3 sea turtles released on IOP

(Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (AP/WCIV) - The South Carolina Aquarium released three sea turtles after their treatment at the aquarium's hospital.

The three were released on Wednesday on the beach at the Isle of Palms.

They included Splinter, a loggerhead caught by a SC Department of Natural Resources research vessel in late May with what appeared to be a large splinter in its rear flipper. The splinter turned out to be the bill of a swordfish. The bill was removed by surgery.

Raker, a green sea turtle, washed up in Myrtle Beach on a cold day last April. It suffered from the cold, a shell infection and dehydration. Turtle Rescue officials said he was the first local stranding of the season.

The third turtle is Sutton, a Kemp's ridley that was stunned by the cold off New England last January and brought south to the aquarium for treatment.

Sea Turtle Rescue Program Manager Kelly Thorvalson said the numerous turtle release events are never something she gets tired of doing.

"This is the culmination of a lot of efforts from a lot of partners and volunteers and staff, she said. "And this is what we're here for."

It's something the crowd never gets tired of seeing either. A huge audience gathered on the beach and in the water to cheer on the three turtles as they made their way to their new home.

"There's something really special about seeing these animals enter the ocean," said Thorvalson. "They're ancient and they're just really stoic animals and after beating these illnesses that brought them close to death, watching them re-enter the ocean is quite a sight."

Turtle releases aren't the only time the public can see the efforts of the Sea Turtle Rescue Program. Turtle Hospital tours are given at the South Carolina Aquarium every day at noon and again at 2 p.m.