World champion leatherback wins Iron Turtle award


Deep Sea News is proud to present the Iron Turtle award in partnership with Conservation International and National Geographic. The official press release follows.

Academic judges from Deep Sea News have declared a 340 kg leatherback turtle named Cali to be this year’s Iron Turtle award winner in the Great Turtle Race 2009. The results are a surprise to race fans.

Cali, sponored by the Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, California is a small turtle compared to the larger, more experienced competitors in this year’s Great Turtle Race.  He fell behind in the > 6,000 km oceanic marathon, even failed to place, but strong performances in the diving competitions resulted in an overall victory for Cali; his coach, US Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau and all his supporters at Bullis are overjoyed.

Cali completed 148 dives longer than one hour, and he dove deeper than 800 m on five separate occasions during the marathon, thereby securing first and second place in these two events.  For comparison, the world record human free-diver, Sara Campbell, dove to a mere 96 m only one time and only for 3.5 minutes!

“Hats off to Sara Campbell of course, but these turtles are really built for long-lasting, deep dives” said Bryan Wallace, Conservation International scientist and Deep Sea News contributor. “Cali showed some remarkable ability in these events, especially in an impressively talented field.”

The Iron Turtle is a “triathlon” event consisting of the marathon race, the deep diving event, and the long diving event.  Pearl Jam’s turtle, Backspacer, won the gold in the marathon, followed by Seabiscuit and Nueva Esperanza for silver and bronze.  The scoring system used by Deep Sea News judges was based on USA Swimming rules, awarding 5 points to first place, 3 points to second, and 1 point to third place.

Deep Sea News blogger Peter Etnoyer said, “Our mission is to promote awareness of the deep-sea and the animals that live there. The Iron Turtle competition was the perfect way to be a part of the Great Turtle Race, and to celebrate these endangered turtles.”

Cali, an adult male leatherback, was unique among his competitors because when researchers from the Canadian Sea Turtle Network ( first found him prior to the Race, he was entangled in fishing gear. After the Canadians freed him, he was off to the races with the other turtles, but his ordeal is a reminder of the many threats that leatherbacks and other marine animals face in today’s oceans.

“Cali faced and survived a very serious threat that many of his turtle brethren fall victim to,” commented Roderic Mast of Conservation International, race co-organizer, “but he kept on swimming, like turtles always do, and even got a very prestigious award for his troubles.  Congratulations to all the turtles, their coaches, the staff, and the sponsors for making this year a truly “great” turtle race.”

A very special thanks to blogger Jason Robertshaw of for his design and contribution of the magnificent Iron Turtle Award.

8 Replies to “World champion leatherback wins Iron Turtle award”

  1. Sure glad I make a habit of checking out a website before using it with my students! Several of my elementary school classes have been cheering on turtles in the Great Turtle Race. I followed the link to this site to read about Cali’s success in the Ironman (Ironturtle?)competition and in bold print at the top of the page I find “SEX WEEK MAY 17TH – 23RD”. While I’m fully aware that deep sea sex does not fall within the bounds of pornography, I sure don’t want to have to explain that to the second graders !!

    Just an FYI.

  2. We at BCS are so proud of Cali!

    Just like our students who need to be able to learn, be proficient in and perform more than one skill at a time, Cali showed that he was able to swim, dive (deep & long!), and most of all, persevere!

    Yay, Cali!!!

  3. Cali is a ROCKIN’ turtle.

    @ Jan – I agree that’s awkward. We’re not used to having many second grade readers. As I understand it from Dr. M, SW will be innocently highlighting reproduction in marine species. At the same time the title is intentionally provocative, hoping to draw readers. Sorry about that. We probably could have planned that better.- Peter

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