Being in the dark about some things is not always bad.
If we're talking loggerhead sea turtles -- the state's official reptile -- it is in fact a very bright idea.
From May 31 through Aug. 31 every year, when hatchlings are breaking out of their eggy homes and heading for the great, blue ocean, owners and renters of beach homes and condos must turn out beach-facing lights by 10 p.m.
The hatchlings find their way to the sea by the moon and star light reflected off the water. The lights we make can confuse them and could send them in the wrong direction, away from the water and toward dehydration, death or the open mouths of predators.
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But it's not just a matter of hitting the off switch.
If you like these little darlings -- and, who, really, doesn't? -- there are other things you can do:
- Remove beach litter. That means no balloons, plastic bags, foam fishing gear and other non-degradable litter. After all, it's quite a slog to the water's edge for something with only four tiny, little flippers.
Here's my favorite.
If you engage in any beach construction during the day with your own hatchlings, tear it down before leaving lest the reptilian ones get caught in a mini sand avalanche.
You might expect some pushback from some of the people who own or rent property along the beach, particularly on the "lights-out" rule. They are, after all, paying big bucks to live or visit here.
You'd be wrong.
Once property inspectors and rental agents explain the rule and the "why" of it, almost everyone is on board.
"We're telling people spending thousands of dollars on a beachfront home for the week -- and sometimes homeowners who paid millions -- to respect a lights out at 10 p.m. curfew," said Bob Hawkins, co-owner of a local vacation rental company.
"If we told people 'lights out at midnight to not disrupt the neighboring families,' I'd get laughed right off the island," he said.
But mention turtle hatchlings struggling to get to the ocean only to face long odds of survival once they do, and the "awwww" factor takes over, he said.
Show them a picture, he said, and the deal's sealed.
Carmen Hawkins De Cecco lives on Hilton Head Island. She blogs at hiltonheadblogangel.me. She is a 1982 graduate of Hilton Head Prep.