And so state and federal wildlife agencies came up with a radical plan. Sea-turtle eggs laid on beaches in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle would be dug up during their very last days of incubation, packed into Styrofoam coolers and shipped to a climate-controlled warehouse at the Kennedy Space Center on the opposite coast of Florida. . . .
What I found in Alabama was a classic story of ordinary people called to do extraordinary things. But the extraordinary things were so eccentric, and the ordinary people were so unassuming, that it took me a while to realize that. In the middle of an environmental emergency that seemed to demand dispassionate and scientific decision making, it was an emotional connection to turtles -- and, in some cases, a slightly overemotional one -- that wound up making certain people indispensable.