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  Dry Tortugas    

Even after the establishment of a lighthouse on Garden Key in 1826, wreckers were still making a good living by assisting ships that had run aground on the surrounding nearly eighty-square-mile grouping of reefs, shoals, and islands known as the Dry Tortugas. The wreckers, a term used both for the vessels and the men engaged in the salvage operations, were tightly regulated by the government. To obtain a license, the captains had to be men “innocent of any fraud” and their ships “seaworthy, and properly and sufficiently fitted” to assist vessels in distress. An admiralty court was established at Key West, where William Marvin served as judge from 1839 to 1863. It was Judge Marvin’s duty to determine an appropriate reward for the wreckers based on the immediate risk to the stranded ship, crew, and passengers, the value of the cargo, the amount of skill required of the wreckers, and the length of the operation.

Text from lighthousefriends.com


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