After a month-long delay, thanks to two hurricanes, 13 of our totally rehabbed patients are finally back home. Normally released from our local beaches which were not only closed but littered with debris after the hurricanes we had to scramble to make other arrangements to get these critters out before the waters got too cold. The last thing we wanted was to have them turning right around and showing up as cold-stuns before we even got back to the hospital!

On Oct. 16 several of our volunteers carefully loaded a mix of greens and Kemp’s into transport tubs for the trip. After packing our hospital van and several SUV’s with turtles and humans they were off to Wrightsville Beach where they boarded dive boat Aquatic Safaris. Our thanks yet again to Captain Paul Gregory and hospital volunteer Joe Heidel for coordinating these efforts. This isn’t the first time, nor most likely not the last time that the boat was flying the “Tortuga Express” flag.

Waters and winds that day were amazingly calm so the short trip through Masonboro Inlet and out about 15 miles was a nice ride for everyone on board, including local WECT reporter Chelsea Donovan who did a warmhearted piece on local Channel 6 later that day. Once the perfect spot was reached the critters were kissed goodbye. Yes – we often kiss them gently on the heads – but only the little ones! We prefer to think of it as building our immune systems. After a final farewell they were placed overboard where they shot through the water “like their tails were on fire” according to reports from our hospital volunteers. With 13 turtles on board everybody, including Chelsea was able to release one. She later called it “an exhilarating chance of a lifetime” in her report.

But wait – there’s more. Just not at the moment. We have a gang of very large loggerheads who are very close to getting their release papers from Dr. Harms. Later this year, or early next year a trip to the edge of the Gulf Stream waters with these behemoths on board is in the offing. We’re definitely going to need a bigger boat next time!

We’re finally open for tours again! Through mid-December we will open on our fall schedule/hours of two days a week, Thursdays and Saturdays from 1 - 4 p.m. We will not be open on Thanksgiving but will be open on Friday, Nov. 23 for holiday shopping and adoptions. We have some specials planned that will only be available for the holiday season. 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 is now on a fall/winter schedule and will be published every other week until spring.


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