February 2, 2013

Day 123 - February 1, 2013: Another day in Key West

Key West has a lot to see and appreciate, so we headed back this morning for some additional sightseeing. The tip of Key West is the southernmost point in the continental U.S. and is just 90 miles from Cuba. Most people would probably guess Texas as the farthest south? U.S. Highway 1 begins in Key West and is marked as Mile 0. Marathon is Mile 50 and so forth as you travel north.

This is self evident...
U.S. Hwy 1, Mile 0
We carried our bikes in the trunk of the car and used them to ride all over the island. We rode to see the Shipwreck Treasures Museum which takes you back to the early 1800s, when Key West was established as the sole location for bringing shipwreck salvaged goods to port.

There were many wrecks during the 1800s, as navigation aids were crude and weather information unreliable. Ships frequently floundered in storms and were washed up on the coral reefs breaking apart. The salvage effort was equally dangerous, as men were free diving into unstable wrecks to be the first to make recoveries, sometimes while the storms were still raging.

The federal government established a court system that determined who had earned the salvage rights to the goods and to administer the salvage awards. The salvage company was typically awarded about 30% of the ultimate salvage value, which came from insurance companies or from auctions. It was a very lucrative business, plus, local residents frequently bid at the auctions and ended up with precious goods, like silk, furniture, perfumes, alcohol, etc. for 10 to 20% of their original market value.

The museum, through many artifacts, pictures, and videos, reveals the life and times of the people involved.

Shipwreck Treasures Museum
Navy diver around 1941
We spent some time just riding the streets and enjoying the waterfront, the shops and restaurants, the people and their lifestyles. Mallory Square has a sunset celebration nightly where people gather along with vendors and performing groups. Apparently, it is quite a party!

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