History of Bermuda

Bermuda Discovered

In 1609 a fleet of ships left England to relieve the ailing colony in Jamestown.  During the voyage, an Atlantic hurricane crossed their path and battered the fleet.  Admiral Sir George Somers and the soon to be Governor of Virginia, where both aboard the flag ship, Sea Venture which was separated from the rest of the fleet.  The ship developed several leaks that were such that they were required to bail water 24 hours a day and had to throw anything considered non essential overboard just to remain afloat.

The ship mercifully found its way to Bermuda but the welcome was not quite what they would have hoped for.  The ship became inextricably wedged between two reefs just off the East coast of Bermuda, an area later to be named the parish of St. George.   Fortunately the crew and passengers all made it safely ashore and were able the salvage what was left of the supplies, rigging and tools from the Sea Venture.

Who or what did they find?
They found an island paradise with wild boar, said to be left by passing Spanish ships, local sea birds and fish which they found in abundance.  Within a year they managed to build two ships, a passenger ship called the Deliverance and a small pinnace called the Patience which would carry supplies for the Jamestown community.  When they arrive in Jamestown, they discovered that colony all but wiped out.  Their fortuitous arrival could not have been sooner. 

Sir George returned to Bermuda months later but died while here.  His heart was buried on the island, purportedly in an area now called Somers’ Garden, but the body was returned to his home of Lyme Regis, Dorset England.  When the crew left Bermuda, they left two crew in Bermuda which effectively meant that Bermuda has been permanently inhabited since 1609.  Bermuda thus celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2009.  

The First Settlers
The first settlers arrived in 1612 to establish an agricultural community for its owners, the Bermuda Company.  However by 1690 it was obvious to all that the Island could not compete with Virginia with is main cash crop of tobacco.  The quality and quantity were inferior.

Surviving in the middle of the Atlantic
 By the turn of the 18th century, the islanders took to the sea for survival.  They built ships of the local cedar (up to 100 a year), and became involved in privateering, wrecking and salt raking in the Turks Islands, further to the south.  Because of the close proximity to the colonies to the West, the islanders formed very close relationships with their American brothers.  So much so that when George Washington sent a letter in September 1775, requesting gun powder to fight the British, Bermuda’s loyalty to the Crown was severely tested. However shortly after that request, ships arrived off the coast of Bermuda and were supplied by the gunpowder they needed despite the fact that it was stolen from British supplies by Bermudians.

Choosing the Southern States
Nearly a century later during the American Civil War, St. George became an important base for the Confederate cause as European countries, seeking the raw materials from the southern states, were happy to provide war materials for the Confederate military machine.  The small ships designed to avoid the northern blockades were not suitable for Atlantic crossings.  Bermuda thus became a base for the transfer of materials to and from the larger ocean crossing ships.  St. George hence became a busy place, bustling with activity related to that conflict.

Innovation and Success
Bermuda has succeeded over the centuries because of the spirit of innovation that its people have become known for.  From the development of the triangular sale used on Bermuda built vessels to the relationships we developed and later the return to agriculture with the shipment of onions around the turn of the 20th century, Bermuda has always managed to thrive rather than just survive.  
Today Bermuda remains a thriving community.  We remain a British Dependent Territory, and since the late 1990’s, Bermudians can now individually choose whether they want to become full British citizens.  Thousands of Bermudians have taken up that offer and are now free to travel and live freely in the UK and Europe.

The Economy and Government
The two main pillars of economy are International business (mostly international insurance and reinsurance) and tourism which is a very distant second.  Bermuda is amongst the top three International Insurance jurisdictions in the world.  With a GDP of over  $5 billion and 64,000 residents, the GPD per capita is one of the highest in the world.

As a British dependent territory, the country remains loyal to the British Crown.  The technical Commander in Chief, the Governor, is a representative of Her Majesty. However Bermuda was one of the first of the British colonies to be self governed.  The Governor does not participate in the local Parliament but does take direct responsibility of the judicial system, the police and the local military.  The political party with the majority of the 36 seat able to elect a leader who becomes the Premier, the de-facto leader of the Country.

New Challenges
Today Bermuda faces new challenges as the world moves towards a truly global economy.  While these changes will require innovation and adaptation, Bermudians have a long history of an entrepreneurial spirit that will serve us well in the future.

Words from the Song: Bermuda is another world by Hubert Smith

Bermuda is another world
Seven hundred miles at sea
And the way the people greet you
Is like a friendly melody

To touch a flower in the morning
To listen to a honey bee
To hear a bird who sings a song
Just to say that he is free.

Bermuda is another world
Turn around I’ll tell you why
Just to watch the morning sunrise
From the sea up to the skies

To look across on the harbour
And see a multi coloured sail
To water ski on the water
That always leaves a snowy trail

Bermuda is another world
Turn around and you’ll be gone
But there’ll always be a memory
That will linger on and on

And someday I’ll here you say
Just as I have said today
Bermuda is another world