Sea turtles returned to ocean

Green sea turtles Grace and Swash squirm their way to the surf on Friday.

Three more sea turtles got a hand home Friday, with the usual horde of admirers cheering them on.

Two green sea turtles and a rare Kemp’s ridley were released on the beach at Isle of Palms County Park. The releases bring the total number of threatened or endangered sea turtles successfully treated at the South Carolina Aquarium to 198 in 16 years of operation. In that time, the dune-nesting turtles — primarily the loggerhead — have become beloved ambassadors of the coast. When an injured turtle is released after treatment at the aquarium, hundreds of people crowd the beach to watch.

The facility has been operating at capacity and injured or sick turtles keep arriving as the nesting season begins to wind down. A $5 million expansion of the facility is underway on the aquarium’s main floor and will have visitor observation windows and access. Donations to the sea turtle rescue program currently are being matched up to $100,000.

For more information about the turtles or the program, go to scaquarium.org. If you find a sick or injured sea turtle, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Sea Turtle Hotline at 1-800-922-5431

Reach Bo Petersen at 843-937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.