JEKLYY ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — Hundreds have already signed up for a freezing dip in the frigid Atlantic Ocean on Jekyll this Saturday. The jump is in support of sea turtles, but there’s plenty of room for more.
The Second Annual Cold-Stunned Plunge is a fundraiser supporting the work of the Jekyll Island Authority’s Georgia Sea Turtle Center on behalf of the Jekyll Island Foundation.
The ice cold plunge gives participants the opportunity to feel a greater connection to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s work and mission and purpose of protecting sea turtles in our oceans.
During the winter, many sea turtles become entangled in sub-50 degree freezing water temperatures and the event not only allows attendees to experience what turtles feel when they dive into freezing waters, but donations raised at the event help with their chill -Stun rehabilitation and recovery.
“When you have such a drastic drop, you’re talking about cold sedation, or the reptilian version of hypothermia,” said Rachel Overmeyer, director of the rehabilitation program at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. “The same is true for humans, if they get too cold quickly, all of their heat goes to the center of their body to keep their vital organs functioning.”
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources typically receives sea turtles from the Georgia and North Florida areas stunned by cryogenics each year.
“First, depending on where they’re from, whether they’re from Georgia or Florida, the most important thing is to know their body temperature, and then we want to gently raise their body temperature,” Overmeyer said.
She continued, “If we increase it too fast, it can create a lot of physiological changes, like in their blood, and cause them to get even sicker, so cause a lot of stress and shock. So we usually raise her temperature by 5 degrees a day, that’s the most important thing. Then we also take care of the supporting care, i.e. blood tests, X-rays, diagnostics, wound care if there are wounds.”
Regarding why people should care about cold-stunned sea turtles, Overmeyer said, “We use them as an indicator of ocean health. So if your sea turtles aren’t doing well, it means something else further down the food chain in the ocean isn’t doing well.”
According to Kathryn Hearn, Marketing Communications Manager at the Jekyll Island Authority, more people signed up to jump in at this year’s Cold-Stunned Plunge than last year.
“We have already registered over 300 participants and that exceeds the number of participants we had the year before,” said Hearn. “We also take the day of registration. So online registration is closed tomorrow and then if you wake up on the 26th and you decide, you know, I really want to jump the Atlantic, you can register on the day.
The venue is 110 Ocean Way. The event times are from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The jump is at 9:30 sharp with an airhorn launch.
All ages are welcome, but children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult on the beach. Attendees will receive a commemorative t-shirt and enjoy photo ops with Scute C. Turtle, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s official mascot.