We’re officially open for the summer! And for five consecutive days we celebrated in “grand” style.

We’re officially open for the summer! And for five consecutive days we celebrated in “grand” style.

On May 31, supporters, volunteers, interns and externs filled our lawn in anticipation of the official opening ceremony. After the presentation of the colors by the 2nd Division Marine Color Guard, center director Jean Beasley spoke of our continuing commitment to our main mission (rescue, rehabilitate, release) and how far we have come from the day that the first turtle was turned over to her for care. So many things have changed over the years, but even on the worst days, with multiple sick and critically injured turtles pouring through our doors, we rallied. We worked tirelessly, and always with privately donated funds, to give our patients the best and most advanced care available. For 16 years our long-term volunteers shared less than 1,000 square feet of space with up to 50 turtles at one time. It was crowded, but somehow we all worked side-by-side, or more accurately, on top of each other, sans drama. We focused on what really mattered: the turtles. Led by Jean, we all reaffirmed our continuing commitment to the work that we have loved for so many years.

Before the ribbon cutting, Jean’s two sons, Barney and Kevin, presented their mom with a wonderful plaque honoring her and the memory of their sister, Karen. Karen’s passion for the preservation of sea turtles lit the fire, and Jean keeps it flaming hot with her complete and total commitment to the cause that was so central to Karen’s life. On a lighter note, the Board of Directors had a little gift of its own for their leader: a director’s chair with “Jean Beasley, Director” embroidered on the back. Lest we ever forget who’s on first all we have to do is “talk to the chair!” Surf City Mayor Zander Guy and representatives of the Topsail Chamber then joined the board at the front of the building where the ribbon cutting officially opened our decade-plus dream that was now a reality.

But the party wasn’t over. On Sunday, while our volunteers and friends were sharing turtle lore over a light breakfast at the Welcome Center, healthy turtles were giving one last wave of a flipper to their hospital bed as they were settled onto laps and into trucks for the trip across the bridge.

A crowd had gathered on shore, eagerly anticipating the stars of the day. Cheers went up as the first turtle “Padi,” one of our big gals, crested the dunes. Borne like a queen on her throne, Padi was set down close to the surf. That lady quickly demonstrated the power of only three flippers when she heard the song of the sea; she was off. Close behind her were a slew of happy-to-be-home loggerheads, greens and Kemps.

Monday was a repeat performance with more turtles going home, including long-term patient “Boater.” This time Mother Ocean added a bit of excitement to the process by kicking up some pretty mean surf. We almost lost one of our munchkin volunteers when she and her turtle were engulfed by a big wave. When you visit our gift shop, ask Anita to tell you about her day at the beach!

Tuesday, repeat the process. We’re happy to report that “Lefty has finally left the building!” The world’s biggest almost- 6-year-old loggerhead is out on his own, and we have no idea what kind of mischief he’s going to get into. He’s only known humans since he came to us as a few-days-old hatchling. But we sent him out fat, with a lot of instructions, and with another round of loggerheads, greens and Kemps on his (gigantic) tail.

Wednesday: April, the miracle loggerhead with one of the biggest heads ever (really) went home. We, and she, worked our carapaces off bringing that turtle back from death’s door. The honor of seeing April off went to Nancy Fahey of the Wrightsville Beach Turtle Patrol and her crew. They plucked April off the sand when she was left for dead and brought her to us a year ago. April had gained a lot of weight since then, so it wasn’t quite as easy to get her back to the beach. But this time it was a much happier trip for everybody. April didn’t go alone; the last of our releasable turtles followed in her considerable wake.

Under Jean’s direction we’re headed for the 500 mark. If we keep rehabilitating and releasing at this rate we may see that number in 2015.

Wednesday night we closed out our week of festivities with a picnic under our old hospital tents, which our summer interns magically managed to piece together from crates of odds and ends. Something old, something new — and only great things for us from here on out.

Saline needed

Calling all doctor’s offices, medical clinics and anybody else who uses 0.9-percent saline in their work. We have recently admitted a turtle suffering from seven boat strikes. This gal requires a LOT of wound flushing, and we are running low on saline. We can use saline that is out-of-date by no more than one year for flushing.

We are also running low on in-date saline that we use for IV and SubQ injection. We will gladly accept any size bottle/bag. Our volunteers work every day, even when we are not open for tours, so you can drop off your donation at our staff entrance at the back of the building. Just ring our doorbell and we’ll come running. Flipper hugs.

Hospital visiting hours

We are open daily (except Wednesday and Sunday) from noon to 4 p.m. General admission is $5, adults; $4 seniors and military; and $3 for children. We are located at 302 Tortuga Lane, on the Surf City mainland. Take the turn from N.C. 50/210 onto Charlie Medlin Drive (Shipwreck Point Mini Golf is your landmark for this road.) Follow the road onto the gravel section and through the round-about. We are the only building on Tortuga.

Visit our website (seaturtlehospital.org) and/or our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center) for updates on patients and other turtle happenings.

Nesting has started

Although we have many Topsail Turtle Project flip-flops on the sand every morning through the end of August we still rely heavily on our locals and visitors to report any sighting of nesting turtles, as well as any turtles in any kind of distress. Please report all local sea turtle activity to Director of Beach Operations Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880. If unable to reach her you may also contact Director Jean Beasley at 910-470-2800. The state of N.C. also has a hotline for strandings (injured or sick turtles): 252-241-7367 and the call will be picked up 24/7.

Questions, comments, suggestions?

Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at flippers@att.net. This column will resume its weekly schedule this month. To be added to the newsletter list e-mail me at the same address: flippers@att.net. Next edition is “under construction.”


Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.