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Aerial view of Fort Jefferson and Bird Key Wreck in Dry Tortugas National Park
Photo by and courtesy of National Park Service Submerged Resources Center

The Bird Key wreck, also known as the "Brick Wreck," is a screw-driven, narrow-beamed, shallow draft, flat-bottomed steamboat. While the ship has not been positively identified, it is likely that it was transporting bricks to Garden Key for the construction of nearby Fort Jefferson. It is possibly the Scottish Chief, which was owned and operated by the Tift brothers out of Key West, who were the principal suppliers of bricks for Fort Jefferson at this time. There are three types of brick associated with the wreck; yellow bricks identical to those used to construct the curtains, bastions and other major portions of Fort Jefferson; and two other types of brick that were used in the firebox of the vessel.

[photo] Bird Key Wreck
Photos by and courtesy of National Park Service Submerged Resources Center

There is no specific information on the circumstances surrounding the wreck. All that is known is that the grounding and loss occurred sometime between 1857, the first date that the firebricks found on the wreck were manufactured, and 1861, the last date that the yellow construction bricks were produced for the Federal government. It is evident that the wreck was salvaged, as the engine and much of the ship's machinery have been removed. The remains of the ship have been scattered around the area by storms. The wreck measures about 107 feet in length, 17 feet wide and is listing starboard lying with its bow facing the shore of the key. The composite hull is made up of a wrought iron frame with iron plates on the bottom and a wood exterior.

The Bird Key Wreck, located within Dry Tortugas National Park, is located in 4-9 ft. of water on the Bird Key bank, ½ a nautical mile southwest of Garden Key. Marine life is in abundance around the Bird Key wreck, especially fire coral.

Florida's Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History features a Teaching with Historic Places online lesson plan, The Spanish Treasure Fleets of 1715 and 1733: Disasters Strike at Sea. This lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service's Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

[graphic] Florida Shipwrecks' Essays

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