Sure, cold stunning is no fun for a sea turtle. It's like hypothermia and it can kill.
But in this case, you have to love the ambulance.
Six rare Kemp's ridley turtles and an unusual green-loggerhead turtle hybrid bummed a ride to Charleston on Sunday on a million-dollar jet with leather seats, reading lights and adjustable lumbar supports.
The reptiles will complete rehabilitation at the South Carolina Aquarium and be returned to the ocean here.
A jet? After a migration trip like that, they might not want to go back in the ocean. Mason Holland, Eclipse Aerospace chief executive and a Charleston resident, laughs at the idea.
"Yeah, they're going to enjoy the ride, if they don't overtake the plane," he said prior to the arrival.
The Eclipse 500 is a new-age, lightweight jet capable of cruising at more than 430 mph. Because it's light, it uses only about a fourth the fuel of a typical jet, so "it's as close to green as you can get with a jet," Holland said.
The six-seater is leather upholstered, but sorry turtle, you're out of luck. The seats are slid to the back of the cabin to load cargo. The reptiles rode in crates.
The turtles were among 34 rescued in December when the waters cooled off Cape Cod, Mass. They're all juveniles, and the north end of Cape Cod is tricky for turtles to navigate as they migrate south for the winter, especially the younger ones, said Tony LaCasse of the New England Aquarium. Like alligators, turtles slow down as the water cools, get lethargic and then cold stunned.
They had been rehabilitating at the aquarium since they were brought in, but had to be moved. It's seal season, and the aquarium is bracing for a large number of rescues infected with a new influenza that's ravaging harbor seals there.
Luckily, the South Carolina Aquarium sea turtle hospital was treating only four turtles after a series of releases, well under its capacity, said Kelly Thorvalson, sea turtle rescue program manager.
"This is just looking out for turtles and for each other," she said.
The flashy jet flight was just luck. Rachel Brennan volunteers at the aquarium, and her husband, Tim Brennan, is a pilot who asked around to find someone who could make the flight. The jet was up there for customer demonstration rides and due back in Charleston.
"It was pretty fortuitous," Holland said. "A sea turtle rescue is a cool thing to be part of. Some people needed to get something done, and we were able to pitch in and help."
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744.