Aquarium paddles out to a new milestone as 150th sea turtle is released into briny blue

One of the sea turtles to be released Tuesday in a milestone for South Carolina Aquarium.

Paddling its flippers into the surf Tuesday will be the 150th sea turtle to be rehabilitated and then released by the South Carolina Aquarium. It will be among five cold-stunned turtles to return to the ocean.

The milestone comes, suitably enough, 15 years after the unplanned turtle rescue hospital started with two veterinarians and a biologist around an impromptu operating table in the caverns of the still-unopened aquarium. They saved the life of a dying loggerhead turtle brought to them as a last hope.

From that rescue came a makeshift facility that now is in the process of becoming a $5 million, first-floor hospital and exhibit that will make the place primarily about sea turtles and the care of the cherished, threatened, native species of the Lowcountry.

Five rare Kemp’s ridleys and a green sea turtle will be released at Cape Canaveral, Fla., where surf waters are warm enough for their reentry this time of year. They were brought to the aquarium in November 2014, after being found among 150 sea turtles “cold-stunned” along the Massachusetts coast.

Cold stunning is like hypothermia and it can kill a sea turtle.

All seven species of sea turtles are considered endangered or threatened. The Kemp’s ridley is considered the most endangered.

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