A leatherback sea turtle buried her eggs Tuesday on Pompano Beach as beachgoers looked on.
Pompano Beach Fire Rescue received a report of something believed to be a whale in the water at Southeast Eighth Street on Tuesday.
PHOTOS: Leatherback sea turtle
UNCUT: Turtle spotted
But when firefighters arrived, they found a leatherback sea turtle, not a whale. Pompano Beach Fire Rescue said the turtle weighs about 400 pounds.
Witnesses said they saw the turtle swim ashore and lay eggs, then bury them about 4 feet deep in the sand.
"It was amazing. She was huge," said witness Janet McCoy.
Crews cordoned off the area to protect the eggs.
After the turtle buried what officials said were 40 to 50 eggs, she went back into the water. The process usually takes about four hours, but witnesses said it took only 30 to 45 minutes.
"It was something to see, and see her working away there, so methodical, and then when she's ready, she goes back in the water, and goodbye," said witness Bill Currier.
Leatherback sea turtles are the largest of all living sea turtles. They lack a bony shell and instead of thick, leathery skin that can be dark gray or black with a smattering of white spots. Their flippers can grow to be 9 feet long.