Briar has been returned to the sea.

Hundreds came to the Isle of Palms Tuesday to watch South Carolina Aquarium staff release the endangered loggerhead turtle into the wild.

Briar, a young adult female, was rehabilitated at the aquarium after cataract surgery.

Animal Eye Care of the Lowcountry performed the operation.

"The crowds are very excited to come out here today to participate in this," said Dr. Anne Cook, of Animal Eye Care.

Briar is being released despite the potential limits of her eyesight after the surgery - a first for the aquarium. Loggerheads' prey tends to be slow moving or attached to something stationary, so less than perfect eyesight seemed worth the risk, according to aquarium staff. An egg-laying female, like Briar, could help restore the threatened population.

Briar's vision had improved enough that she could catch live crabs in the rehabilitation tank, according to staff. The once-emaciated turtle, which washed ashore on Myrtle Beach last year, now weighs 182 pounds.

"Any time they can release one of these turtles, it is a huge success," Cook said. "It was a challenging experience for all of us, but a fantastic outcome."

Bo Petersen contributed to this story. He can be reached at 937-5744.