Loggerhead returned to deep ocean aboard sports boat

John Hill of Wadmalaw Island helps release Pointer, a young loggerhead turtle, in warm Gulf Stream waters after giving it a lift in his boat Tuesday.

A 66-foot-long sports fishing yacht with radar and GPS navigated heavy fog to release a patient that needed the ride.

Pointer, a young loggerhead turtle, was released to the open ocean Tuesday after treatment at the South Carolina Aquarium. Wadmalaw Island resident John Hill and his captain, David Redd, carried Pointer and aquarium staff on an hour-and-a-half trip to the warm Gulf Stream despite the fog, in what has become a regular going-the-extra-mile by the aquarium volunteer.

Sea turtles can’t be released from shore when waters dip below 70 degrees.

The trip was made by instruments except when they arrived at the release site. “All of a sudden the fog went away,” Hill said. They eased the turtle over the rail and watched it zoom off “at 100 mph,” he said. “It’s great stuff, isn’t it?”

Pointer is a young loggerhead turtle that was found in May lethargic, with a front flipper partly gone, in the water near Bay Point near Beaufort. In treatment at the aquarium it quickly began taking food such as blue crabs and eating hungrily. It was rambunctious enough to bite at the hands of staff as they injected medicines.

It joins a number of turtles with lost or amputated flippers released by the aquarium that tracking demonstrated have thrived. Pointer is the 32nd turtle returned to the ocean this year after treatment, in what sea turtle rescue manager Kelly Thorvalson called a banner year for releases, the number of turtles admitted and the size.

The loggerhead is a mammoth that weighs 300 pounds as an adult. It’s one of the beloved creatures of the coast.

There are seven species of sea turtles found across the world, and all of them are considered endangered or threatened. The turtles remain among the most mysterious of sea creatures. They spend nearly all their lives in the ocean and nobody really knows how many are out there.

Few hatchlings survive to adulthood. They face natural and man-made threats including boat strikes — said to kill or injure more than one in every four turtles. The second leading cause is disease, and that is becoming more and more troubling for caregivers and biologists.

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

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