Rare white sea turtle a bright spot

Nimbus, the rare white loggerhead at the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, is living up to its name. Defined as a radiant light or shining cloud, Nimbus won out over hundreds of other name suggestions because it seemed fitting for the tiny sea turtle’s rare pale coloring.

But as the unusual reptile enchants visitors, it also serves as a beacon for heightened public interest in sea turtles. The five sea turtle species found in North Carolina waters are endangered or threatened.

Nimbus was brought to the Aquarium for care on Aug. 11, 2010, weak and smaller than the average loggerhead hatchling.  it turned up when a hatched-out Pine Knoll Shores nest was excavated for baby turtles left behind. Hampered by a cleft palate, it had to be coaxed into eating and lagged behind other hatchlings in its growth rate initially. Nimbus also has some vision impairment. But in spite of all that, Nimbus appears to be thriving as it approaches its third birthday.

A genetic deviation similar to albinism causes Nimbus’ unusual coloring. As the turtle has grown, its nearly white skin and shell have acquired a golden tinge in places. The carapace near the tail has turned slightly darker, though still remaining much lighter than normal coloring for a loggerhead.

Nimbus is on exhibit near the stern view of the Living Shipwreck exhibit, across from the Gift Shop and near the new Sea Turtle Rescue exhibit.

The turtle is something of a rock star at the Aquarium — especially with visiting school groups. In addition to its advancement of the sea turtle conservation message, Nimbus could become a symbol of individuality. The Aquarium Gift Shop t-shirt for kids features Nimbus and the advice, “be different.”