Leaving the States

Leaving the States

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dry Turtles

Just to warn you, I'm about to get a bit nerdy here. Let's talk about a little grouping of just a few small islands out in the middle of nowhere. The Dry Tortugas. What is the significance- you may ask? Well apart from the fact that  this is now the farthest spot i will have sailed to in my life, this spot is more importantly, and quite surprisingly, very significant in maritime history.

Discovered in 1513 by Ponce de Leone, these islands were found to have 2 safe harbor, deep water anchorages (wich is a BIG deal for mariners, especially  in the Gulf here where there are notoriously sketchy storms and no other land to seek refuge for miles and miles) as well as TONS of sea turtles inhabiting the beaches. So he chose to mark them down on his new charts as Las Tortugas (translation- The Turtles). Now,  He didn't name them this because he thought turtles were cute and he had just gotten bored of coming up with clever names for islands. Rather, knowing that the Tortugas are located right in the hook of the current now called the Gulf Stream, so any one coming/going north or east would be passing right by and most likely needing to anchor for a bit and what do crews on long journeys need? Food. Sea turtles can be kept alive for up to a month rolled on their back on a deck is you just splash some salt water on their tummies a couple time a day....and Turtle is delicious! SO, marking down a location as "THE TURTLES" then would have been like marking "Whole Foods" on a hiking map in Boulder, CO.
Later the charts were switched to read "Dry Tortugas" to indicate that, alothough this is a safe anchorage and has food, there is no fresh water available!!

Well once the U.S. aquired these islands we knew their nautical significance in gaining control of nvigation to the Gulf of Mexico but also realized their specific importance in both protecting our Mississippi River trade way and our National Deffense. The decision was made to capitalize on this strategic advantage by fortifying the Tortugas in 1846. Thus began the construction of our nation's largest Fort ever built......in the middle of the ocean....on a tiny island...  Kind of crazy but Oh so very cool!!! Fort Jefferson!

I could go on and on about all of the outstand fact i have learned about this amazing Fort -and now National Park but i wont. If you are curious, never hesitate to reach out reader! Ask anything you'd like. Or, of course, you can research yourself Haha. However i WILL take a second to mention a couple of fun facts for you.

It took about 16million bricks along with tons upon tons of granite and concrete for construction.
The fort had the fire power to train minimum of 125 cannons (the Fort contained  at any location 360degrees around each firing at least once per min and firing up to 130lb. rounds as far as 3 miles with the force to still smash trough metal plated war ships.
Once the Civil war started and Slavery abolished the fort was used as a Union military prison for captured deserters.
Was the prison the Dr. Samuel Mudd (convicted of complicity in the assasination of president Lincoln for setting the broken leg of John Wilks Booth) who was eventally pardoned for assisted with getting the island's ocupants through several boughts of Yellow Fever.
Finaly, it was simply the most impenitrable Fort ever designed!

Having been abandoned by the military in 1874 the islands and the surrounding shoal are a National Park and protected wildlife refuge for a couple of species of birds who nest souly on Garden Key (the island with the fort on it). Side note: There are HUNDREDS of birds on the island and the NEVER stop singing.... I'll et you decide whether or not that would be an appealing circumstance to live with.

Well thats all for me right now. I've got a couple of fins and a snorkel and some coral heads calling my name!!

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