Volunteers with Hunting Island State Park's Friends of Hunting Island sea turtle conservation project have helped rescue plenty of sea turtles.
But Thursday's rescue was special: A loggerhead sea turtle — a female attempting to nest — was stuck in a hole in the "boneyard."
That's how volunteer specialist Buddy Lawrence refers to the part of the Hunting Island beach that's mostly covered with fallen trees.
This sea turtle was just doing what her kind does best in the summer: looking for a decent nesting spot.
"There are already four successful nests in the same area," said Carol Corbin, Friends of Hunting Island communications director.
In fact, there are nests in the boneyard every year.
"But this particular turtle was just unlucky," Corbin said.
First crawl: a bust.
Second crawl: another bust.
On the third attempt, which should have been the charm, the turtle became trapped in a hole created by the downed trees.
And she was in there good.
At about 7 a.m. Thursday, a Friends volunteer found her. Turtles nest in the dark, Lawrence said, so she likely had been stuck for several hours.
"You could easily have walked by and never seen her," he said, adding that if the turtle had been stuck for longer, she likely would have overheated and died.
In 18 years of working with the project and rescuing sea turtles, he said, he'd never seen one in a fix like this.
"She had wedged herself under one of the trees," Lawrence said. "She couldn't go forward. She couldn't go back."
Fully grown loggerhead sea turtles can weigh up to 350 pounds. Lawrence said this turtle was more than 3 feet long and definitely more than 200 pounds, so the rescue took some work and more than a little thought.
For a second, cutting the trees seemed like the only solution.
"When I first looked at it, I thought we were gonna have to get a chain saw," he said.
Two other volunteers helped Lawrence by digging the sand from beneath the turtle so they could lift her up and over the tree.
She wasn't injured, so once she was freed, there was just one thing left to do.
"She fought us at first ... she didn't know what we were doing," Lawrence said. "But once she saw the ocean, she just went right to it. We didn't have to touch her."
Check out the video of the turtle making her way back to the water.
There are Friends volunteer teams surveying the Hunting Island beach every morning to ensure the protection of sea turtle nests, Lawrence said. The teams also patrol the boneyard area, even at high tide, when turtles are less likely come onto the beach.
Lawrence has a good feeling about Thursday's loggerhead rescue.
"We had a nest this morning where she crawled under the tree," he said on Friday.
It's likely that the successful sea turtle nest found belongs to the same turtle volunteers rescued.
"She looked like she really wanted to nest," Lawrence said. "She finally found a good spot."