Keys are a narrow archipelago formed by ancient coral reefs and
surrounding ocean defines them and the people who live in the
Keys must tie their livelihood to the water in order to survive.
The Keys lie in
the shipping lanes between the Americas and Europe. Because of this, early explorers and merchants all sailed
through the Straits of Florida, just south of present-day Key
West, and many met their doom on the perilous reefs.
The sight of
Spanish galleons laden with treasure brought predators—pirates
who eked out an existence on the ocean and occasionally struck
it rich when they captured a valuable cargo.
During the 19th
century, the shipping route became so busy that “wrecking”
became an industry—saving the crew, passengers, and cargos of
and tourists alike delight in the warm waters and sun-filled
like Mel Fisher, have made their fortunes retrieving ancient
shipwrecks; fishermen delight in the local catch; and visitors
snorkel or dive just to observe the wonders of the reef.