Myrtle the Turtle returns to her home: the big tank at the New England Aquarium

The queen of New England Aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank has returned to her throne. Or, in Myrtle the green sea turtle’s case, to the waters of the newly refurbished 20,000-gallon Caribbean coral reef exhibit.

Though the tank doesn’t officially open until July 1, aquarium divers have been slowly but surely adding 2,000 animals from nearly 200 species that will call the giant tank home, aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse said.

Early this morning, 550-pound Myrtle was hoisted from her temporary home in the penguin pool at the base of the tank, which had been under construction. After doctors examined her and gave her a clean bill of health, she was placed into a box, lowered into the tank, and slipped into the water by two divers.

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Once Myrtle got her bearings, she swam through the tank to inspect her new surroundings. Halfway through the 90-year-old’s first lap through the reef’s colorful new corals and swim paths, Myrtle encountered Retread, the 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle. After facing each other quietly, LaCasse said Myrtle reached out with her right front flipper and tossed the smaller turtle aside.

“With that imperious and dominant gesture, Aquarium staff knew that the ancient sea turtle would be fine,” LaCasse said. “Now all she needs to do is find the best nap location on the re-configured reef and train the divers to feed her on demand.”

The iconic spiral walkway hugging the tank is now open to the public, LaCasse said. Over the next few weeks, visitors can watch divers add anywhere from 50 to 100 fish to the tank per day as the animals become acquainted to their remodeled four-story home.