Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas. The clear waters in shallow areas surrounding the fort, seen easily in the photo, are popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. (By U.S. National Park Service – U.S. National Park Service ; English Wikipedia, original upload 2 March 2005 by Brian0918, Public Domain, Link)
The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, located in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the Florida Keys, United States, known for its famous marine life, its legends of pirates and sunken gold, and its military past. The first Europeans to discover the islands were the Spanish in 1513, led by explorer Juan Ponce de León. The archipelago’s name derives from the lack of fresh water springs, and the presence of turtles. Turtles provided a food source to the pirates who roamed the waters around the islands in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and used adult turtle meat as currency for trade.
Fort Jefferson located on Garden Key in the lower Florida Keys within the Dry Tortugas National Park, is a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. In the middle of construction, the Civil War broke out, and building materials were increasingly hard to come by. This bastion remained in Union hands throughout the Civil War. It later was used as a prison until abandoned in 1874.
The keys are low and irregular. Some keys have thin growths of mangroves, and various other vegetation, while others have only small patches of grass, or are devoid of plant life. In general, they rise abruptly from relatively deep water. They are continually changing in size and shape. The Tortugas Atoll has had up to 11 islets during the past two centuries. Some of the smaller islands have disappeared and reappeared multiple times as a result of hurricane impact.
Aerial view of Loggerhead Key Florida Memory [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Pulaskishoallh Lighthouse (Public Domain, Link)
National Park Service Digital Image Archives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons