The original photo of the turtle stack, taken from the Canal Path.

Jack and Rose “flying” at the bow of the Titanic. Baby and Johnny practicing lifts in the lake in the movie “Dirty Dancing.” The tower of turtles from the cover of “Yertle the Turtle” by Dr. Seuss.

These are some of the images brought to mind by a photo of three turtles taken in late May on the Rappahannock Canal in downtown Fredericksburg that has since attained global recognition.

The photo, snapped by Fredericksburg resident Kelly Bricker on her iPhone on May 27, shows the turtles stacked on top of each other, each with legs outstretched and head uplifted.

“They’re not just stacked, they’re doing it in style,” said Kevin Brown, who administers the Facebook group “On the Fredericksburg Va Trails,” where Bricker originally shared the photo.

“It just was such a funny thing to see,” said Bricker, who lives five minutes away from the canal. “I’m on the canal all the time and we see turtles pretty much every time, but these ones were definitely out of the ordinary.”

Brad Lamphere, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Mary Washington, said turtles enjoy basking on dry things in water.

“Sometimes the dry thing is another turtle,” he said. “I’ve seen a double-decker before, but not a triple.”

Bricker posted the picture to the Facebook page on May 27 with the caption, “I’ve seen a lot of wildlife this spring but this one takes the cake.”

Since then, the post has been shared more than 100,000 times, has been turned into multiple viral memes and has brought global attention to Fredericksburg, Brown said.


A selection of memes created from the original photo.

“After the stacked turtles photos [were] shared around the world, I received hundreds of requests from people in every continent in hundreds of cities and countries asking to join our local [Facebook] group where the photos were originally posted,” Brown said.

He keeps a list of every place a request comes from. So far, it includes cities and towns in Sri Lanka, Suriname, Honduras, Bolivia, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Canada, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Indonesia, Chile, Egypt, Guyana, Argentina, Australia, Iraq, Bangladesh, Italy, Burma, Vietnam, Greece, France and Nigeria—and 31 U.S. states.

Brown said that when he first started getting requests to join the group from people in other countries, he wondered if the page had been hacked.

“Then one of the requests said something about the turtles and I went, wow, they’re responding to the turtle photo,” he said.

Brown estimates that the photo has garnered “over a million, if not millions” of views.

On June 14, in commemoration of “what might be the most famous nature photo ever taken in Fredericksburg, Va.,” Brown presented Bricker with an enlarged and framed version of her turtle photo.

City Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw was there for the presentation, which was held on the bridge near where Bricker first saw the dancing reptiles.

Greenlaw thanked Bricker for bringing attention to “what has become one of the most valuable assets the city has”—its trails.

“Right between [Interstate 95] and [U.S. 1], two of the busiest roads in the United States, you can be here seeing turtles, seeing something that’s really apart from urban life,” Greenlaw said.

Bricker said she is planning to create a collage of Fredericksburg nature photos on a wall in her house, where the famous turtles can be featured prominently.

“I just love the trail so much,” she said. “It’s amazing how much wildlife there is. Every day, you’re guaranteed to see something.”

Adele Uphaus–Conner:




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