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Duane K. McCullough

Lost Fountain Key Largo chart image

by Duane K. McCullough

MIAMI - According to a new research book involving Caribbean History and the study of human longevity, there may have once been some unique mineral freshwater springs in the upper Florida Keys that inspired the Fountain of Youth Legend.

The book entitled "LOST FOUNTAIN / Researching the Legend" by Duane K. McCullough, explains and illustrates how Ponce de Leon came very close to finding the legendary place where a popular legend has suggested there was a fountain known for its youthful energy.

Identified by a hydrological overview of the area, the author has found some unique rock islands within Largo Sound of Key Largo which may have once been the lost legendary mineral spring portals that contained rare nutritious sea-salts.

What makes these lost springs unique from other Florida springs is the view that nearby Florida Bay is exposed to very large amounts of nutritious sea-salts which, because of tidal action pressure and seasonal freshwater flushing from the Everglades, collect and mix within the aquatic pathways that run through cracks in the coral bedrock of the upper Florida Keys.

This new research suggest the idea that these rare sea-salts contained the trace element of Gold - which is normally very diluted in seawater, but because Gold could have been concentrated as a salt by the evaporation of seawater in nearby Florida Bay, and further collected as a heavy metal at the bottom of other basin-like lagoons, could have been mixed into the local spring waters of the area.

This discovery, together with a new understanding of the health benefits of dietary Gold salts and how they can improve cell memory, sheds new light on a old story.

One portal site in question is near the entrance to South Creek - just a few yards from a small swimming lagoon at the headquarters of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The other portal site is near the entrance to a similar mangrove creek leading north out of Largo Sound named North Creek.

However, perhaps because of major man-made changes in the natural hydrology in the area, these ancient springs are no longer the golden fountains they could have been. It seems that, because of channel dredging many years ago for navigational reasons, what was once several natural freshwater lagoons in the area have since become saltwater bodies of water.

This dredging action has allowed the natural "freshwater lens" to spill out over the edges of what are still shallow water lagoon basins and, as a consequence, tidal saltwater has since replaced the once freshwater marsh environment.

It is estimated that perhaps just only a hundred years ago, several feet of rain water could have been retained in these shallow freshwater lagoons - enough to last through the dry season. This idea supports the view that a substantial native population, which needs ample freshwater, could have lived in the area year round - and were the first people to experienced the tonic wonders of the area.

How this unique realm could have inspired the legendary Fountain of Youth story is best understood by studying the origin of the legend itself.

Current research suggest at least three sources that first documented a story about a place in Florida in which a fountain or spring improved the health of the native inhabitants.

The first story was not from Ponce de Leon himself, but rather from a book called "De Orde Novo Decades" (New World Decades) by a Italian scholar named Peter Martyr de Anghiera. Apparently, Anghiera suggest the idea that the waters of a unique place in the upper Caribbean area could help visitors in their health needs.

The second story comes from a Spaniard named Ernando Fontaneda - who, after surviving as a captive among the Florida natives for seventeen years because of a shipwreck that took place nearly three decades after Ponce's expeditions, repeated in his manuscripts a unique story he heard while captive. Fontaneda wrote about a native family who settled somewhere north of Cuba at a place where a lagoon or spring gave youthful energy after bathing in it.

The third and most famous story that reveals Florida's first mystery comes from another Spanish historian named Antonio de Herrera. While documenting the famous seafaring expeditions of Ponce de Leon from Puerto Rico to Florida in his book "Historia general de los hechos de los castellos en las islas y tierra firme del mar Oceano" (General history of the facts of the castellos on the islands of the Ocean sea), Herrera also writes about a fountain of youthful energy.

However, according to many modern historians, Herrera, which lived almost six decades after Ponce's expedition to Florida, borrowed from Fontaneda's story about a aquatic place of youthful energy and created the Caribbean legend when he suggested that Ponce's exploratory purpose in Florida was the search for a "Fountain of Youth". These historians believe Ponce never heard of the legend - let alone searched for the fountain he is so identified with.

Whatever the case, by researching the path of Ponce's expedition and studying the natural history of the area, new insights about Florida's first mystery should become visible and make modern historians see the idea that the Fountain of Youth legend is more factual than fictional.

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