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Tuesday, September 20, 2016


By not memorizing the map of the United States beyond mainland beaches (and those of Alaska and Hawaii) I casually believed Key West was the end of the line when it came to defining USA’s southern and easternmost turf.

But a recent salute by Google honoring the 100th anniversary of our National Parks system, the search giant featured the Dry Tortugas.  Like many Google users we were sparked to ask where in hells bells is Dry Tortuga.  My neighbor thinks it’s a brand of gin.  I said he was wrong because I figured it was tequila.

We jest. 

But, there’s a serious side to the seven islands known as the Dry Tortugas.  As a Civil War buff, I knew the U.S. Government sent Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who treated the broken bones of assassin John Wilkes Booth to the stockade at Ft. Jefferson located on the largest of the Tortugas (70 miles west and north of Key West, Florida.  But that was the extent of my knowledge.  Unlike Napoleon, who was first exiled to Elba, an island off of Corsica, Dr. Mudd never tried to leave and for the most part stayed away from the headlines once he was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released.

Avid travelers and scuba divers know the Dry Tortugas for its natural beauty and marine wildlife.  This National Park island is so small Ft. Jefferson occupies the majority of its dry land.  It is also the remotest National Park of the mainland 48 states.

And, unless you anchor off the coast, a trip to Dry Tortuga is a daily trip as there are no overnight accommodations on the island.  There are several ways to land on Dry Tartuga.  Take a seaplane, charter a private boat or take a ferry.

Are there restrooms at the fort?

There are no public restrooms available at the park.  What’s the deal with that? 

But if you are among the enlightened, who visit the Dry Tortugas by ferry you at least can use the facilities provided onboard the ferry.

Composting toilets will be available for visitors to use within the campground and after 2:30 PM.  Composting toilets are specially designed toilets that do not require water or chemicals and they can accommodate a small number of users. These toilets are extremely fragile, and throwing trash or other materials into composting toilets is strictly prohibited.

Overheard at a Senate NatPark budget oversight meeting.
“How come we’re not getting more visitors to the Dry Tortugas?”
“Well, Senator Colostomy, if you and your colleague’s release funds to put one toilet on the island maybe more humans would visit.”

Later in the week.
Knock, knock.
“Come in.”
“Sir or Madam are you the Dry Tortuga park supervisor?
“Why, yes I am.”
“Great, can I use your executive washroom?”

In a word: yuck.

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