Back in January this never seemed possible. Three Boynton Beach lifeguards spotted the turtle, lolling grotesquely on his side, just off Oceanfront Park. Tom Mahady, David Saunders and chief lifeguard John Bebensee launched a Jet Ski rescue and hauled the turtle back to shore.
Mahady held on to the loggerhead using an improvised cross-chest carry on a small trailer behind the Jet Ski.
The loggerhead was swollen, covered with barnacles, exhausted, near death. Still, the lifeguards had to restrain it from struggling back into the sea.
Within an hour, a state wildlife officer took the severely injured animal to SeaWorld in Orlando, which treats 40 to 50 turtles each year. The program is paid for by Anheuser-Busch, SeaWorld's parent company.
Jenny Albert, an assistant supervisor at SeaWorld, determined that the turtle had swallowed a 2-inch fishing hook and yards of fishing line. The hook poked a hole through the turtle's esophagus and the fishing line wrapped around his intestines. He was ridden with infections from his injuries.
Albert was pleased by the speed of his recovery. Six months is a more likely time period; plenty in his condition don't make it at all.
The young loggerhead, which is about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, plumped up nicely in SeaWorld's care from 85 pounds to 100.
Though they try not to name animals, he somehow got the nickname Hook. They call him "he," even though they did not determine his gender, which cannot be known without surgery and does not become apparent until the turtle grows larger and males develop a distinctive oversized tail.
His age, based on observation, is under 20 years. His potential life span could be 100 years, offering many chances to reproduce.
Loggerheads are the most commonly spotted turtles on the Atlantic coast of Florida.
Thousands of females nest onshore in the Southeastern United States in the summer.
But they are classified as a threatened species and protected by state and federal law.
Hook now wears two numbered tags so naturalists can identify him next time he turns up.
A small knot of well-wishers, television cameramen and city workers closed in around the van as two SeaWorld workers brought the turtle out. The turtle responded to the attention by urinating vigorously, a common reaction to being handled.
"We're lucky that's all he did," said Albert, the SeaWorld supervisor.
After a pause, the SeaWorld crew wrapped the loggerhead in an improvised soft carrying case and lugged him down to the shore.
When they freed him from his nylon swaddling, he lumbered into the surf and headed southeast, exactly as released sea turtles are supposed to do.
"He's going for it, he's happy," one of the spectators said.
In the cosmic scheme of things, it's not just one turtle. It's the future of his kind, Albert said.
"So many are not making it, so many are washing up on the shore, it's nice to get one back out there."