This is why we do it.

To get everyone ready for the upcoming cold-stun season I wanted to share with you some exciting news.
"Head Wound Harry" one of our 1999 Kemp's ridley sea turtles.
One of our 1999 Kemp's ridley sea turtles nested in Texas and is the mother of 103 baby turtles!

She was a patient from our previous record year (1999) of cold-stunned sea turtles. She arrived at the NEAq with a heavy epibiont load. After removing some of this load from her face, biologists discovered a head fracture and carapace wound.  Due to the extensive head injury, the turtle was given the nickname “Head Wound Harry”, now revised to “Harriet” for obvious reasons.

Due to the nature of the head wound, several diagnostics or procedures were run on Harriet.  This was the first time some of the procedures had been done on a rescued sea turtle at NEAq.


Since this turtle had a traumatic injury to the head. We wanted to make sure that the skull was healed prior to release. Sea turtles are exposed to high pressures while diving any defect could have posed a threat to its survival in the wild.

Light therapy
This was one of the first turtle's at NEAq to receive light therapy treatment. This type of treatment was a precursor to today's laser therapy.

a bone scan
Both the above treatments were done due to suspected osteomyelitis (bone infection). The light therapy is used to draw blood into the affected region. Using a tracer radioisotope doctors can see the perfusion of blood into the bones. They can then determine where possible infections, cancers, even arthritis is occurring.

One procedure that you have heard about before is PIT tagging. This is how we were able to confirm that the nesting turtle on Padre Island was our "Harry/Harriet".
You can see the PIT tag for "Harry" in the left front flipper of this X-ray. This is how nest patrollers on the beach were able to determine this turtle was one of our rehab patients.
Interestingly, the PIT tag for this turtle helped shape policies for PIT tag placement on sea turtles in the U.S. A paper published in 2010 on PIT tag migration featured a series of radiographs specifically from this turtle. For those of you that are interested you can find the full article here.

A few more images of the turtle below. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate any intake photos. Digital photography was only in its infancy then...

This is a corresponding fracture on the right side of the turtle's shell. It lined up nicely with the head trauma which, made us believe this wound was a propeller strike.

This turtle spent almost two years at the New England Aquarium for its rehabilitation. In order to make room for new admissions we had to send "Harry/Harriet" to Columbus Zoo in Cincinnati to complete her rehab. She actually flew in the passenger area of a large commercial airplane accompanied by a staff member. There she spent another two years before being transferred to the Virginia Aquarium for subsequent release in 2003.

She then spent 6 years out in the open ocean, until finally, in 2009 she crept back up from the sea to lay two nests. One nest was on North Padre Island Texas where she had 64 hatchlings survive. Folks at the Padre Island National Seashore made the survival and protection of this nest possible.  The other nest was on South Padre Island Texas where the folks at Sea Turtle Inc. incubated the clutch and had 39 hatchlings survive.
Not Harry's but these are two Kemp's ridley hatchlings from Padre Island Texas. Photo: NPS photo

Hopefully this is just the first of many more nesting turtles we find out about. When we do hear about them we will keep you posted!

Thanks to those folks that took photos back in 99-01 and sent them to me. Specifically- Melissa Hoge, Kristen Dube, Alexandra Daniello, and Terry Rogers.


Nate the Great still transmitting!

Exciting news from the Rescue Team! One of our satellite-tagged turtles released a year ago is still transmitting! How many of you remember turtle #156, also known as Nate the Great?

Nate the Great stranded in early December 2012. He was dangerously cold, at only 49 degrees Fahrenheit, and extremely underweight. This turtle had kidney function abnormalities for many months. He also took a very long time to swim on his own.

During his nine months in rehabilitation, this turtle became a staff and volunteer favorite. He enjoyed interacting with the volunteers by making his presence known especially when cleaning his tank. Often times he would brush himself up against the vacuum hose or scrub brush, using those items to clean his shell. Green turtles in the wild are often observed doing this on rocks and corals.

By the time of his release in August of 2013, Nate the Great was a typical fat Green sea turtle. He was satellite-tagged and released out of Cape Cod.

Since his release, Nate has travelled south hugging the coast and it appears has stayed in south Florida peninsula since November 2013. He has travelled nearly 3,000 miles and is still transmitting today, 371 days later. Continue following him on SeaTurtle.org!

This post was written by our guest bloggers, Jill and Michelle, who are Rescue volunteers and have cared for Nate the Great!


3 Endangered Sea Turtles released from Cape Cod

Along with our partners at the Massachusetts Audubon Society at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, we had a great day releasing endangered sea turtles back into the ocean. 

Photo above: New England Aquarium volunteers carry the turtles to the release site in front of a cheering crowd

Many of you who follow this blog already know that these turtles stranded back in the fall as the water temperatures in Cape Cod Bay began to plummet.  Mass Audubon staff and trained volunteers walk the beaches in a coordinated effort at every high tide rescuing sea turtles form the frigid wind chill.  Today many of the Mass Audubon staff and volunteers were on hand to help release and cheer  the turtles they rescued crawl down the beach into the ocean. 

Left and Below: Dennis Murley from the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary lifts a green sea turtle from the transport carrier.  On the right, Dennis shows the turtle to the public before the turtle crawls down the beach and into the ocean.
Above: Aquarium sea turtle research partner, Dr. Kara Dodge, and her daughter observe a green sea turtle at the release
Above: Dr. Leslie Neville, New England Aquarium veterinarian, shows a green turtle to the crowd

Above:  Mass Audubon sea turtle volunteer Michael Lach and his children, Skylar and Sage, prepare to release an endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle.  This little team of volunteer beach walkers has rescued a lot of sea turtles so this was a special day for them to return a healthy turtle back into the ocean

The crowd watches as an Atlantic green sea turtle makes it's way down the beach toward the ocean

An Atlantic green sea turtle with a satellite tag enters the surf

An endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle with a satellite tag makes its way across the sand to the ocean
We gathered all the sea turtle staff and volunteers that were at this release for a group photo. This is a fraction of the people who help Mass Audubon and the New England Aquarium rescue, transport, rehab and release these threatened and endangered sea turtles.

You can follow the tracks of these turtles or adopt them here.

Watching these turtles crawl down the beach and enter the ocean after eight months of rehabilitation was gratifying and verifying for all who help rescue, transport and rehab these turtles.  It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with so many people who are dedicated to the conservation of the these important sentinels of the sea.

- Connie


Kaboom and her four pool mates are back in the wild!


It is with great pleasure that we share the story of five more endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles that were released back into the ocean. With help from our partners at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the Staff from the Assateague Island State Park, we had a spectacular day!

Above: New England Aquarium Senior Biologist, Julika Wocial, prepares to release an endangered Kemp's ridley back to the ocean.

Above left: Assateague Island Park Rangers bring the turtles onto the beach. Above right: National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB) volunteer Chuck Erbe keeps the public at a safe distance while the turtle truck backs onto the beach

It takes many organizations working together and hundreds of dedicated volunteers to make days like this possible.  From the volunteer beach walkers at the Massachusetts Audubon Society at Wellfleet Bay who walk the beaches in the late fall and early winter to find these turtles, to the volunteer turtle drivers who drive them up to the New England Aquarium sea turtle hospital, to all the volunteers that help us with the rehabilitation, to the other Aquariums and rehab centers who accept turtles into their centers.  The efforts of the network make this possible. Today we thank them all for their dedication to the conservation of endangered sea turtles!

Photos above: Julika Wocial thanks all our partners, especially the National Aquarium and the Assateague Island State Park for helping us release these turtles.

Photos above: Julika Wocial from NEAq and Chuck Erbe from NAIB prepare to release two endangered Kemp's ridley turtles in front of approximately 300-400 very excited people on the beach

Photos above:  It takes a lot of caring and dedicated people to save a species.  We called out to our friends and partners at the National Aquarium to help us with this release.  Above on the left is NAIB volunteer Chuck Erbe giving a close up view to onlookers.  Photo on the right is NAIB volunteer Ellen Erbe helping with crowd control and education as Julika gives the public a close up look at an endangered sea turtle

I got a little carried away behind the camera because I didn't want you to miss out on the event.  It is always a challenge replicating the magic of the day through photos.  Please consider the following as you view the next few sets of photos:  A strong breeze filled with the smell of salt air, cheering crowds as the turtles crawled back into the ocean and smiling faces all around.

I added the photos below because I was deeply touched by the beauty of Assateague Island State Park.  As I was photographing the release I noticed a wild pony walking up the beach toward the crowd.  Wild ponies are protected and the park rangers have a wonderful and gentle approach; they steered him around the crowd and he meandered on down the beach. The rangers took wonderful care of us and the turtles; they have true passion and dedication for conservation.

The photo above on the left shows the curious pony walking on the beach toward the crowd, perhaps he too wanted to see the little turtles head back out to sea? I took the photo on the right as we exited the park.  These ponies were grazing peacefully along the shore.  Assateague Island State Park is stunning beautiful and the ponies make for a special treat.

Above the release team stops for a much needed "refueling" after a long day transporting and releasing endangered turtles.  Yes, the Green Turtle is a real restaurant,  quite appropriate for this team of turtlers!

Once again, we thank all who made this day possible from the long list above.  Special thanks go to the Assateague Island State Park and the National Aquarium in Baltimore for their help making this event possible.  

Stay tuned to this blog... perhaps there will be photos of another release sometime next week.... perhaps.

- Connie