We expect our interns to be on their toes, but until now we never had one that could literally do just that. Cara Cook danced her way into our program after spending several years as a professional ballerina. And her younger sister, who’s in her third year as one of our junior interns, also had quite a bit to do with Cara’s decision to sign on. Being part of a dance company (including time with the Georgia Ballet) left little occasion for Cara to do much of anything else. But now, after completing her freshman year at Oberlin College (Ohio) she’s determined to devote time to pursuing her many other interests.
While spending summers at her grandmother’s house in Surf City she often visited our hospital and was fascinated by our turtles and the work we do, so our internship program was definitely on her list. Cara said that she was “willing to do anything if it meant I could touch the turtles. Anything.” Our interns definitely touch turtles, but they have to be willing and able to do everything, not just anything! Cara does whatever comes her way, always with a smile.
Cara likes working in our main rehab room, Sea Turtle Bay, because those critters are well along in their recovery and are generally feeling pretty good. That’s where their individual personalities really begin to shine. She spends extra time every day with her favorite turtle, loggerhead “Park” who recently moved into the big house. Park was the first turtle Cara touched as she worked in our ICU, giving him his daily bath and taking care of his medical protocol. During his treatments Cara said he remained very calm and was cooperative to the point that it seemed like he was aiding her during his care. Cara notes that Park is really happy in his bigger tank and appears to be gaining more and more self-confidence every day.
Our interns play a very active role in our hospital tours, and for Cara, who thought she wasn’t really a quintessential “people person” the thought of standing in front of tens of thousands of visitors over the course of the summer was “a bit scary.” And now? “It’s fun! And now I know that I can do it!” She loves being able “to excite people about what I love and get them to care as much as I do.”
Cara still talks about how moving participating in our June release was and also feels privileged to have been entrusted (along with our other interns) with running the building for the several hours that our regular volunteers went to retrieve “Canady” from her two-week stay at the Fort Fisher Aquarium’s big pool.
Cara has some pretty specific advice for anyone considering our internship: “Don’t come in with too many expectations because you’re going to learn things that you never thought you’d learn. Be flexible; be humble.” In her spare time Care still dances, spends time at the beach and hangs out with our other interns. It won’t be long until she returns to Oberlin as a sophomore, with a yet undeclared major (but probably biology with a minor in dance.) Cara says Oberlin is progressive, liberal and offers a wide variety of degrees, so she doesn’t want to close herself off to many of the things she “wants to experience.” We trust that her summer with us has been one experience that she’ll never forget.
Loggerhead “Shellie” was released last week before a large crowd of well-wishers. After a wave of the flipper she cruised through the surf and out to parts unknown. Watch our Facebook page (The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center) for dates and times of any upcoming releases. Details are posted the day before.
It hasn’t been a banner year as we move through the summer; we have only about 40 nests as of this writing. Late July and August are our “crossover” months where the early nests start to hatch and the mamas return to shore to lay even more eggs. When you tour our hospital, spend a few minutes with our volunteer manning the nesting display to get a glimpse of what’s hiding below those staked off areas on our beaches. Our visitors are more likely than ever to have a close encounter of the sea turtle and Topsail Turtle Project volunteer kind as the summer progresses, and those beach walks in the morning expand into nest sitting at night. 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 are 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. We moved from Topsail Beach last fall, so please do not go to the old location looking for us — many people have made that trek, most likely out of habit. 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.
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Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.