Monday, May 19, 2014

Fort Jefferson

Posted by Alexander

Setting out to explore Fort Jefferson
After our passage from Isla Mujeres, Mexico, we arrived in Florida in a small anchorage in the Dry Tortugas.  The Dry Tortugas are an amazing collection of little islands, 70 miles west of what people usually think of as the tip of Florida. The anchorage was nice and cool and had two standout features. One was that on the island there were hundreds of birds flying around and going crazy. The other was a huge old fort built in the 1900’s to hold a strategic point from the U.S.A.’s enemies.

Anchored in front of the Fort.
This fort was called fort Jefferson. It was made all out of red brick and had a hexagonal shape. It was built to hold about 500 guns (I’m talking ginormous cannons that weigh more than Monashee) But only ever had 141.

Big cannons, pointed out to sea.
Staring down the barrel of a gun.
The place was now a reserve and there was a designated path through the fort with signs telling about the inner workings and how resources were attained on the isolated island. They got freshwater from rain that ran down into cisterns but the many of these cracked to let forth the ocean rendering certain cisterns unusable. There were Bastions on any side of the fort. Big round drum towers at the end of each side. This allowed guns to be pointed parallel to the fort to protect from attackers.

The bastion is the part of the Fort sticking out to the left.  It was designed so that cannons could be aimed at the moat or the walls, to prevent attackers from getting in under the other cannons and climbing up.
There was of course a lot of history about the fort including one story I liked in particular.

When the fort was still being provisioned there were no guns at the fort yet. Unfortunately even so, an enemy ship had come to close and was threatening U.S. territory. The man in charge told the ship that it had ten minutes to get out of range before it was blown out of the water. The fort was so formidable in appearance that the bluff worked and the ship fled. The fort was still impressive today.

Walking through millions of bricks.
There was a huge shallow moat all around it so we had to cross a drawbridge to check it out. This drawbridge was protected by the aforementioned Bastions. A sign later on politely informed us that if we had felt nervous crossing the bridge, it was likely because six cannons could have been aimed to blow us sky high. Of course they weren’t since the fort has been inactive for ages.

Fort perspective.

There were some gaping holes in the red brickwork where we could easily have fallen into the moat.

Checking the moat for sharks.
It was a long way down.  When the wind was up the waves bashed hard against that outer wall around the moat.
There had been prisoners held in the fort at one time and the wardens liked to keep the rumour going that sharks lived in the moat. It wasn’t true but one inmate did once bring a shark into the moat. How I have no idea but it lived for two months afterwards.

Looking down on the inner courtyard of the Fort.
Poor shark! I wonder how that had happened… “Hey inmate get that shark out of here!”.

“No thank you I like it, but you can get rid of it if you want”. (Shark growls and shows it’s teeth).

“Ummmm actually it’s kinda cute you can keep it”

There were even some of the cannons from way back in the day that we got to see!

I think fort Jefferson is probably one of the coolest forts we’ve seen on our trip and we’ve seen quite a few.

Standing on top of the Fort, with Monashee just behind us.


  1. Great photos in this post. I especially love the one of the long wall of the fort with the family in the distance.

    1. Thanks Jane. I am getting better with our point and shoot. Might be time to start thinking about a real camera so I can take some pictures like yours.