There’s something strange, in the neighborhood…. Well, not really. Maybe they’re a little crazy but “the ghosts” are actually just a trio of young green sea turtles admitted around the same time with the same backstory.

Arriving in late April, these critters were victims of the lingering North Carolina winter weather. Typical of our cold stuns they were thin, lethargic and carried a heavy load of “epibiota,” the official term for the stuff in the ocean that attaches to slow-moving turtles. It’s generally a combination of barnacles, leeches and an array of algae and grasses. If you’re studying marine biology it’s a buffet of interesting, albeit sometimes unattractive organisms delivered to your door on the back of a sea turtle.

But what made these little guys “special” was the amount of ghostly white algae trailing off of them – kind of like they had just visited the oceanic salon for hair extensions. In the water they must have looked like some kind of spectral, alien creatures. So as you may have guessed by now that’s how they got their names: Ghost Buster, Ghost Rider and Phantom, known collectively by our staff as “the ghosts.”

Once admitted they went through the usual cold-stun protocol of a slow warm-up, antibiotics and wound care and a bowl of protein and veggies delivered to their tank every morning. Although it can often take weeks to get a severely debilitated and traumatized cold-stun to get their appetite back these guys were good eaters almost from the beginning. And they recovered in record speed, shedding their algae, challenging their daily baths and bruising our volunteers with their incredibly strong flippers. Caspar the friendly ghosts they were not!

The ghosts have been in the big house all summer entertaining our visitors and just waiting for Dr. Harms to hand them their parole papers. It was looking good for an early release until hurricane Flo showed up. And now Michael has delayed their release again. But hope is on the horizon and arrangements are in the works for getting our ghosts out of here in time to celebrate their holiday – Halloween – back in the ocean with their friends. Let’s hope that the rest of this month has more treats than tricks in store for all of us!

We’re working hard to reopen our doors to the public as soon as the weather cooperates. Plans are to reopen beginning Saturday, October 13th on our fall schedule/hours of two days a week, Thursdays and Saturdays from 1 - 4 PM. Adoptions make great gifts any time of the year but especially during the holidays, and you can adopt anytime on-line via the adoption tab on our website:

This column goes on a fall/winter schedule going forward and will be published every other week until spring.


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