Fort Jefferson, Garden Key FL

About 70 miles and 2.5 hours west of Key West lies Dry Tortugas National Park, a seasonal stopover for migrating birds and a home to frigate birds, shipwrecks, coral reefs, two deep natural harbours, and the site of a 19th century all-brick fort, the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere.  It’s surrounded by a moat: half of it on the small island and half jutting out into the ocean.

For all that I hoped to see birds, Fort Jefferson really stole the show, at least when presented by a natural storyteller who brought alive the fort’s economic and strategic purpose, the effort required to build and provision it, and the living conditions for troops garrisoned there.

View of fort on horizon from ferry.

Ocean and moat view through brick arch of fort's gun deck.

Wall of fort reflected in moat.

Ocan and moat vista.

4 Comments

  1. Marilyn Smith

    I love these photographs, Isabel. Did troops have to row over there or is that just a buoy in the top photo? It’s amazing that there is such architectural detail for forts given their purpose. Quite haunting to see them uninhabited by people.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Marilyn – Just a buoy, I think. It would have been too far from anywhere to row. And I know what you mean about the prettification – given how much work it was to ship everything there, why did they bother with anything extra to the strictly defined purpose of the fort?

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Barry – 🙂 I’m guessing not. Apparently the moats had something to do with sewage removal, working with the tides. Regrettably, the design worked where there were large tides but not there, because its tides are only a foot or two.

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