When Nothing Is Really Something

“But why would you go there? There’s absolutely nothing there, it’s just mangroves. Don’t bother,” my friend said when I told her we were stopping at the Marquesas.

We were stopping because it’s a convenient place between Key West and Fort Jefferson. Not that’s there’s much protection, and it’s uncomfortably skinny water, we just didn’t feel like going the whole 70 nm in one shot. Besides I thought that nothing can’t really be nothing.

As we arrive, the Marquesas appear to be not promising, just mangroves and skinny water. Having picked our way carefully through grass and coral we anchored in six feet of water just in time for sunset. Because there’s nothing there there’s no light pollution. The first stars start to twinkle as the golden lip of the sun slips below the horizon. With our planisphere in hand we lie on our backs and watch the show above us – nature’s original big screen television. Orion rises and marches across the sky with Sirius nipping at his heels.

In the morning we look at the long stretch of sand and think, it can’t be all nothing. As we’re staring at the mangroves a huge spotted eagle ray glides past . That’s it, we’ll stay for a day and go adventuring.

The most noticeable thing is the sponges, oodles and oodles of sponges. Bath sponges, round sponges, bowl sponges, all heaped along the sand.

We walk along and find a horseshoe crab waddling along. Then another. Then two together. Within a few hundred yards there’s dozens of these alien looking prehistoric creatures. We clue in – it’s mating season. Wow, a tide of horseshoe crabs. Shame they’re not really crabs and not edible.

The shelling on the Marquesas is excellent. I surreptiously stuff handfuls in my bag. So what if I’ve already got boxes of shells, these ones are different. I need these shells. I’ll hide them, the Pirate Guy won’t even notice them.



As we wander along, we find some baby bonnethead sharks in the shallows. Who invented these funny looking things?




We picnic, we swim, we watch the birds. By sunset we dinghy back to the boat to get ready for tonights episode of the star show. If you look close enough, nothing can be really something.

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