Last week I witnessed something truly amazing: the release of a rehabilitated sea turtle. The Gulfarium, a local aquarium, has a special turtle care program. The turtle I saw had recovered from pneumonia (I didn’t know turtles could get pneumonia!), and was now healthy enough to return to life on the ocean’s currents, maybe even returning to the Emerald Coast to lay her eggs.

sea turtle, florida

It was quite bright on Henderson Beach State Park, where the release was to take place. The white sand reflected the sun and was almost blinding, though the contrast between the sand and the aquamarine Gulf waters was spectacular. A large crowd had arrived to witness the release, forming two lines that extended into the sea. Others walked along the waves, or set up their multicolored beach chairs and umbrellas. We waited.

Suddenly, a beach truck rumbled into view, the flatbed holding a large loggerhead sea turtle. She was surrounded by Gulfarium staff in bright t-shirts, a blue and white towel over her head to keep her calm. Even when they removed the towel she seemed serene, surveying the scene around her.

sea turtle, florida

It took multiple staff to lift her gently to the sand, and then she was off, hurrying as only a turtle could to the Gulf in front of her. The crowd cheered wildly, applauding and snapping photos while she was in view. Using her powerful flippers she practically motored to the waves, and in moments she was gone, submerged before completely disappearing.

The whole thing had lasted only a few moments, but her departure is burned in my memory. Something felt so right about her release, the return of  a creature to her rightful home. Cheers to the Gulfarium for their turtle care program, their educational efforts, and for all future turtle releases!

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