On June 23rd 1609, an English ship carrying colonists to Virginia encountered a storm that sent it crashing into an ocean reef. The ship, named the Sea Venture was over 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina. But the reefs that they hit were not just any reefs; they were the reefs surrounding Bermuda. And the 150 people who made it safely to shore became Bermuda’s first settlers. It wasn’t where they intended to end up but in many ways it was better. The islands of Bermuda are the result of a volcanic eruption that took place about 70 million years ago. It sent up a three mile high needle of rock that topped out just below the surface of the water. The rock was in the middle of the Gulf Stream which comes up from the Caribbean and keeps the water warm throughout the year.
The warm water attracted coral life and over the centuries the rock was covered with compressed shells that formed the 250 foot thick limestone cap that is now Bermuda. The pinkness of the shells produced Bermuda’s famous pink beaches. Bermuda is a member of the British Commonwealth, but England is 3,500 miles away. United States is a mere 600. Bermuda looks to England for its culture but its biggest trading partner is the United States and even today its currency, the Bermuda dollar is on a par and used interchangeably with the U.S. dollar. Bermuda was founded by Europeans but 60 percent of its present population descended from African slaves. Diverse elements, but somehow Bermuda has been able to blend them together. And in many ways they have done a better job than most nations faced with similar histories. The net result are some of the most beautiful, interesting and hospitable islands in the world.
The capital city of Bermuda is Hamilton. Hamilton has plenty of taxis. And the amount of truck traffic you’d expect for a town with 2,000 inhabitants, but not many cars. Bermuda actually has a long history of opposing automobiles. The government only allowed them in after the Second World War. Even today, each family is limited to one car per resident and the maximum speed limit is 20 miles per hour.
As a result, the primary mode of transportation is the motor scooter. And that’s true for many tourists as well as residents. Motor scooters are easy to rent. Everyone gets an introductory lesson, a helmet that must be worn. To start the bike you put the key in the ignition, turn it to the right and squeeze both brakes. The headlights have high and low beams. Remember to use your turn signals, and don’t forget to turn them off. The horn is a Bermuda greeting. If you hear anybody honking at you, they’re just saying hi. In Bermuda they drive on the left. That’s probably the most important thing to remember.
Bermudian drivers are very polite and you are expected to follow suit. Hamilton contains the islands’ major shopping area which is Front Street West. It runs along the harbor and consists of a series of three story buildings filled with shops and restaurants.
ROYAL NAVAL DOCKYARDS
The Royal Naval Dockyards of Bermuda are a huge military fortress that was built by the British Navy in the late 1700s, and for good reason. When the United States won the War of Independence against England, the British Navy lost its ports along the east coast of North America. The young American Navy was quite aggressive and England began to feel insecure about its position as ruler of the seas. This fort made them feel a little more confident about their situation.