Danger and Discovery

An 18th-Century Naturalist Delves Deep Into Wild Florida
Photograph Of A Drawing By William Bartram Of Two Alligators In The St Johns River
Despite appearing to exhibit a somewhat fanciful element, Bartram’s drawing of two alligators in the St. Johns River conveys much accurate information that must have transfixed his readers in the Northeast.

 

The animals and birds of Florida seem exotic even today. What Northern visitor can fail to be curious about — and amazed by — alligators, gopher tortoises and the spectrum of bird life from tropical and temperate climates alike? 

Now imagine a Northern visitor who is also a naturalist, arriving in Florida some 250 years ago. He would have felt as if he were exploring an uncharted jungle; and in many ways, he was.

Such a man was William Bartram. He traveled here during the 1770s, coming from Pennsylvania and trekking as far south as Sebastian.

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