The Florida Aquarium released one loggerhead and three green sea turtles back in the general area where they were rescued.
As the waves crashed into the shore of Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area in Flagler Beach, a subadult loggerhead turtle named Jupiter scurried down the sand and propelled himself into the water.
Four turtles who were rescued locally were released back into the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, July 18, after a few months of rehabilitation at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.
Jupiter, who weighs 75 pounds, and the three juvenile green sea turtles Enterprise, Canaveral and Satellite, have names that were derived from a combination of space and Florida themes.
"None of those animals had any injuries that were too terrible, so we were able to rehab them pretty fast, which is exciting," Florida Aquarium Senior Sea Turtle Biologist Rachel Thomas said.
The turtles were rescued in February and April of this year, ranging in location from the Daytona and New Smyrna Beach area, to Vilano Beach.
When Jupiter was rescued, he was a little cold, Thomas said.
"When they get pushed up on the beach, their body temperature drops because the air temperature's so cool," she said.
All the turtles were found with cold-stunning and other debilitating effects, including low red blood cell count, low blood sugar and a variety of infections.
Enterprise received initial triage at The Whitney Laboratory in Marineland, before rehabilitation at the Florida Aquarium.
Thomas noted that it's typically good practice to bring the turtles back to the general area of where they were rescued.
"It's the best part of the job — for sure," Thomas said. "You see these animals go from really weak and sick and barely moving, like Jupiter, when he first came in, barely moved at all, to practically crawling out of the cart before we put him in the water. So, it feels really good to be able to turn these animals into the wild where they can do the most good for their populations, because all species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered."
A small crowd that gathered watched the release with pure joy, including Palm Coast resident Kelley Schultz, who started diving 41 years ago at age 20.
"It never gets old when you see a turtle," Schultz said. "They're just so pretty underwater; they're friendly underwater."
Schultz considers sea turtles to be her favorite animal; she even has a design of one on her phone case, which could be proudly seen as she recorded the release.
"It brought tears to my eyes," Schultz said.