We were standing where a man named Mudd had been locked up for life, imprisoned for treating the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth. The doctor was Fort Jefferson's most famous resident when it was built and occupied in the mid-1800's. It is a part of a group of islands 70 miles west of Key West,
"The Dry Tortugas".
My wife and I were there last Saturday to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of Dry Tortugas National Park. Our tour was arranged by the director of the South Florida National Park Trust, Don Finefrock. The organization supports South Florida's four national parks.
Don is a neighbor of ours.
Arriving by boat, we were greeted by the park's superintendent, Dan Kimball. He and his wife, artist Kit Kimball, live on Grove Isle.
After he introduced us to the park the rangers led tours where we learned about,
the fort's history,
and the 50,000 pound cannon that had just been refurbished.
We were told it could place a 400 pound exploding cannonball on a ship three miles away. Despite its amazing firepower, Francesca agreed to pose for this picture.
Fort Jefferson was built to protect us from anyone invading the Gulf of Mexico. It is composed of sixteen million bricks artfully arranged to house soldiers and 400 cannons.
Every day a few tired worn bricks fall into the sea.
On one tour we watched craftsmen mortaring the missing parts back into place.
A dozen or so people call the fort home. Seventy miles separate them from everyone else. Some say they like it that way. This ranger, holding a jar filled with lionfish, says she has the perfect job.
A day earlier we had seen a sign at a Key West Marina that said, "Eat more lionfish! There is no catch limit in this invading species, they are killing all the fish, and they taste great!"
As the last tour ended,
we wound our way down