Loggerhead turtle washes up in Connemara after ‘Nemo’-like epic

Sea turtle found in ‘cold shock’ after being swept on wrong current by Storm Barra

A rare loggerhead sea turtle which was discovered washed up on a Connemara beach in recent days has been brought to an aquarium in Galway for rehabilitation.

The turtle, an endangered species, was found on rocks on a beach on Muighinis, an island near Carna, by Siobhan Kennedy and Mark South while they were out walking on Wednesday.

The couple contacted the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, based in Kilrush, Co Clare, and later transported the turtle to the Galway Atlantaquaria where it is being cared for by staff.

The turtle, named "Macdara" by the couple after the local Connemara patron saint, is thought to have originated in tropical waters near the Canary Islands but was caught on the wrong current as a result of the recent Storm Barra and swept north to the Irish west coast.


“We actually thought she was dead when we found her first. She was on her back and we turned her over. She was alive but we knew she was unwell,” said Ms Kennedy.

She described the turtle’s journey as being similar to the loggerhead turtles depicted in the Pixar animated movie Finding Nemo who travel in ocean currents.

The turtle was found to be suffering from hypothermia and “cold shock” due to the colder Irish waters in the north Atlantic Ocean.

“Sometimes they get thrown out of the Gulf Stream in the wrong places. Once they are in that hypothermic state, they are totally out of it and just floating around,” said Ms Kennedy.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has recorded just 13 loggerhead turtles on Irish beaches since 2003. It said that it was common for turtles to be washed up after big storms.

“They get blown off course and because they are reptiles and they cannot regulate their body temperature,” said Sibéal Regan, the group’s education and outreach officer.

“They get cold shock or hypothermia and shut down. That is when we starting seeing turtles stranded on the Irish coastline.”

Ms Regan said that staff at the Galway aquarium were trying to stabilise the turtle but that it would take time as managing cold shock required a gradual increase in body temperature.

“It is still alive but they haven’t managed to bring up the body temperature to a stable degree. We are hoping in the next couple of days that it will,” she said.

In September, Aer Lingus transported a loggerhead turtle named Julius Caesar found washed up on a Donegal beach in 2019 back to the Canary Islands.

Ms Kennedy estimated that Macdara weighed between 40 and 50 kilogrammes. She and her boyfriend had to carry the turtle from the beach to their car to transport it to Galway.

“We never thought the back of our Skoda was some place we would put a turtle,” she said. “It was mad.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times