Author Archives: Rachel

The Prison Cell of Dr. Mudd

Take Two and Lovely Cruise (with Eli and Skipper aboard) spent a week at Dry Tortugas National Park, anchored near Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-Era Brick fort about 70 miles west of Key West. It was used as a prison, and this is an essay about its most famous prisoner.

Fort Jefferson 1
Eli, Sam, Rachel, and Sarah at Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas NP

On April 14, 1865, during a play at Ford’s Theatre, John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincon in the head. Did anyone conspire with Booth in the assassination plot? Perhaps we will never know for sure, but he certainly had help afterward. After firing his gun, Booth jumped off the balcony and broke his leg. He got away and ran to the house of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who set his leg and let him rest. Booth snuck away in the early hours of the morning with his friend David Herald but when federal agents searched for Booth at Mudd’s house, he said he did not know who or where Booth was, though it has been established that the two men knew each other from previous meetings. When they found Booth and Herald in a barn at Garret’s farm, Herald surrendered but Booth resisted arrest, so they set fire to the barn and later shot Booth, killing him and destroying any chance of finding out his secrets.

Back in Washington D.C., eight conspirators, people who knew Booth or had helped him in some way, were questioned and tried in a military court. They were all found guilty and four were hanged, including the first woman ever to be executed in the United States. Four were sent to prison and one escaped. Dr. Mudd was given a life sentence to be carried out at Fort Jefferson on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas. Mudd ended up only serving four years because he was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869, after heroically treating patients during a severe yellow fever outbreak at the fort. When visiting Dry Tortugas National Park, you can still see the cell of Samuel A. Mudd, the famous doctor who set the leg of the man who killed the 16th president of the United States of America.

Dr. Mudd's Cell
Rachel, standing in Dr. Mudd’s prison cell
Dr. Mudd's Cell 2
More information about Dr. Mudd
Fort Jefferson 3
View of the fort from the top of the walls
Fort Jefferson 2
View from inside the fort
Moat Fort Jefferson
View of the moat, Fort Jefferson
Take Two anchored at Fort Jefferson 2
Take Two at Fort Jefferson
Lovely Cruise and Sea Plane
Lovely Cruise anchored near where the sea planes take off and land

Bunches of Fun

How do bananas grow? I learned the answer to this question at the Bunches of Fun Banana Farm Tour in Belize.

Well, first the farmer plants seeds or small banana plants. It works both ways. They require a lot of water because their trunks are made of channels full of water. Banana plants need good soil, so farmers re-use old tree trunks, bananas, and leaves chopped up to make a mulch. They need warmth and sunlight, which is why they grow well in Central America.

Banana Blossom 3

The plant grows rapidly. A banana flower begins to grow. What is growing under each petal? A hand of bananas! Each banana is called a finger, and many hands make a bunch. Each plant produces only one bunch during its life.

Baby Bananas]

The farmer protects the bananas from bugs. The two small bananas at the bottom are sacrificial bananas that protect the rest of the bunch from fungus.

Banana Harvest 2

After the bananas are full grown, the bunch is harvested. The farmer uses paper and plastic to protect the bananas from latex, a gooey brown sap that stains the bananas and makes them hard to sell. The bananas ride a kind of zip-line or cable to a large building where they are washed, cut, and sorted, then packed very tightly in boxes. Then they get loaded into containers and go by truck to a big ship. They are stored at 58 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them from ripening too quickly.

Banana Plant Stump

Once a banana plant has produced a bunch of bananas, they chop it down. However, a daughter plant is already growing right next to the old stem, starting a new cycle of life.

My favorite part of the tour was at the end, when we got to eat some fried green bananas, which are better than potato chips!

When Monkeys Attack!

Fateful Trip

Gülcin, Sam, and I were kayaking a few weeks ago near the island where the spider monkeys live. Sam asked if we could go on the island. Gulcin said yes. There were two monkeys nearby. Sometimes people feed the monkeys on the island, but we did not have any food. Suddenly, the two monkeys came towards us. Sam and Gulcin went back toward the water, and I was trying to run, too, but the two monkeys blocked me. Two more monkeys came up behind me. I felt afraid, and so I screamed. In an instant, the four monkeys and others which came running, attacked me, grabbing and scratching me. I curled up in a little ball, trying to hide my head and face with my arms. Then, Gulcin ran back to me and started pulling the monkeys off of me. She jumped on top of them and picked me up. She threw me in the water and fought to get away from the monkeys, who were dragging her back. I was terrified and hurt—a monkey had scratched me badly on the arm, and I was bleeding like crazy. Sam wrapped his tee-shirt around my arm. Gulcin screamed for help, and a man came in a dinghy and took us to the town. A taxi driver drove me and Gulcin to Portobelo to the clinic, while Sam went back to the boat by dinghy to tell Mom and Dad what had happened. Mom came in another taxi to the clinic. First, they cleaned me up. Then, they gave me a pain shot. Next, they stitched my arm. And finally, they bandaged it. I also had to get a tetanus shot, but I didn’t even cry about it because I wasn’t afraid like I had been before. I came home and told everyone what had happened. They all thought I had been very brave since I didn’t even cry.

Monkey Scar

All healed up!