by Donna Byrd
Today, Bill and I decided to be tourists here on Topsail Island. Bill saw on a Surf City Facebook link that The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City was releasing six, rescued sea turtles back into the ocean during the morning and that yesterday, they had also released five others. We both looked at our watches and said, “If we hurry, we can make it.” I mean, really. It’s not everyday you get to see six sea turtles heading into the ocean!
The releasing was across the street from the Surf City Fire Department, at the beach. When we pulled up to the area, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were cars parked everywhere and people were all making their way to the water. We had trouble finding a place to park, so we parked down the street in a driveway at a cottage that seemed to have no vacationeers staying at it. I know, that’s a terrible thing to do, but desperate times call for desperate measures, right? We jumped out of the car and ran to the nearest public beach access. It, too, was lined with people trying to get a glimpse of the turtles. I took out my trusty iphone and started taking pictures but I was too far away to really see the turtles. What I did see was a lot of excited men, women and children gathered up and down a type of “aisle” made for the volunteers of the Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center to bring the turtles down toward the water. The rows of folks were five and six people deep. There were hundreds of people, maybe more, vying for a look!
I hated to leave my perch up on the deck-like beach access but if I wanted to see a turtle, I’d have to go down with the rest of the folks. I looked at Bill and said, “Let’s go see some turtles!” We high-tailed it down to the beach, hoping not to miss anything.
Gently elbowing our way through the crowd, we made it to the second row from the front. I felt kind of like a groupie at a concert, trying to get to the front row, right by the stage to touch a rock star’s guitar or brag that I was close enough to feel their sweat. The sea turtles were the stars and we were the adoring fans trying to get close to them. Turtle Power!
It was like a Sea Turtle Parade and the crowd loved it. Children would come down the aisle before each turtle, holding a sign with the turtle’s name on it. Then, a few volunteers would follow them carrying the smaller sea turtle in their hands or a type of carrier if it was a larger one.
We saw October, Camper, Coldie, River, Simon and Theodore make their way to the sea with their helpers. The turtles seemed to be excited about their new home, the smaller ones flapping their little flippers as they neared the water. After the volunteer workers had walked the turtles out a bit beyond the breaking waves where the sea flattened out between swells, they let the turtles go. Nature then took over and they began their swim towards the open waters. All of us on the shore clapped as they took off, encouraging them with our shouts of joy. I saw a few folks wiping tears as they watched them swim away. It was good to see an endangered species that had been rescued and then restored back to health, enter into its next phase of life. It was moving in a “feel good” kind of way and made me want to learn more about the center that rescued and treated these gentle creatures.
I don’t know how often there are rescued sea turtles released on our beach but I’m so glad we decided to go this time. It was a rare treat. You may not be able to catch an actual release like we did today, but you can visit The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City. On June 8th, regular hours will begin between Noon and 4:00 p.m. Admission for adults is $5.00 and for children is $3.00. Active military is $4.00
Here’s a video for your enjoyment! Just click and be amazed!