New England Aquarium biologists released 14 endangered and threatened sea turtles into the warm, Florida surf late Monday morning.

That’s after a marathon road trip that started on Earth Day in Boston and ended just south of Jacksonville, where rescuers released the 10 large loggerheads and four Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. 

The release happened between storms on the beach sand of Little Talbot Island State Park. Once placed on the sand, each turtle slowly and clumsily made its way back into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in more than four months.

Watch: Sea Turtle Release Video

The turtles stranded on Cape Cod beaches last November and December due to severe hypothermia after failing to migrate south. All the turtles also had other life-threatening medical conditions, such as pneumonia and emaciation, that required months of rehab at the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA, just south of Boston.

loggerhead sea turtle
Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)

The turtles were driven to Florida as ocean temperatures off Massachusetts are still in the low 40s. Sea turtles prefer water temperatures in the 70s, and north Florida was the closest location with waters that warm. The turtle caravan included the dedicated and talented New England Aquarium staff and volunteers who had brought all of these turtles back from near-death.

In the late autumn of 2017, the Aquarium and its rescue partner, the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, rescued and treated nearly 300 live sea turtles. In their 25-year joint effort, their work has resulted in the release of more than 2,000 endangered and threatened sea turtles in populations that have been steadily recovering.

rescuers lug loggerhead sea turtle in kennel
An epic overnight road trip delivered 14 rescued sea turtles from Massachusetts to a warm Florida beach.
rescuer holds kemps ridley turtle
Julika Wocial holds a Kemp's ridley sea turtle before release.
sea turtles crawling into ocean
A rescuer watches as two loggerhead sea turtles crawl toward the ocean.