Here is a story about 50 individuals who were not enthusiastic about a White Christmas in Massachusetts. Now they are living free of state income tax in Florida…
Every year it seems that young Kemp’s ridley sea turtles get caught in the Gulf Stream and travel farther north than planned. Volunteers and NOAA officials gather these lost souls from the beach in Wellfleet, Massachusetts and bring them to the New England Aquarium‘s turtle hospital in Quincy, Massachusetts. The turtles are cold and weak when they arrive and are gradually warmed up and fed. Once they’re healthy they can be loaded into towel-lined banana boxes for a journey to warmer waters.
Unfortunately, turtles can’t go as conventional air freight due to stringent temperature requirements (68-75F). The Turtles Fly Too organization matches up volunteer pilots with turtles and thus on December 8 my friend Tom and I found ourselves fighting winter headwinds from Hanscom Field to Tampa International. The day started around 3:00 am for the NOAA and Aquarium folks. They pulled the NOAA van into the Rectrix hangar around 6:45 am and were given a royal welcome by the full staff. Everyone helped load up the Pilatus PC-12 through the massive cargo door and Rectrix immediately towed us out on the ramp. We had pre-flighted the airplane the night before so we were able to start up and crank on the heat before the turtles could get cold. After about three hours we stopped at the Richmond Jet Center for a quick refueling and then proceeded through sometimes turbulent and/or icy clouds to Signature Flight Support in Tampa. The Signature folks had arranged for vans from four public aquariums to be waiting for us on the ramp (see the rock star welcome in the photos). Eventually the turtles should be strong enough to be released back into the ocean.
An intelligent person would have stayed two nights in Tampa and had three dinners at Bern’s Steak House. The parent of young children, however, had to get back into the turboprop for what should have been an easy trip back to Boston, but turned out to involve much more widespread and severe convection than forecast. We were able to climb over the top of nearly all of this weather, but only barely! (the Pilatus has a service ceiling of FL300 or 30,000′) We landed in the dark at around 9:00 pm. A mechanic from Tradewind reinstalled the rear bench seat the next day and the plane was ready to resume its life ferrying charter customers.
What did I learn on this trip? That it is considered a microaggression to refer to these animals as “Ridley Scott turtles.” Also that top quality FBOs such as Rectrix, Signature, and the Richmond Jet Center can pull out an extra stop or two when you use the “sea turtle” password.
Merry Christmas to everyone! And remember that if the turtles can escape the misery of the Northeast you probably can too!
- see the photos