Dry Tortugas

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Latitude: N 24° 37' 46" Longitude: W 82° 55' 18"

February 29, 2016

A seaplane, a ruined fort, and a shipwreck in an underwater park. On a Monday.

At 7:30 AM Eastern Time, an ungodly hour for a Californian fresh from Duval Street the night before, I reported to Key West International Airport as instructed. At Key West Sea Plane Adventures, I, along with nine other people and our pilot, John, boarded a de Havilland DHC3 Otter amphibian. John and I were the only two wearing flip flops and drinking coffee.

We took off, flew over the island and out into the Gulf heading west. The wheels were retracted into the floats and the Otter became a seaplane with our altitude never exceeding 500 feet. Our journey lasted 45 minutes and took us 70 miles west of Key West to the Dry Tortugas

Consisting of seven keys (Loggerhead, Garden, Bush, Long, Hospital, Middle and East) and 100 square miles of surrounding waters, Dry Tortugas is one of the most remote, inaccessible and least visited national parks in the United States with 70,000 visits annually, 1/10th the number who visit the Grand Canyon in an average June. It is reachable only by boat or seaplane. The park is 98% submerged. The dominating feature is Fort Jefferson on Garden Key, a massive, never completed military fortress built over the course of 30 years in the early 1800s and that is to this day the largest masonry structure in the Americas. The invention of the rifled cannon barrel rendered it and the Martello towers on Key West obsolete immediately.

Seaplane