Since 2002, Calypso, a three-flippered sea turtle, has been an icon and favorite animal at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. This past weekend, she passed away suddenly to the immense sadness of aquarium staff and visitors alike.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB) has seen many changes over the years—some exciting, some bittersweet, and some sad. The announcement that came on Monday afternoon of this week is an example of one of the sad changes that the venue and its staff experience occasionally. Calypso, the iconic three-flippered sea turtle who has enchanted visitors since the early 2000s, has passed away.

Calypso came to NAIB in 2002 as a rescue. She was stranded in the New England Sound, suffering from cold shock and an infected flipper. The infected flipper required amputation. While this procedure saved her life, it also meant that she could never resume the lifestyle she once knew. Most of the stranded animals that the aquarium helps to rescue are eventually released back to the wild. In fact, the aquarium celebrated its 250th successful animal release last spring. Many of these animals are cold-stunned turtles, who get transported to aquarium facilities, rehabilitated, and released. If they suffer any permanent injuries, as Calypso did, they will spend the rest of their lives in a facility rather than returning to their natural habitats.

For Calypso, that facility was NAIB, specifically the “ray tray,” a large open tank that she shared with rays and other fish. Her home was visible from above on the main level, as well as all of the above levels as visitors rode the moving walkways. Her home was also visible from below in an underwater viewing area. She could usually be seen gliding through the water or occasionally munching lettuce or other treats fed to her by the aquarium divers. The whole area of the venue exudes serenity, and the smooth motion of Calypso's 500-lb. figure flying gracefully through the water helped add to the calm ambiance.

When they posted about her death, the aquarium still did not know what caused it. Since she was a rescue, it's not clear exactly how old she was, though she has been at the aquarium for almost 20 years. Most sea turtles live between 30 and 50 years, though some have been documented to live more than 100 years. Calypso was in good health without any signs of disease or distress leading up to her death, according to the aquarium's statement.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We are deeply saddened to share that Calypso, our beloved green sea turtle, passed away unexpectedly Sunday night. Calypso came to the National Aquarium in 2002, after stranding in the Long Island Sound with an infected left flipper that was later amputated. Because of this life-saving procedure, Calypso was deemed non-releasable. For nearly 20 years, Calypso thrived at the Aquarium, growing from six pounds at stranding to nearly 500 pounds. Calypso was in good health throughout her life and displayed no clear signs of illness or distress in the days leading up to her death. At this time, her cause of death remains unknown. A full necropsy will be performed to help us gain further insights into what may have caused her sudden passing. Calypso will be profoundly missed by Aquarium staff, volunteers, and visitors alike. For years, Calypso has been an Aquarium icon who encapsulated the wonder of the ocean for the millions who had the opportunity to see her—and did the same for the staff who saw her daily. She has always inspired love, affection and deep respect. We thank you for your compassion and well wishes as we mourn her passing.

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Calypso was a favorite among visitors, and for many, an aquarium visit would be incomplete without spotting her. She will be greatly missed by staff, volunteers, and visitors alike, but her memory will live on as a reminder of all the good that an institution like the aquarium can do.

Do you have any fond memories of Calypso? Share them with us in the comments.