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Here are some riddles. Which of America's national parks is surrounded by water, 70 miles from land, and holds a fort that is the world's second largest masonry structure?
I thought I knew quite a bit about our national parks, but if you can answer this one you know a lot more about our national parks than I did—that is, until yesterday, when I traveled for two hours from Key West, Florida to get to it by catamaran, touring the fort and swimming and snorkeling at the coral reefs.
The name of this national park? The Dry Tortugas. Tortugas refers to the giant (300 pounds plus) turtles that were once so abundant here that sailors used to haul 30 or so out to their ships and keep them alive for weeks by hanging them upside down on the deck. They treasured having the fresh meat—a rarity for them.
Back to that first question...If the Dry Tortugas National Park has a fort (Fort Jefferson, by the way) that is the world's second largest masonry structure, what is the world's largest masonry structure? You know it...just think about it for a minute.
That's right. The Great Wall of China. We've all heard of that, but who has ever heard of Fort Jefferson?!
Another riddle: Why do they call the islands "Dry?"
The sailors named them this because these coral islands had no fresh water source, and they still don't today. So, if you plan to sail to them, bring your own water!
Another riddle: What bird can you see at the Dry Tortugas National Park that flies continuously, sunshine and rain, windy or calm, day and night, awake and asleep? I'll admit it. I thought this was a trick statement, or a downright lie, or maybe a typographical error at first. But no, there really is a bird that flies continuously for 3 years, snatching its food from the ocean and actually sleeping in flight. It finally lands after 3 years to nest here.
Again, if you know the name of this bird, you're way ahead of me. I don't think I had ever heard of it until yesterday. It's called the Sooty Tern.
There are more lessons in environmental science and nature than are possible to write here today. Disappointing, tragic things that we humans have done in the past...and also amazing, selfless actions that thousands of people are doing presently to preserve and protect the seas, the fishes, the plants, the wildlife. You can be one of them! More on that next time.
Feel free to email me your environmental tips and questions! I love to read and answer them.
Reduce Re-use Re-cycle Re-think
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Carol Zetterberg is an educator, writer, wife and mother, who has been honored at the White House for her environmental efforts as one of America’s “thousand points of light.” She founded several organizations, including Langhorne Open Space, Inc., for which she still serves as Director of Funding.
Carol spent her early life on the West Coast—Oregon, Washington, California—and today, lives in the small pre-Revolutionary Pennsylvania town of Langhorne, where she has served as vice president of town council and chair of the planning commission. She has two sons and daughters-in-law—Christian and Kristen and Forrest and Anarissa—and two grandsons Liam and Aeden. Larry, her husband, was a pilot in the U.S. Navy, and with Pan Am Airways and Delta Airlines.