Although I have been to Key West a few times, I had never made the journey out to see Fort Jefferson. This to me was the highlight of this trip. Located 70 miles to the west of Key West along the Florida Straits lies Dry Tortugas National Park. A cluster of 7 small islands where the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and the Florida Straits all converge. Originally documented in 1513 by Ponce de Leon, they caught 160 sea turtles there and subsequently referred to the islands as the "Tortugas" (turtles). They are called Dry owing to the absence of surface fresh water on the island.
In 1825 the U.S. Government built a lighthouse to help steer ships through the dangerous waters. It was then decided it was a very strategic location for defense of the coastal waters. They decided to build a fort on one of the islands. This was against the advice of Commodore David Porter, who previously told the government that the islands were uninhabitable, and the islands were just sand with no bedrock foundation to hold a fort. So the government built it anyway. (sound familiar)
Here are links to the Wikipedia site, and the National Park Service site, for additional information on the history of this fascinating location.
Due to its isolation and limited access, Dry Tortugas National Park is probably the least visited of all the National Parks. It is a 2 1/2 hour boat ride each way, or a 45 minute Seaplane ride. Private boats can anchor and visit, and they do allow primitave camping overnight on the beach outside the fort. We took the licensed private charter boat. This is an all day trip. Upon arrival you are given a tour of the fort. Lunch is provided on the tour boat, You are then allowed to explore on your own, swim, or snorkle with the provided gear. After the group tour I went off on my own and took the shots posted here.
Standing on the roof of the fort and looking at the endless aqua green waters and brilliant blue skies made me feel very small. It was not hard to imagine how harsh the living conditions would have been in this remote place during the civil war era. It was amazing how clean and fresh the air was here. Although the sunlight was extremey harsh, I was able to get some pretty good photographs of the place. The weather was perfect on the day of our visit, but I can only imagine how scary it would have been to ride out a major hurricane here. Although the fort is massive in size, the ongoing assault of the elements and hurricanes has taken a heay toll on the structure. It is an ongoing repair process to keep the fort sound.
I can only imagine how awe inspiring the sunrises and susets would be out here. Photographing the weather and skies would be a real treat if you could spend enough time here. Only the National Park Service Rangers live there rotating time on and off the island. I did some snorkling off the beach and saw quite a selection of marine life in the short time I was in the water.
If you ever plan to visit Key West, I strongly urge you to make the trip out here to vist Fort Jefferson. This is one of those places that very few people get to see in person. I have only touched on a few of the facts and history associated with the fort. Not knowing when I may get back, I really tried to capture some photos that when shown to people would make them want to visit.
Well that wraps up Key West week. I hope you enjoyed the photos and commentary.
I am heading down to Ft. Myers, and Sanibel Island Florida tomorrow for a week.. Planning on a lot of photography of birds, beaches, and sunsets. I am hoping to post some shots while I am down there, but I will be working off my antique HP laptop.