GETTING LOST IN THE TRIANGLE
Bermuda Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
April 26th, 2007 – by: mellemel8
Although commonly referred to in the singular, the territory consists of approximately 138 islands, with a total area of 53.3 km² (20.6 sq. mi.). Compiling a list of these islands is often complicated, as many have more than one name (as does the entire archipelago, which, in addition to its two official names, has historically been known as "La Garza", "Virgineola", and the "Isle of Devils").
Bermuda has a highly affluent economy, with a large financial sector and tourism industry giving it the world's highest GDP per capita in 2005. It has a subtropical climate, beaches with pink sand, and cerulean blue ocean.
Bermuda was discovered by Europeans in the early 1500s, probably in 1503, according to some sources.
Bermúdez and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo ventured to Bermuda in 1514 or 1515 with the intention to drop off a breeding stock of hogs on the island as a future stock of fresh meat for passing ships.
Some years later, a Portuguese ship on the way home from San Domingo wedged itself between two rocks on the reef. The crew tried to salvage as much as they could and spent the next four months building a new hull from Bermuda cedar to return to their initial departure point. One of these stranded sailors is most likely the person who carved the initials "R" and "P", "1543" into Spanish Rock. The initials probably stood for "Rex Portugaline" and later were incorrectly attributed to the Spanish, leading to the misnaming of this rocky outcrop of Bermuda.
For the next century, the island is believed to have been visited frequently but not permanently settled. The first two British colonies in Virginia had failed, and a more determined effort was initiated by King James I of England (and VI of Scotland), who granted a Royal Charter to The Virginia Company.
Most of the survivors of the Sea Venture had carried on to Jamestown in 1610 aboard two Bermuda-built ships. Among these was John Rolfe, who left a wife and child buried in Bermuda, but in Jamestown would marry Pocahontas, a daughter of Powhatan. Rolfe was also single-handedly responsible for beginning Virginia's tobacco industry (the economic basis of the colony had been intended to be lumber). Intentional settlement of Bermuda began with the arrival of the Plough, in 1612.
With its limited land area, Bermuda has had difficulty since then with its population growth.
In 1649, the English Civil War raged and King Charles I was beheaded in Whitehall, London.
In the 17th century, the Somers Isles Company suppressed shipbuilding as it needed Bermudians to farm if it were to generate income from the land. Agricultural production met with only limited success, however. The Bermuda cedar boxes used to ship tobacco to England were reportedly worth more than their contents. The colony of Virginia far surpassed Bermuda in both quality and quantity of tobacco produced. After the dissolution of the Somers Isle Company, Bermudians rapidly abandoned agriculture for shipbuilding, replanting farmland with the native juniper (Juniperus bermudiana, also called Bermuda cedar) trees that grew thickly over the whole island.
After the American Revolution, the Royal Navy began improving the harbours and built the large dockyard on Ireland Island, in the west of the chain, as its principal naval base guarding the western Atlantic Ocean shipping lanes. During the American War of 1812, the British attacks on Washington D.C. and the Chesapeake, that would result in the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner", were planned and launched from Bermuda, the Royal Navy's 'North American Station'. It was here that the British soldiers assembled before being sent to attack Baltimore and Washington. In 1816, Bermuda's Royal Naval Dockyard was fortified against possible US attacks by James Arnold. Arnold was the son of famed US traitor Benedict Arnold. Today, the "Maritime Museum" occupies on the Keep of the Royal Naval Dockyard, including the Commissioner's House, and exhibits artifacts of the base's military history.
As a result of Bermuda's proximity to the southeastern U.S. coast, it was regularly used by Confederate States blockade runners during the American Civil War to evade Union naval vessels and bring desperately needed war goods to the South from England. The old Globe Hotel in St. George's, which was a centre of intrigue for Confederate agents, is preserved as a museum open to the public.
In the early 20th century, as modern transport and communication systems developed, Bermuda became a popular destination for wealthy American, Canadian and British tourists. In addition, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act enacted by the United States against its trading partners in 1930 cut off Bermuda's once-thriving agricultural export trade (primarily fresh vegetables to the US) spurring the overseas territory to develop its tourist industry, which is second behind international business in terms of economic importance to the island.
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