We once saw a small seal hitch a ride on a saildrone, but it was quite a surprise to open the Monday morning paper and see a turtle riding a saildrone like a windsurfer. That is, Fillmore the turtle, a character in Sherman’s Lagoon, a daily comic strip by artist and conservationist Jim Toomey. Sherman the great white shark lives in a lagoon off the fictional Kapupu Island with his friends Fillmore, Hawthorne the crab, and a dozen or so other characters inspired by the diverse underwater world of the South Pacific Ocean.
“The comic strip began as just a regular old gag-a-day, and then it evolved into storylines that last a week or two. I have an amateur interest in ocean conservation, and I started throwing in weird ocean facts and using strange animals and going to unusual places. I wanted to make it educational. I took on a few issues like plastic in the ocean, shark finning, and bottom trawling, and I got some really great response from readers,” said Toomey, who has been drawing the comic strip for some 25 years.
He typically comes up with his own storylines, though occasionally collaborates with groups like Pew Environment and Oceana, and he’s worked with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) on several occasions, in particular, with the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. This September, NOAA celebrated its 50th Anniversary, and for two weeks, Toomey worked to highlight as many unique aspects of NOAA as possible—the hurricane hunter airplane, satellites, weather prediction, and NOAA’s use of Saildrone uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs).
“As a boy, I loved NASA. NASA has a much more glamorous profile; it’s closer to what the public consumes as their entertainment—the moon, the hero, the whole world watching. NOAA doesn’t get the same attention that NASA does, but their work as it relates to weather, climate change, and human impacts on the environment is the most important thing we can be doing right now,” said Toomey.
Read the whole NOAA 50th anniversary series: Sherman’s Lagoon Friends Go on a NOAA-Themed Adventure
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Meet Artist, Conservationist, and NOAA Friend Jim Toomey, Creator of Sherman’s Lagoon,” noaa.gov, May 11, 2020
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Video: NOAA’s 50th Anniversary – A Salute from Sherman’s Lagoon,” noaa.gov, May 11, 2020