Talk about a wild and crazy few months! We always suspected that we were a very popular destination for visitors, and that was confirmed when we were voted “Best Attraction” in a 2013 reader’s favorites poll. But even with all those hints that it might be a busy summer for us we were still flabbergasted. We’ve been welcoming 4,000+ visitors every week since opening on June 5th. You like us — you really, really like us!
But if you haven’t been yet, fear not! We are working on our off-season schedule and will publish it on our Facebook page in early September. Right now it looks like we’ll be opening Thursdays and Saturdays, but watch for confirmation of the days and times. We’re not going anywhere (although many of our patients have their flippers crossed that they will be!) and there’s still lots of cool things to see during your visit.
Those of you who had loyally visited our old hospital are astonished when you walk through our doors. We worked really hard for over 15 years to move from dream to steel and concrete. It was the financial support of all of you who believed in our work, and in our ability to heal and send these magnificent turtles back home that made it come true. Now is our chance to show you just how your contributions are put to work.
First stop is a photo-op in front of our spectacular wall mural. We’ve lost track of how many pictures have been taken with our “Oceans of Memories” wall serving as the backdrop. Let’s just say that Peggy, one of our volunteers, is pretty adept at operating anything that takes pictures after serving as the unofficial family portrait photographer for much of the summer.
After stopping at the various exhibits in our great hall visitors move to the windows of Sea Turtle Sick Bay (our ICU) where every new patient spends a minimum of about six weeks in treatment and/or acclimation. It can be heartrending to see the trauma in this area, but the sorrow is balanced by the sight of our little greens frolicking in the therapy pool in the same room. They’re clearly enjoying themselves and we hope the positive vibes they send out to their sick and injured comrades promote healing and recovery.
Next stop is the observation ramp in Sea Turtle Bay. These critters are well along in their recovery and just waiting for our vet to pronounce them homeward bound. We have loggerheads, greens and Kemp’s Ridleys of all sizes on our tour. They all have a story to tell, and you’re welcome to take pictures of them. Our hospital ambassador and permanent resident, “Lennie” is, as usual, the star.
You can take a little bit of our hospital home with you as you exit through our gift shop, including our plush “Lennie Turtle,” one of our biggest sellers. You can also adopt Lennie or one of our other patients at Adoption Central. We have a variety of merchandise, most of it exclusive to our hospital. If you get anything it must be our logo shirt which was designed by Karen Beasley. The hospital is her legacy.
One of our big boys, Loggerhead “Gunnar” went home last week and Canady, who is still on the short list for release tried to tag along. Sadly, trying to make it to the truck when you’re a landlocked sea turtle, weigh a couple hundred pounds and only have flippers to get you there is pretty futile. Check our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center) for dates and times of any upcoming releases. Details are posted the day before.
Aug. 31 officially marks the end of nesting season here on Topsail. Our Turtle Project volunteers now direct their efforts to sitting and waiting, and waiting. Hatches will be going on through October, but honestly, we can’t tell you where or when a nest will hatch. We just don’t know. If you see our volunteers sitting near a marked nest any time after dusk it’s possible that those critters are ready to make their appearance and start their long journey in the sea, where they’ll spend the rest of their lives.
We continue to rely heavily on our locals and visitors to report any sighting of nesting turtles, hatching nests and any turtles in distress. Please report all local sea turtle activity to our 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.
Hospital visiting hours
We will not be open on Monday, Sept. 1, in observance of Labor Day. We will maintain our summer tour schedule only through Sept. 5 when we open daily except Wednesday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. General admission is $5; seniors and military are $4; and children are $3. We are located at 302 Tortuga Lane on the mainland in Surf City. 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.
You can’t use Google Maps to find our new facility (we moved from Topsail Beach almost a year ago.) Tortuga Lane is too new and doesn’t show up on GPS. And a word of advice: if you park on the side of the road beware of the drop-off into the ditches, and that sand is softer than it looks!
Questions, comments, suggestions?
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Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.