February 19, 2018

A Ferry Trip to the Dry Tortugas

A Ferry Trip to the Dry Tortugas
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 19, 2018

On the second day of our Key West vacation, we took a ferry trip to the Dry Tortugas.  According to Wikipedia, "The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, located in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the Florida Keys about 67 miles west of Key West."

We took a ferry charter called the Yankee Freedom III.  It's a 110 foot catamaran that carries up to 175 passengers back and forth to The Dry Tortugas main island every day.

The ride lasted about 2 hours there and the boat drove pretty fast.  They reminded us to take sea sick medication before riding because there definitely was the penchant for that.

That cloud in the air you see over the island contains some of the more than 300 species of birds that have been identified at one point on the island.   This is a great resting point for them during migrations.

Fort Jefferson is housed on the island.  According to this site,  the Dry Tortugas currently possess one of the richest concentrations of shipwrecks in North America. It is also because of these large reefs surrounding the Tortugas that the U.S. was able to establish one of the most strategic harbors in U.S. history, and Fort Jefferson was born. Construction of the fort began in 1846, and although it was never officially finished, it remains a historic icon of the Dry Tortugas and receives thousands of visitors yearly.

Fort Jefferson was a pretty imposing looking place.  It's crazy to think about the history of it.  Because England had such an incredible navy compared to the colonies, it was thought that we needed massive forts to hold off attacking forces from overseas.  I can't imagine what it would have been like to live out in the middle of the ocean like this and always wondering when the attack was going to come.  Talk about anxiety.  Not a lot of places to run here.

They seemed to keep it pretty fortified with heavy weaponry where-ever it could be placed and an intricate system for maximizing ammunition for when the time was needed.

I was a little nervous that these things were still loaded, but Ron gave me the all clear.  I was pretty paranoid that I would accidentally shoot one off or something.

The views were pretty amazing all over the Fort.  You have to be careful when enjoying them, though, because there's no rails or ropes or anything to prevent you from going over the sides.  I'm not sure if landing in the moat would have been safe or not, but I sure didn't want to find out.

The barracks feel pretty empty, but I'm sure there's some amazing stories that can be told for what went down here back in the day.

There's a lot of re-construction happening around the island as many of the walls and the lighthouse have certainly seen better days.  Pretty neat that people put in so much time and energy to preserve our history.  No way I'm gonna do it.

The fort is pretty big and there's actually people who live on the island full time to help to take care of it.  I asked the lady in the gift shop if she ever gets spooked out by living there.  She said she used to at the beginning, but now she walks all over the whole island at night without a flashlight.  I imagine it's pretty amazing.

There's a moat that surrounds the whole fort.  According to this site, back in the days when Fort Jefferson was being constructed black powder was used. Keeping black powder DRY was of utmost importance. As you might imagine, keeping that black powder dry while swimming across the moat and being shot at would be an extremely difficult thing to accomplish.

This wall used to go around the whole fort until just recently.  Hurricane Irma came through and destroyed a chunk of it.  Although I'm pretty sure that any fish who were previously trapped in the moat were probably pretty happy about it.

We were excited to walk to the part of the island with the cloud of birds hovering above it, but when we walked down the beach there was a sign that said area closed.  I guess the birds really like their privacy.

I think I found a new Happy Place to go in my mind for when I need it.

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