The new road to the hospital is open.

The new road to the hospital is open.

The Town of Surf City has graciously allowed us to use Community Center Drive to access our facility while Tortuga Lane was under construction. Tortuga Lane is now open! With the opening of the new road the town has requested that we direct all our staff and visitors to begin using Tortuga Lane to get to our new hospital.

Luckily for us the connecting road to Tortuga, Charlie Medlin Road, has an easily identifiable landmark right next to it. Make the turn from N.C. 50 and 210 onto Charlie Medlin, which is next to the Shipwreck Point (Mini) Golf course. Follow the gravel road and the directional signs through the roundabout. Our hospital is the big tan building with the green roof on your left. Stay on Tortuga until you circle around and reach the parking areas and main entrance on the far side.

Winter gift shop hours

We’ve changed our hours to accommodate the influx of weekend visitors, and to let you get a jump on your holiday shopping. The gift shop is now open on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We can only accept cash and checks this time. We’re getting in new merchandise every week and have a nice stock of clothing, accessories, plush animals and other turtle “stuff,” most of it exclusive to our hospital. We even have some one-of-a-kind jewelry, crafted and donated by some our amazingly artistic supporters.

After you shop you can get a sneak peek at the turtles in our ICU, as well as the smaller patients that are now in residence at the new facility. “Lennie” hopes to be there soon.

Bigger hospital = more volunteer opportunities

Electronic files and records are great, until something goes wrong. Our Director, Jean Beasley had an electronic meltdown which resulted in the loss of a significant amount of records that are no longer recoverable. If you have previously contacted her regarding volunteer opportunities please do so again. E-mail Jean at: and include your name, home address, phone numbers, e-mail address, days available and any special skills or areas of interest that might apply. Be sure to put VOLUNTEER in the subject line.

We need more help. The ongoing transition of patients and equipment means we’re operating in two locations, running separate crews every day of the week, and we’re getting stretched pretty thin. More than anything we need people with muscle who aren’t afraid to help us with the heavy lifting.

Under our team concept volunteers are assigned to work on a particular day of the week, year-round. Beginning around 8 a.m. and staying for a minimum of four to five hours you will be involved in every aspect of the care and rehabilitation of our patients, including feeding, tank cleaning and medical treatments. And we’ll soon begin the additional process of transporting turtles of all sizes to our new therapy pool for some strength training.

In addition to working with the turtles we have daily housekeeping chores such as general cleaning and sanitation of the working areas and lots of laundry. If you like to cut grass or play in the dirt we can direct you outside to spiff up the landscaping and grassy areas that surround the facility. There’s always something to do, and until magical elves show up at night to take care of things it’s up to us to handle whatever needs to be done.

This is a tough job, physically and emotionally. But being an active part of the rehabilitation that transforms these magnificent creatures that arrive near death into healthy, robust critters with a second chance at life is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. That’s why we have volunteers who have been with us for over a decade, some since the hospital was only a dream.

If you’ve got at least one free day a week; have muscles (even the small patients require strength to handle them properly;) are agile (can jump in and out of tanks;) aren’t afraid of getting dirty and smelly (sea turtles are very fragrant!) and are willing to commit long-term (we operate under very strict permitting regulations and it takes a long time to train volunteers) we’re looking for you!

Hatching happens

We still have quite a few nests that haven’t hatched, and our beach parents are out on these rapidly cooling nights ready to shepherd those tiny babes to the surf. Please know that we continue to rely on our visitors and residents to be our extra eyes on the beach, and to help us maintain a safe environment those hatchlings. Turn off outdoor lights; they can disorient and distract a turtle. If you dig holes be sure to fill them in before you leave the beach for the day. Holes are not only a hazard for humans (there have been numerous injuries over the years) but they can trap/injure a turtle, especially a little one-ounce hatchling, and could cause their death. Ditto with beach furniture that’s been abandoned or even just left out overnight.

We honestly don’t know exactly when a nest will hatch. We’re not being evasive when you ask — just honest.  If you see a nice, smooth ramp-like area in front of a staked nest it means our coordinator(s) feel that a hatch is likely to happen within a few days. You may join them on the beach at night as long as you sit quietly and follow their instructions. All species of sea turtles are federally protected and harassing or harming them in any way will result in hefty fines and/or imprisonment. Even though our volunteers are out every morning, and now nest sitting at night, they can’t be everywhere 24/7. If you come across a nesting turtle, turtle tracks, a hatching nest or hatchlings on the beach contact Director of Beach Operations, Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880 who will pick up turtle calls no matter what time of the day or night. Please report any and all local sea turtle activity (stranded, injured or sick turtles) immediately to Terry. She can be reached at: for non-emergencies.

Questions, comments, suggestions

Please direct any questions, comments or suggestions re: this column to me at: This column moves to the off-season schedule of publication of every other week with this edition. To be added to the newsletter list e-mail me at the same address: If your e-mail address has recently changed please send me your new one so I can update my master list. I’ve been adding everyone who requests the newsletter, but the next one won’t come out until after we make the move to the new facility.


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