MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY - Rehabilitated turtles from the Pine Knoll Shore Aquarium hitched a ride with a group of scuba divers 30 miles off shore to be released into the wild over a large ship wreck.
"We're going to take them out to where it's warmer and we work closely with the aquarium. So, it's always a fun treat to take them along with us." says University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Science technician Emily Pickering.
The scientists scuba diving were mainly with the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences, however, trips like that are often manned by other volunteers from near-by organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The project was lead by UNC I.M.S. PhD student Avery Paxton.
In total seven turtles were released, six loggerheads and one green turtle. Two of the larger loggerheads have been fitted with a satellite sensor on the back of their shells. These two turtles, named Emma and Carter, can be tracked online through the website SeaTurtle.org/tracking.
"So often times the turtles are in colder water and experience cold stuns. They get the equivalent of hypothermia in humans, and so what we do is we release them into warmer water" says Paxton.
The scuba trip was to gather research about different marine habitats off the coast of North Carolina during all four seasons, but the scientists say they were excited to be the ones releasing the turtles.
Paxton says the ship wreck sites the turtles were released over is a large yard oiler boat which is about 174 feet long and is submerged in about 100 feet of water.