Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Like to Be Under the Sea

Last weekend, friends and I traveled to Dry Tortugas National Park. For those unfamiliar with the Florida Keys, the Dry Tortugas are roughly 70 miles west of Key West and only accessible by boat or seaplane. The islands out there were originally called Los Tortugas because when Ponde de Leon discovered them, he saw an abundance of sea turtles (Tortuga-Turtle). The word "Dry" was added to note that there's no fresh water source on any of the islands.

The day trip is awesome. After leaving home at 5:45 a.m. for the hour drive to Key West, we soon boarded the large Yankee Freedom power catamaran ( for a two hour cruise across breathtakingly beautiful water. Deep clear blues, greens and turquoise like melted gemstones surrounded us. We kept watch for marine life as we sped along and spotted several sea turtles, some traveling dolphins, a few rays and a lot of flying fish.

As we neared the destination, we spotted a variety of birds including stately frigate birds, brown noddies, terns and others flitting and perching, welcoming us with their sounds.

The biggest island is the home of Ft. Jefferson. Built in 1840, the fort was later a Union garrison and prison in the Civil War. Probably the best known prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd who was accused of conspiring and assisting John Wilkes Booth.

History is interesting, but to be honest, I was all about the snorkeling. Once on the island, all we had to do was put on our gear and walk off the beach into the cool, glass-clear water. If you look at the picture above, you can see that there's an exterior wall around the island. Beneath the water's surface, that wall is home to a variety of soft and hard corals, aquatic plants, and different species of fish.

When I snorkel, even though I swim at the surface, it feels like I've entered a different world. Sounds from above the water are muffled. I hear only the sound of my own breathing, amplified to Darth Vaderish inhalations, and the crackle and pop of fish eating from the corals and rocks.

Cool water slips like liquid silk over my skin and I glide, buoyant, looking through my mask. Time, worries, and everything else in life are shelved somewhere else. Nothing exists except the water, me, and the beautiful underwater world beneath.

The day was one of the best I've ever experienced. I can't wait to do it again!

What must have been 100,000 or more glass minnows swam beneath me.

Soft corals abound on the outer moat wall.

Fish everywhere, easily seen in the crystalline water.


My friends during a break from snorkeling. Hurrah!

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