The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, located at the end of the Florida Keys, USA, about 113 kilometers (70 mi) west of Key West, and 60 km (37 mi) west of the Marquesas Keys, at 24°38′00″N, 82°55′12″W, the closest islands. Still further west is the Tortugas Bank, which is completely submerged. The islands were discovered in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. They are an unincorporated area of Monroe County, Florida and belong to the Lower Keys Census County Division. With their surrounding waters, they constitute the Dry Tortugas National Park.
They were then given the name Las Tortugas (The Turtles) due to the abundance of sea turtles found on the islands and shoals. Soon afterword, the word 'Dry' was added to the name to indicate to mariners of the islands lack of fresh water.
In 1742 HMS Tyger wrecked in the Dry Tortugas. The stranded crew lived on Garden Key for 56 days, and fought a battle with a Spanish sloop, before sailing to Jamaica in several boats.
In 1861, the United States government completed Fort Jefferson on Garden Key, and this bastion remained in Union hands throughout the Civil War. It later was used as a prison until abandoned in 1874. During the 1880s, the Navy established a base at Tortuga; and it subsequently set up a coaling (refueling) and a wireless (radio) station there as well. During World War I, a seaplane base was established on the islet, but it was abandoned soon thereafter.
In August 2004, the Dry Tortugas were directly struck by Hurricane Charley. The following day, a Cessna airplane crashed into the water near the islands, killing cinematographer Neal Fredericks while he was filming scenery for the feature film Cross Bones.