Nearly two hours before dawn Wednesday, the beaches on Hilton Head Island are empty.
The only sounds are of sloshing waves and the low hum of two all-terrain vehicles whose riders scan the 12 miles of beach for loggerhead hatchlings.
This is a record nesting year on Hilton Head where 199 nests have been discovered. It is the second largest nesting season since 1985 -- the year the local Sea Turtle Protection Project began.
Loggerheads are setting records statewide and along the Georgia coast as well. Across South Carolina, more than 3,000 nests have been found. Georgia can boast of 1,500 nests this year. The reptiles have also been laying eggs in high numbers in Florida and North Carolina.
Nests at Hunting Island State Park number 42, up from 34 last year. At Harbor Island, 12 ths year versus 7 last, and at Fripp Island, 23 versus 10 last year.
But those numbers don't guarantee the species' continued survival.
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