Merlie the turtle's perfectly timed, 2670km non-stop swim

Merlie the turtle sets off from Mon Repos on one of her swims.
Merlie the turtle sets off from Mon Repos on one of her swims.

Merlie the turtle has massive powers of endurance and a pretty special sense of timing, too.

The 50-year-old loggerhead turtle has returned to her home in the Gulf of Carpentaria and written herself into the record books in the process.

Merlie has just completed a massive non-stop 2670km swim from her breeding site at Mon Repos, near Bundaberg, to her home foraging warmer waters of the Gulf.

After laying her eggs at the well known turtle sanctuary she swam home 2670km non-stop in 63 days - averaging 43km a day.

Appropriately, Merlie arrived home on World Turtle Day, an achievement recognised by Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch.

"Today on World Turtle Day we celebrate our turtles and what better way than recognising the incredible journey of Merlie, who is back home feeding in her home waters," Minister Enoch said.

"It is a mammoth effort to swim that far without any rest, and her journey is one of the longest breeding migrations the Department of Environment and Science has documented for an eastern Australian loggerhead turtle."

The Gulf of Carpentaria has some of the largest sea turtle nesting areas in the Indo-Pacific region.

The loggerhead turtle is named for its large head and it has thick jaws that crush its food of crustaceans and molluscs. They inhabit subtidal and intertidal coral and rocky reefs and seagrass meadows as well as deeper soft-bottomed habitats of the continental shelf and feed on animals such as crabs, sea urchins, and jellyfish.

DES's Threatened Species biologists say they now don't expect Merlie to return to Mon Repos for the next three seasons, which is in keeping with her breeding patterns.

In 2019, DES held a competition to name the loggerhead turtle and Minister Enoch announced young Charlie Lewis as the competition winner, whose gravely ill mother, Merlie, always dreamed of holding a baby turtle.

"Before Charlie's mother sadly passed away, she was able to fulfil her dream and will now be remembered whenever Merlie the loggerhead turtle and her great achievements are mentioned," Minister Enoch said.

"Merlie was tagged as a nesting turtle in 1999 giving scientists the ability to monitor and track her movements, and she is the first to be studied at the new $22 million Mon Repos Turtle Centre.

"Since 1999, Merlie has laid 19 clutches totalling more than 2,500 eggs in 5 nesting seasons at Mon Repos, which is home to the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region."

Mon Repos' globally recognised beach and dune system supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and plays a key role in public education about marine turtles.

Annual tours led by rangers, biologists and volunteers at Mon Repos, combine public education about the past 50 years of turtle research and conservation with ecotourism in Queensland.

This story Merlie the turtle's perfectly timed, 2670km non-stop swim first appeared on The North West Star.