The Fourth of July brought an unusual surprise to the staff and visitors at Dry Tortugas National Park, located 70 miles west of Key West. Rangers and other staff spent the holiday and most of the next day removing a chunk of space debris out of Garden Key Harbor away from where most visitors enjoy this unique National Park
Visiting nurse shark researcher Theo Pratt was out kayaking when he spotted a rather large object on Long Key. After contacting the park, Pratt and ranger Adam Bass placed a light on the object to keep it visible as the tide rose. At about 11:45 p.m., the Pratts contacted the park office, as they’d seen the object floating and determined that it was headed for the dock on Garden Key.
Bass walked down to the pier and found the object had moved from Long Key with the higher tide and was now leaning against the park patrol boat docks. Working in darkness, he was able to move the object to the park’s finger piers and secure it for the night.
In the morning, Bass was joined by park manager Glenn Simpson, ranger Wayne Mitchell and maintenance supervisor Tree Gottshall. Together, they were able to move the wreckage to the south Coaling Dock, away from the area frequented by park visitors each day, where it will remain until either returned or disposed of.
Once secured, staff found several manufacturer plates attached to various parts of the wreckage indicating that it belonged to the European Arianespace program. Simpson has contacted a representative of the Ariane Company to determine if they want the wreckage returned.