National Geographic : 2012 Mar
• Mass releases of the rehabilitated turtles are staged at a nearby beach to publicize the work and reinforce the message that Arabia's ma- rine life is valuable, vulnerable, and in need of protection. Each turtle is implanted with a mi- crochip for identi cation. In the seven years the project has been operating, no turtle has washed ashore twice. e hotel's most famous patient was an adult green turtle called Dibba, which had arrived with a fractured skull. Baverstock and his team needed 18 months to rehabilitate the turtle, but Dibba, released with a satellite transmitter glued to its carapace, repaid its caregivers with a 259-day, 5,000-mile migratory journey, looping down the Arabian Sea, passing the Maldives, skirting Sri Lanka, and reaching as far as the Andaman Islands before the transmitter battery failed. Dibba traced an ancient route imprinted not just on turtles but also on the cultural memory of Arabia's peoples. is way came the dhows laden with Basra dates and pearls. is way they re- turned, carrying camphor, silks, sandalwood, and cloves. Every Arabian family had its sea captains and sailors, its pearl divers and boat carpenters--- a saltwater legacy written in its genes. Modernity has dimmed that memory. "We have lost the thirst for the sea that can only be quenched by going to the sea," one Omani businessman told me with sadness in his eyes. Yet for others the thirst is returning. Increasing numbers of Arabs are going to the sea not to exploit it but to experience it as it is. ey are renewing their bond with ancient shores and rediscovering the poet's truth: "In my depths all treasures dwell." j reserves. The platforms certainly act as giant sh-aggregating devices. At Al Shaheen, with a are stack belching ame overhead, I watched a shoal of jacks circle the legs of the platform and spinner dolphins launch their lissome bodies into the air. A hammerhead cruised at the edge of vis- ibility, nding sanctuary within the ring of re. A sense of marine guardianship seems to be growing across the region. In Kuwait hundreds of keen amateur divers have formed the eco- logical equivalent of SWAT teams, dedicated to repairing the environmental damage of war and waste. ey li sunken vessels from the seabed and remove tons of snared shing nets from Kuwait's coral reefs. O the island of Qaruh, I helped cut away a net that was twined around the brittle stubs of staghorn coral---a nightmare of knotted nylon mesh that yielded reluctantly to our collection of chef 's knives and garden shears. Our odd as- sortment of reef repairmen included a computer engineer, a television producer, and a former leader of Kuwait's Grand Mosque. On the return journey, crossing a smooth, tawny sea with a dust storm billowing on the horizon, two of the team found space among the scuba gear on deck to pray. Oblivious to the symphonic thunder of twin 200-horsepower outboards, they prostrated their bodies and uttered the ancient words of invocation and praise, giving voice to the hope that good might come to the world. At the other end of the Persian Gulf, in Dubai, public-spirited beachgoers collect stranded turtles and take them to a rehabilitation facility in the luxury Burj al Arab hotel. In 2011, 350 juvenile turtles were brought in, many victims of "cold stunning"---inertia caused by the win- ter drop in sea temperature. "If they survive the rst 24 hours, there's a 99 percent chance they'll recover," Warren Baverstock, the aquarium op- erations manager, said as we walked along a line of bubbling tanks. He reached in to scratch the backs of splashing turtles, which twisted their necks and ippers in pleasure at the attention. " ey always know where the sea is," he said. " ey swim up and down the wall nearest the sea, li ing their heads up, looking for it." Fishermen's lights attract plankton, and plankton attract young whale sharks in Djibouti's coastal waters. In 2008 the United Arab Emirates banned whale shark fishing---a sign of growing awareness of the importance and vulnerability of Arabia's seas.