Sea turtles have nine lives too, or so it seems. Thanks to the quick-thinking of a bunch of seamen off the coast of Montauk, a sea turtle was saved from death by strangulation on Wednesday.
Sailboaters alerted the Coast Guard that one of the endangered species was wrapped up in fishing gear about two or three miles off the coast of at about 1:30 p.m.
officers were on their way to do some training when the call came in. They turned around the 47-foot motor lifeboat and headed around Montauk Point into the Atlantic Ocean.
Arriving at about 2 p.m., they found a large sea turtle on the water's surface. It's neck and front fins were wrapped in line and two buoys attached to a lobster trap, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Josh Garsik, of Port Jefferson, who was the coxswain.
The sea turtle was still managing to swim, at about 2 to 3 knots, but the buoys were preventing it from going deeper into the ocean, he said.
Garsik said they corraled the massive sea turtle — which was estimated to be 6 1/2 feet long and 4 feet wide. "We pulled him nice and gently to our boat," using the line, Garsik said.
They contacted the , and were given the greenlight to cut the line that was attached to the trap.
Hovering over the side of the boat, they went to work on carefully unraveling the line as the turtle thrashed about in the water. Others helped direct the untangling effort from the tower above.
A half-hour later, the sea turtle was free. "He was off and happy," Garsik said. "We helped the little guy." On a video taken from the tower, cheers could be heard as the turtle swam off completely free of the gear.
"It was a little difficult to get it all worked out," Garsik said, explaining that it was pulled around its neck pretty tightly. "We didn't want to strangle him and its hard to judge," he said.
Those helping to free the sea turtle were Firemen Oscar Kramp, of Miami, Firemen Robert Brown, of East Islip, Petty Officer 3rd Class Katie Sand, of Vermont, Petty Officer 2nd Class Izzy Velasquez, of Los Angeles, and Crew Seamen William Hanna, of Setauket.
Garsik had once responded to watch a sea turtle until rescuers arrived in Maine, but had never dealt with a sea turtle hands-on. "Normally, you don't see them that close to the shore. Normally, you don't see them on the surface much," he said.