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Navy sailor from Massey on counter-smuggling operations saves sea turtle in distress

Sailor First Class Coree Ranville is serving aboard the HMCS Calgary 

An area man assisted in the rescue of a sea turtle in distress May 4 while serving aboard HMCS Calgary.

Sailor First Class Coree Ranville grew up in Massey but attended St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Sudbury. Until mid-June, he is carrying out counter-smuggling patrols off of the coast of Oman, an Arab nation on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Ranville told Sudbury.com that in 2014 he joined the Raven program, which introduces Indigenous youth to the Canadian Armed Forces. After that, he joined the HMCS Griffon in Thunder Bay, and since 2016, has been stationed with HMCS Calgary.

The sea turtle rescue occurred at around 7:30 a.m. May 4, after one of the ship’s officers spotted the animal in distress.

The turtle was struggling helplessly in netting and other debris that had formed together after being adrift at sea. 

A small boat team was promptly dispatched and two boatswains spent 15 minutes delicately cutting the tangled mess of lines that had wrapped around the sea turtle’s body. 

Once freed, the turtle swam off to join other sea turtles that were circling the floating debris along with a large school of yellow tuna. 

One of the two men on the boat team was Ranville. 

He said he was surprised when he got his orders. 

“I’ve heard of other people on past deployments freeing turtles and I thought, well this is my turn to do it I guess,” Ranville said.

“At the time of the rescue, we were on Operation ARTEMIS conducting counter-smuggling and anti-terrorism operations. When I first got called to go in the RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat, the type of boat used in the rescue) I thought it was something related to that, and I was surprised to find out it was actually because of a turtle.”

Ranville said he tried to free the struggling turtle with his knife, got its neck free, and ran into some difficulty, so was spelled off by Sailor First Class Michael Sladic, who finished the job. He said the turtle looked OK, and didn’t seem hurt or anything once it was free. 

“It actually looked like it waved to us when it was taking off, it was pretty funny,” Ranville said.

He said his guess is that the turtle was there for a few days. “It was pretty tangled up,” he said. “When I got the neck free, I didn’t realize his tail and back fins were completely entangled.”

Ranville said the turtle was about a metre-and-a-half long. 

Being from Northern Ontario, “you see moose on the highway that are of course much bigger than that,” he said. “But actually getting up close and holding it — basically freeing a tangled animal — that’s pretty new for me.”

Ranville said he’d consider the sea turtle rescue a career highlight. HMCS Calgary is currently deployed on Operation ARTEMIS, patrolling Middle Eastern waters in order to conduct counter-smuggling operations.

The purpose of the mission is to seize narcotics and other illicit goods that are used to fund regional terrorist and criminal organizations. This work is done as part of Combined Task Force 150, a subsection of the multinational Combined Maritime Forces. HMCS Calgary has had several busts on its current operation, including the seizure of 1,286 kg of heroin – the largest heroin bust in CMF history.

HMCS Calgary is deployed on Operation ARTEMIS from April 15 until mid-June. On completion, it will sail to Australia and participate in Exercise TALISMAN-SABRE 21 with the United States, Australia, and other partners.