|Fort Jefferson '01|
Troop 7 took a fast boat two hours 70 miles west of Key West to discover the remains of an historic and isolated fort, once critical to the shipping lanes between New Orleans and the Eastern Seaboard. One famous inmate, Dr. Samuel Mudd, best known as the doctor who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, rose to the occasion when the company physician succumbed to an epidemic of yellow fever. After the civil war, the fort was completed with bricks made in the north, which is evident in the distinct color variation seen in the walls of the structure.
The Saturday we visited, all flags were flying at half mast in memory of the victims of the World Trade Center disaster in New York City on September 11, 2001.
Named the "Tortugas" for turtles, by Ponce de Leon, who arrived soon after Columbus, the name was later changed to "Dry Tortugas" to advise sailors of the lack of drinking water on these arid rock islands. As the preferred nesting grounds of gulls, terns and boobies, the desolate low lying sand dunes barely peak beyond the emerald sea, as waves steadily crash ashore on pristine beaches.
This unique environment has been designated a National Park in 1935 by Franklin Roosevelt, and a national marine sanctuary, with great efforts are underway to preserve the ecosystem while studying the effects of man's interaction with coral reefs. As we snorkeled the shallow reef areas, a stunning assortment of colorful fish, corals and invertebrate species are noted and appreciated. Later, we all discussed the various fish and marine life and talked about the importance of protecting this enviroment.
We may be among the last visitors allowed to visit this area if future plans to close large areas to public access are realized. We really appreciated all the time and effort that went into making this trip a wonderful adventure for kids and parents and would highly recommend this ocean adventure to others while the opportunity still exists.