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Birds, Key West, Whatnot

The Dry Tortugas Then, Now

Dry Tortugas C 1920. The DeWolfe and Wood Collection.

The Key West Library has a pretty amazing historic photo collection, much of which they have scanned and put on their Flickr page. Some of the best images come from the Scott de Wolfe collection.

Scanning through the photos of old buildings, ships and people wearing way too many layers of clothes for the tropics is one of the great Key West time wasters edifying experiences.

Scott de Wolfe has been kind enough to allow the library to scan many of the photos in his collection.

And now, thanks to the generosity of a donor who wished to remain anonymous, many of those photos are in the physical collection. Including the document that established Key West as an American City. (The document is here. There is a nice write-up about the collection at Littoral, the Key West Literary Seminar blog.)

The photo that stopped me in my tracks today was the one above: Birds at Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas. A cloud of Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies, Brown Boobies.

It was taken in 1920.

For a moment I thought the big bird on the right of the roofline was some species lost to science – the Unicorn Booby or the Long-billed Booby. But it's a Brown Booby and the bill is a blur from motion and a long exposure.

There are other cool photos of the Dry Tortugas in the set (see below) and of Key West (see further below).

The cloud-of-birds photo rang a gong, though. Other than the decrepit building on the beach, it feels very much like that now. It was like stepping through a wormhole, time flashing backwards and forwards until now and then are all the same wooly thing.

The first one below is almost as good, and it gives almost the same rush you get when you first make out the fort from the bow of the ferry.

But that cloud of birds photo. Damn.

The approach to the fort.