By Brad Bertelli
Pub date: 4/2/13
Presenting great snorkeling sites from Carysfort Reef to Indian Key and Dry Tortuga National Park, this comprehensive guide also offers historical highlights that helped shape underwater ecological marvels like Pickles Reef. In addition to practical travel advice and GPS coordinates, Brad Bertelli provides useful information like water depth and marine environment.
Here’s a sneak peek at the chapter on Pickles Reef:
“Pickles Reef is a one-of-a-kind excursion. Snorkelers will find the usual collection of sponges, elaborately configured corals, angelfish, and other assorted tropical fish. They will also have the opportunity to view an entirely different kind of structure, one that sets this small spur-and-groove reef formation apart from every other reef in the chain.
The reef is adorned with what were once pickle barrels, though the wooden barrels were not filled with dills or sweet gherkins. On the day they sank out at Pickles Reef, they were filled with mortar and being transported by a Civil War-era barge. The mortar was presumably to be used by Union forces for work on fortifications to the south—Fort Zachary Taylor perhaps, or Fort Jefferson out at the Dry Tortugas.
The barrels must have sunk like woody bowling balls when seawater seeped inside and turned the mortar to cement. It took years for the wooden staves to rot away, but when they did, they left behind a concrete pickle barrel monument that looks like some kind of hillbilly decoration. The vessel that had been transporting the load, the Pickle Barrel Wreck, as the barge is referred to today, is proclaimed by many to be the origin of this reef ’s name.
Remarkably, it is not. Just how remarkable, however, is about to become clear. It is a reasonable theory that the name Pickles Reef was derived from the Pickle Barrel Wreck. But as it turns out, the name of the reef and the pickle barrel deposit are merely coincidental.
In reality, the reef had been known as Pickles Reef for a long time before the barrels ever came to rest at the bottom. In fact, Pickles Reef began to appear in the record books as early as 1828, decades before the first shots of the Civil War were ever fired. The odds must have been absolutely astronomical that a load of mortar-filled pickle barrels would sink at a reef already known as Pickles Reef!”
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