went into creating your masterpiece.

But you have to knock it all down when you leave.

It is sand after all, and it won’t last long anyway. If someone else doesn’t come along and demolish it either accidentally or for fun, the tide, surf or wind will take care of it. So why not enjoy the control of saying when and how it comes down.

After all, you created it; you can destroy it.

If you don’t have the heart to do it, recruit some nearby children to play demolition derby with your sculptures. They’ll have a blast creating utter mayhem and destruction. It’s what kids do best.

But why must I destroy that which I worked so hard to create, you might ask.

The answer is simple. If it isn’t created naturally, it shouldn’t be on our beaches at night. Anything that will disrupt sea life can have catastrophic effects. Sea turtles are especially vulnerable to anything that impedes their path to and from the water. It’s hard for the female turtles to maneuver around any object. They can become disoriented or even give up and go lay their eggs in the water. This would prove fatal to all of her babies.

And once the baby turtles hatch, they need to hot-foot it straight to the water. Every second counts since crabs and birds are eyeing them with mouths watering. If a newly hatched turtle comes upon your multi-room sandcastle complete with a moat, he won’t be impressed with the smooth walls and towering buttresses. He’ll just get stuck and struggle until a hungry ghost crab pops out of his hole for a midnight snack.

I’m pretty sure that 99.9% of sandcastle builders are creating their works for the sheer pleasure of it. It’s something to do at the beach, and it makes for cool pictures. I’d like to think that none of you out there are building these sculptures for the purpose of trapping and harming sea turtles.

That’s where the Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles comes in.

Our group’s mission is to education the public about topics just like this. I’m sure most beach lovers have no idea that the holes they leave or the castles they build can cause the death of a sea turtle. We want to raise awareness of these issues so we can spread the word. And now YOU can spread the word about sea life conservation.

So now you know. Go forth and tell others. Please be friendly. Let the artists know how impressive and beautiful their creations are. Take a picture. But then politely let them know why they need to knock it all down before they leave.

Because what goes up simply must come down.

By Elaine Parrett

Read more about the sea turtle rescued from a hole here: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/outdoors/local-outdoor-news/turtle-stuck-in-a-hole-was-a-first-for-turtle-watchers-1.333839