Have you ever thought that one of the biggest national parks can be actually located underwater? This is not the future, but present time! Dry Tortugas National Park can be found 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf Of Mexico and occupies the area of 100 sq meters of ocean, plus few more small islands. But what is more incredible – 99% of the whole park is actually underwater!
Besides that Dry Tortugas is a home for nurse sharks, snapper groupers and the third largest barrier reef. Therefore the the park is a favorite destination and kind of a challenge for rangers who call this island their home. But it is quite difficult to preserve the underwater are as the rangers can’t control neither underwater weather nor the predator damage.
One of the rangers – Nick Fuechsel has been here already for three years and is also a part of the diving team supporting the scientists who use the park as a base for their experiments. Fuechsel is the one who sets up the buoys to mark the area dedicated to researches and also maintains floating moorings for boats to use instead of anchoring. Back in 2007 a half of Dry Tortugas was separated as a research area in order to preserve its natural resources.
The park is known for one the most successful researches done here – nurse shark population. Unlike the rest of the shark species who usually migrate, the nurse sharks are born, grow up and mate here, around the islands. The protected areas done by Fuechsel helps to preserves the mating and newborn sharks, thus scientists have a chance to study and observe their behavior in natural environment.
Fuechsel also informs all the visitors about ongoing researches and educates on the threats and those small actions people can do to minimize the human impact. And it is one of the challenges for the ranger: to preserve the nature for future generations and at the same time allow people to enjoy such a beauty. It is a bit difficult for the rangers to find a perfect balance.
Besides the underwater world the island also protects the birds: city terns, frigatebirds and masked boobies – all of them found home here, in Dry Tortugas. The island is the only one nesting place in US for sooty terns and brown noddy terns. Scientists keep track and use satellites to figure out where the birds go once and why they use small islands as their home.
If you plan to visit the park, be aware that the only way to reach it is by a boat or seaplane and the only residents you find here are the rangers. But such an experience is worth the challenge of reaching the famous National Park!