a group of people standing around a turtle on a beach
Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach and founder Richie Moretti team up with a dozen Papa Hemingway look-alikes to release ‘Papa.’

With three releases in seven days, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon had a busy week of returning beloved reptiles to their ocean homes. Following the release of “Tortie” on July 15, another juvenile green turtle, “Spook,” made her way back to the waters off Marathon’s Sombrero Beach on July 19 after 10 months of rehabilitation and treatment for fibropapillomatosis.

And on the 123rd anniversary of legendary writer Ernest Hemingway’s birth, around a dozen “Papa Hemingway” look-alikes helped to return endangered loggerhead turtle “Papa” back to his home in Keys waters on July 21.

Accidentally hooked by a fisherman on July 13, “Papa” was rescued by the Turtle Hospital with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard. After untangling the line and a few minor treatment procedures, “Papa” spent a mere eight days at the hospital before being cleared for release.

The 185-pound loggerhead was fitted with a satellite tracker and will be monitored as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual Tour de Turtles, a “race” following the long-distance migration of sea turtles over a three-month period. Online monitoring for tagged turtles is available at TourDeTurtles.org from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31.

Alex Rickert
Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.