Treasure Coasts

 

Treasure CoastTreasure Coast

Spain briefly resumed control of Florida in 1821, when the United States acquired the territory. At this time, Florida’s coast was a wellknown haunt for pirates such as Black Caesar. By the early 1820s, the U.S. Navy cleared out the pirates, making room for a new industry salvaging ships. Hurricanes and treacherous shipping lanes frequently scattered treasures and crews across the reef.

The wrecking business became a major source of income here: salvagers were legally entitled to a portion of a ship’s salvaged goods. Whenever a ship grounded, the cry “Wreck ashore!” halted all on-shore activities as residents rushed to scavenge the unlucky vessel. Today, more than 40 shipwrecks are located within the boundaries of Biscayne National Park.

You can still view the remains of these wrecks on boat tours. Turn-of-the-century South Florida also became home to poachers and plume hunters, particularly near the small town of Flamingo. Plumes of great egrets and snowy egrets were in demand as fashion accessories. Hunters slaughtered these wading birds by the thousands for their colorful feathers, and several species came dangerously close to becoming extinct. In 1905, the National Audubon Society hired Guy Bradley to protect heron and egret rookeries (breeding colonies).

Bradley was killed while investigating shots he heard near Oyster Keys rookery. The resulting publicity and outrage fueled the demand for protecting the wading birds’ remaining colonies. In 1916, a small area of Paradise Key was granted protection by the creation of Royal Palm State Park.

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