Photo credit: NOAA, the Gordon Gunter
Yesterday morning, we got an early start—around 7am and after a quick breakfast headed for the NOAA lab in Pascagoula, MS. There we were to pick up our boats and make our way to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas’ sea turtle and marine mammal rescue center to drop off a net. Prior to leaving the NOAA lab however we took a quick tour of one of the research vessels, the Gordon Gunter, heading out into the Gulf to do some research on sperm whales. Their departure has been delayed for a few days as a result of the weather as well. We saw their sleeping quarters which were small but very accommodating relative to the size of the ship, workout room, eating quarters and even the Captains steering room!
After the tour, I hopped back in the truck with Eric (one of the researchers I am traveling with) and we hit the road towards New Orleans. Rain accompanied us for most of the drive, but the skies cleared a little when we got to New Orleans which also happened to be right at rush hour. Cars and trucks were everywhere,
all trying to get home from a long day at work I’m sure, and Eric had to maneuver the large truck with boat and trailer attached through the jumble. Kudos to Eric, because I know I would have wrecked for sure! We emerged from rush hour congestion and kept driving to the rehab center. We drove and drove….and drove—the building is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, but we finally found it! The area was gated, so once convincing the guard that we were supposed to be there and were expected, we were granted entrance into the park.
Above, Doctor Shane Boylan weighs a sea turtle at the Audubon Nature Institute’s rehabilitation facility. To the right, he prepares to help a kemp's ridley sea turtle. (Photo courtsey of Connie Merigo, New England Aquarium)
Below, Dolphins swim next to oil booms at Petit Bois Island in Mississippi on June 4, 2010
(photo courtsey flickr, deepwaterhorizonresponse)
To say the center is amazing is an understatement at best! All of the hard work crews from across the United States (our vet, Shane Boylan included) are putting into helping these animals is immediately evident when you walk through the doors. There were more tanks than I could count with over 100 turtles being helped. One of the staff there said they were bringing in 10 new turtles a day. We were also able to see a dolphin that was being housed there temporarily. The dolphin’s condition was completely unrelated to the oil but he needed help none the less. We were told the male dolphin had pneumonia, lung worms and stomach worms—all of which he was receiving treatment for. When Eric and I visited, he had a healthy appetite and was eating mackerel, taking his medications and even playing with a hoo-la-hoop and noodle the staff had tossed in his tank. One of the vets helping at the facility mentioned that this dolphin did not seem to like turning right—quirky behavioral trait maybe? No one knew at this point.
After unloading the net that had brought us to the facility in the first place, Eric and I were pleasantly surprised by the CNN truck that pulled into the parking lot. I was probably a little more excited than Eric when I learned Anderson Cooper was coming to interview the Louisiana Strandings Coordinator, Michelle Kelly, who seemed to be running the show at the rehab center. Mr. Cooper arrived but we needed to get back on the road, so Eric and I did not stay to watch the interview in action. Still, after a long day of rain and driving, this was a bit of a treat for me.