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broelan Started conversation Oct 15, 2000
Having read your journal entries, I begin to get the picture that Key West is possibly like New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I'm sure I'm way off base here, as I've never been to either place (I just read too much).
Are you close to the water's edge or spend a lot of time there? I was wondering if you had seen any manatees. This may be a silly question, like I said, I've never been there. For all I know every one in Florida sees manatees every day. I just like manatees. One of these days I'll make it down there and see them for myself.
KWDave Posted Oct 15, 2000
Thank you for your excellent questions. They are the first I have received.
IMHO, Key West and New Orleans share several common factors. They have both been around a while, have both had an major influxes of societal waves, and both have very cosmopolitan outlooks.
Partywise, they are parallel as well. The major difference is that New Orleans tends to be a very night oriented city (think Anne Rice and Vampires), and Key West, being tropical, tends to revolve a little more around daytime activities (think SCUBA, snorkeling, conga lines). Not to say that a lot of partying doesn't get done here: it definitely does. It's just more light-hearted, and feels safer.
Also, there's the science of scale. In New Orleans, on New Year's for example, there's the possibility of two million people partying in the streets. In Key West, an island two miles wide and four miles long, our maximum capacity for a Duval Street throw-down is about 80,000. This makes a major difference.
On question two, most everybody on the island can throw a rock from their house to the water. Okay, so maybe some need a slingshot. The widest part of the island, where Duval Street runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, is fifteen blocks. Now these are Key West blocks, not Manhattan blocks. So, we're talking maximum time from house to water about two minutes on bike, or ten minutes on foot.
Finally, most manatees prefer to live in brackish water, where rivers or springs flow into the ocean. This environment is common all along the Gulf coast of Florida. It provides better sources for the food that they eat, primarily floating green stuff, and offers a little more protection than the open water around a coral rock island. However, for the past six years, a female manatee has regularly been spotted at Fort Zachary Taylor, with her calf. Maybe she, like many of the 28,000 full-time inhabitants, has discovered the friendly and protective nature of this very special island.
Again, thank you for your questions, and ask away anytime!
Researcher 209757 Posted Nov 21, 2002
What is a key? Is it an island, if so why not call it Island West. I was on Key West last week and asked some people and know one knew.
KWDave Posted Nov 26, 2002
There are several theories about how we got to be Key West, but this is the one that gets thrown about the most.
Spanish explorers initially discovered the island in the 16th century while they were exploring Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Warring tribes of Calusa Indians had a bloody battle for the island, and the resulting skeletons littered the coastline. The Spanish named it Cayo Hueso, literally, Island of Bones. Through the ensuing four centuries, Cayo Hueso became Quay Hueso, then Key West due to poor phonetic interpretation. Now, nobody knows this for a fact, but it makes a good story in the bar, and I'm sticking to it.
When you look at a map of the Florida Keys, Key West is literally the westernmost of the loosely connected group of islands forming the chain. There is a light sprinkling of other keys below us, but they are tiny, and not connected with the main reef system of the Keys themselves. Some are literally dredge piles, excavated by the Army Corps of Engineers for the submarine channels in the harbor. Further out in the Gulf of Mexico lie the Dry Tortugas. So, for all intents and purposes, we are the West Key, and maps drawn before the 1840's show us as Key West.
So, two interpretations, and maybe neither is completely correct, but we're still here, and it's Key West now. Hope you had a good visit, and that you'll come back again soon!
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