Janie Lackman is looking forward to a very specific moment Saturday morning -- the last "pop" of loggerhead sea turtle Skully's head before he disappears back into the ocean.
"It's amazing to see them get back out into the water," Lackman said.
Lackman, a volunteer with the Fripp Island-based Sea Turtle Stranding Network, and Mallory Dailey rescued Skully, 70-pound juvenile, from a sandbar in Skull Creek Inlet off Fripp Island after boating tourists spotted him in distress June 18.
The turtle was rehabilitated by the S.C. Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue program and is to be released Saturday. He will be released back into the wild along with two other turtles at 10 a.m. in Isle of Palms County Park, according to the aquarium. A green sea turtle named Crosby and a Kemp's ridley sea turtle named Parker also will be returned to the wild.
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Biologists discovered old wounds to Skully's shell, which were filled with marine leeches, according to the aquarium. Skully was also thin, lethargic, anemic and dehydrated.
The hospital used a freshwater bath to kill the leaches, then flushed the wound. Skully has also been given vitamins, antibiotics and other treatment.
"Skully is now back to optimal health and is ready for a return to the open ocean," according to a release from the aquarium.
Two other turtles rescued from Beaufort County around the same time as Skully are also recovering well, aquarium spokeswoman Kate Dittloff said.
Pluff and Miss Royal were both rescued June 20, in the marsh on Hilton Head and off-shore of Port Royal, respectively.
Lackman and Dailey both plan to be at the release party and have received permission to go behind the ropes and get up close with Skully before the release.
The last release Lackman attended was for Mama Pritchard in 2010. That turtle was rescued from Pritchards Island and also treated at the hospital. One of her nests was discovered this year on Pritchards, Lackman said.
Mama Pritchards nest has been one of several good signs this turtle season, Lackman said. The Fripp Turtle Team has identified 92 nests, which is well above previous years' counts.
The hatchling season is also extending into October, Lackman said. It normally wraps up in September.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.