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Gingersnap’s Big Release!

The VLM partners with the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores (PKS) in a loggerhead sea turtle “head start” program, where the VLM houses a young loggerhead every few years in the Chesapeake Bay Aquarium (CBA) exhibit. The turtle becomes an educational ambassador, educating and inspiring our guests about the nature of sea turtles and the importance of ocean conservation. After a couple of years, the turtle must be returned to PKS and released into the Atlantic Ocean. This time around it was Gingersnap who enamored the public, and was adored by staff and volunteers.

In the early morning of October 15, 2018, Gingersnap was taken out of CBA by Chris Crippen, our Director of Conservation. Aquarium staff then drove her the 4 hours south to PKS, at Atlantic Beach NC where she came from. Upon arrival she was placed in a temporary holding tank until her release 2 days later. Gingersnap had neighboring turtles from a number of other facilities, there for the same purpose: to be returned to the wild!

On October 16th, VLM staff joined these other turtle caretakers and the PKS staff on a ferry ride to Cape Lookout Seashore for a post-hurricane beach clean-up. Luckily the beaches were not affected as much as was expected, though we filled a dozen large black trash bags with a myriad of different trash items, including many single shoes, cans and bottles, ribbons and string, and even a plastic shovel!

Aquarist Britt Sorensen and a representative from the Albuquerque Bio Park picking up trash near the iconic lighthouse of Cape Lookout.

You never know what you’ll find when searching the beach for trash.

Countless partner-less shoes were found at the beach!

The next day, October 17th, was the big day! Loggerheads from Albuquerque, New Jersey, Connecticut, North Carolina and others joined Gingersnap and the many ticketed guests on the Carolina Princess, a large fishing charter boat in Morehead City, NC. At 3 years old and 50lbs, Gingersnap was by far the largest sea turtle, and continued to enamor all on board with her beauty and size!

The Carolina Princess waiting for its passengers.

All of the turtles being released were lined up for the guests and media in a pre-release “meet and greet”. Gingersnap is seen in the bottom left corner.

Gingersnap, right, and another turtle on the left for size comparison.

All stand back in amazement at Gingersnap’s size and beauty as VLM aquarists load her onto the boat.

The Princess charted us out about 17 miles offshore to waters warm enough for the turtles to be comfortable in. It was a cloudy, windy, extremely choppy ride, and needless to say half of the passengers were struggling with sea sickness.

All of the many sea turtle enthusiasts, and our boat’s captain standing on the right, patiently waiting to start cruising!

But once the boat anchored and it was time for the releases, passengers perked up and watched in awe as one by one the loggerheads were lowered off the stern. Gingersnap was saved for last. It was extremely bittersweet as VLM staff lowered her into the water and watched as she effortlessly glided into the open sea.



Gingersnap free at last! The Atlantic Ocean makes even the biggest animals look so small!

Though Gingersnap is missed among VLM staff, volunteers and guests, we are all extremely happy for her release, and proud to have had the opportunity to be near such an incredible animal. Good luck Gingie!


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