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'Johnny' Back on Turtle Island After Three-Year European Adventure

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A Kemp's ridley sea turtle nicknamed Johnny by its European caretakers is back home in the waters off his namesake Turtle Island after a three-year sojourn through Europe, ABC News reports.

It all started in 2008, when little Johnny, then a newly hatched babe, was minding his own business, most likely floating on a clump of sargassum (brown seaweed) in the Gulf of Mexico. Newborn, growing baby turtles float on mini-rafts of the stuff while they're getting big enough to swim the long distances, said Tony Tucker, program manager for the Mote Marine Laboratory Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program in Sarasota, to ABC.

However, like the famous three-hour-tour travelers who ended up on Gilligan's Island, Johnny never made it back to the Gulf. Grabbed by the current, his raft got sucked into the Gulf Stream instead, and the turtle tyke was rescued in The Netherlands, Tucker said. The endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle was frigid and would not have survived much longer in the icy ocean, according to

“Its little sargassum clump got swept away by the current,” said Tucker, one of 300 people who attended Johnny's release back into his home waters off Sarasota, Florida, on December 27. “It took the wrong turn as the current spun off.”

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The turtle's caretakers at the Rotterdam Zoo, his first stop, dubbed him Johnny. Next was a stint at the Oceanario de Lisboa aquarium in Portugal and then about three years in rehab at Zoomarine in Portugal, where the surname "Vasca da Gama," the country's legendary explorer, was appended to "Johnny" in deference to his travels.

Once Johnny was strong enough to survive on his own in the Gulf of Mexico, he was caught in currents of a different sort: the red tape of international law, which strictly governs the transport of endangered species. Read about the rest of Johnny's travails, and the happy ending, at ABC News.

Johnny's journey isn't over. The 68-pound, 23-inch-long turtle still must swim across the Gulf to the shallow waters where his kind are wont to feed. The Mote Marine Laboratory is tracking him.