Stories

The island discovered by Ponce de Leon

by Jorge Sanchez - 4 years, 9 months ago

Dry Tortugas was a very pleasant one day excursion by catamaran from Key West. The price is a little bit expensive (150 US Dollars, including the entry fee to the island), but worth, especially if you are interested in the history of the Spanish discoverers in America, and Dry Tortugas was discovered by Juan Ponce de León during the XVI century (well, exactly the year 1513). He called the place Tortugas because there were many turtles there during those times. There are two companies offering that service, one of them is 10 US Dollars more expensive. I traveled in the cheapest one. There is also a seaplane service but is much more expensive than the catamaran. My catamaran, named Fast Cat, departed from Key West at 8 AM and returned to Key West at 5 PM. Spain sold Florida to USA, and 5 years later (in 1825), USA constructed Fort Jefferson covering most of the island. When we landed in the island a guide came with us (about one hundred tourists travelling in the catamaran) and during about one hour he explained us the history of the Fort Jefferson (named after US President Thomas Jefferson) and visited with him the most interesting places. We even climbed to the second floor to watch the light house. Then we realized that the fort is unfinished. The guide told us that Fort Jefferson is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere, erected with about 16 million bricks. During the second half of the XIX century it served as a jail. On the ground floor there is a museum where they will show you a film with the history of the island since the times of the Spaniards until the arrival of the Cubans in rudimentary boats escaping from the Communism and poor life in Fidel Castro Cuba, and requesting political asylum in USA. In that museum you can stamp your passport with a drawing of Dry Tortugas (what I did). Besides Dry Tortugas there are some smaller islands. In fact Dry Tortugas is an archipelago declared in the whole a National Park. I saw people sleeping in tents, and then I learnt that it is possible to overnight in Dry Island, something that I did not know. There are no shops around so you have to bring the food and drinks in case that you decide to overnight there. I was surprised to see those tents because the previous night I slept in the beach until the Police told me that it is forbidden and sent me to the Salvation Army. The hotels are expensive en Key West, even the Youth Hostel, so in case that you do not have much money, as it was my case, look for a hidden place to sleep where the Police will not catch you, or go to the Salvation Army, not far from the airport. (The Greyhound bus terminal is within the airport premises). In the one day excursion to Dry Tortugas the food is included, basic food, such as sandwiches and salads, but enough. Even soft drinks and coffees are provided for free as well as material for diving and snorkeling. In short, if you happen to be in Key West, do not miss the one day excursion to Dry Tortugas, a fortress island with an amazing structure.


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