History

The Lost Wrecks of the Dry Tortugas

If the ocean had highways, the intersection at the Dry Tortugas and the Florida Straits might well have ranked among the planet’s most dangerous, at least in ye olde times. Ships threading its treacherous reefs wrecked for centuries, sometimes at a rate of once a week, leaving behind an untold fortune in booty. Key West was built on a good chunk of those spoils. And modern-day treasure hunters still scour the region in search of loot. Which is why the National Park Service, guardian of a vast swath of potentially wreck-laden waters in Dry Tortugas National Park, has for the first time started surveying the deep waters within its boundaries. While no one knows for sure what remains on the sea floor, it could be bountiful: since 1988, federal law has largely blocked treasure hunters armed wi...

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