The two majestic loggerhead sea turtles were dead, and nothing could change that. Like dozens of their kind, they'd succumbed in the ocean and washed up on Chesapeake Bay beaches, a major concern for marine biologists.

But two researchers had a crazy idea: What if they could bring the giants back to life, so to speak. David Kaplan, a professor at the College of William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and Bianca Santos, a graduate student there, went to work. They stuffed their body cavities with flotation material, stuck them back in the water and followed their drift in the hopes of finding where loggerheads are encountering the numerous things that are killing them.

The scientists didn't laugh madly. No electricity flashed between poles in a lab. But make no mistake, some horror was involved. "It's gruesome," said Santos. "It's not the prettiest of topics. But overall it's been positive."

They call them Frankenturtles because they look like monsters -- zombies with eyes missing and mouths shut tight. Their bodies at launch were still thawing out from the freezer at the Virginia Aquarium's Stranding Response Program, which collected the two specimens after beachcombers spotted them. Two weeks later, the mission to give their lives purpose is going "pretty well," Santos said.