On Tuesday night, a yet-to-be identified man placed about 150 luminarias (bags with a lit candle inside) on a Hilton Head Island beach, arranged them in the shape of a heart, and proceeded to propose to his girlfriend.
After the proposal, the visiting couple retreated to their rental home, without extinguishing the candles. It was a fatal mistake for the federally protected loggerhead sea turtles nesting nearby. After the couple left the area, approximately 60 baby turtles [like the one pictured above] emerged from their nests, disoriented by the light.
The next morning, volunteers with the Sea Turtle Project (STP) found tiny tracks heading every which way — every which way except the ocean, the only place where the baby turtles have a chance to survive. Town natural resources associate Sarah Skigen, an STP volunteer, says some turtles circled the lights until they died, while others headed in the direction of nearby dunes. Some were no doubt devoured by crabs.
Unbeknownst to the visiting lovebirds, local laws require that the occupants of beachfront homes, villas and hotel rooms on Hilton Head Island [South Carolina] turn off their lights at 10 p.m. from May through October. Placing luminarias on the beach is also forbidden. STP supplies rental agencies, hotels and villas with pamphlets explaining the importance of turning off any lights that could confuse nesting sea turtles or their offspring.
According to a local newspaper, members of STP — who gave the couple a stern lecture — are apoplectic, though the couple has expressed remorse and apologized for its mistake. The couple has also received a “warning” from local officials; never mind that violation of the local ordinance carries a $1,092 fine.
No word on whether the woman said yes to the man's proposal.