Reflections of the Florida Keys: Underwater Wonders
The Keys' underwater wonders are particularly spectacular along the coral reef tract near Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park -- America's first undersea preserve and one of six Upper Keys parks where visitors can enjoy the island chain's wide-open land and water spaces. (Photo by Frazier Nivens, Florida Keys News Bureau)
During our uncharted period of social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, I’ve discovered a newfound love for video streaming services (or anything, for that matter, that provides a comforting escape from the news cycle).
In case you’ve already maxed out on reruns of “The Golden Girls” and binge-watching past “Will & Grace” episodes (like me), I’ve compiled some of my favorite short video clips of the Florida Keys & Key West.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I have — and that you’re able to escape at least “virtually” and let the underwater beauty of the Florida Keys soothe mind, body, and soul.
The 120-mile Florida Keys island chain, whose waters are protected by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental Unites States. The reef’s marine ecosystem stretches the length of the Keys and offers unforgettable vistas of fish and other aquatic life. Some of our spectacular reef tracts are located in water that’s just 10 to 15 feet deep, making exploration easy for snorkelers.
Five species of endangered sea turtles dwell within Florida Keys waters: the leatherback, hawksbill, green, Kemp’s Ridley and loggerhead. These majestic sea creatures can also be seen nesting and hatching on beaches in the Keys and other parts of Florida during the summer months. Thanks to the Key West Sea Turtle Club and other local environmental organizations, our shores are patrolled to help ensure that turtle nests and hatchlings are protected.
In 2019, some of our LGBTQ divers decided there should be a rainbow flag displayed on the Vandenberg, a 523-foot-long vessel sunk as an artificial reef about seven miles south of Key West. A scuba divers’ mecca, the vessel is encrusted with algae, soft corals, barnacles and sea urchins — providing an invaluable food source and habitat for fish. Our flag, which also incorporates the Keys’ Conch Republic emblem, is believed to be the first rainbow flag in the world ever displayed on an artificial reef.
I hope you’re as relaxed as I am after viewing these videos. It may be time for me to purchase an aquarium to soothe away my stress as current life events unfold worldwide.
“Visit” these video worlds as often as you like to induce a sense of calm. And after the coronavirus crisis eases, the tranquil splendors of the Florida Keys’ underwater ecosystem will be waiting for everyone craving “real-time” exploration.
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