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sp00u1le1 - Unit 1 Lesson 1 Introduction to the Dry...

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Unit 1 Lesson 1: Introduction to the Dry Tortugas and Sustainable Seas Expedition Lesson Objectives: Introduce students to the historical, geographic, and ecological importance of the Dry Tortugas. Introduce students to the Sustainable Seas Expedition Vocabulary: Deep Worker, islets, National Marine Sanctuary, Ponce de Leon, shoals The Dry Tortugas are a cluster of ten, low-lying islands located over 140 miles (252 km) from Florida’s mainland, and 61 miles (110 km) from Key West. Composed of coral reefs and sand, some of these small islands, or islets , are only exposed at high tide, or at certain times of the year. Along with the surrounding shoals (shallow waters 12-20 meters deep), the islands compose the Dry Tortugas National Park. Of the parks 64,657 acres, 99% is open water and submerged land. Areas surrounding the National Park are further protected because they lie within the limits of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. History and Geography of the Dry Tortugas
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Ft. Jefferson lighthouse. Photo credit: Paula Coble The Dry Tortugas have historical, geographical, and ecological importance. They have served as a naval base, marine research station, civil war prison, hospital, and bird sanctuary. The Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon discovered the Tortugas in 1513. He named them “Las Tortugas” because of the abundance of turtles he found there. On early nautical charts they were labeled “Dry Tortugas” to indicate they lacked freshwater. Although the Tortugas lack freshwater, they do not lack an abundance of elaborate organisms. Waters from the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico flow past the islands delivering nutrients and organisms from the Caribbean basin. This produces an ecologically unique area, providing a breeding ground to several types of marine birds, and exotic marine life. Hard as it is to imagine today, the Dry Tortugas were once an important naval outpost, defending trade routes between the United States and Cuba, and maintaining a lifeline between trade on the Mississippi River and the eastern U.S. The islets and shoals of the Tortugas represent the last obstacle faced by ships passing from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. Fog, severe storms, and treacherous currents have caused nearly 200 shipwrecks, many of which resulted in total losses.
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