After five days crossing the Atlantic we were looking forward to exploring Bermuda. Our ship was docked at Kings Wharf, Bermuda for two days. Kings Wharf is also known as the Royal Naval Dockyard which was built by the British Navy in 1815. The Georgian style fort served as a North Atlantic base during the World Wars. In 1975 the Bermuda Maritime Museum opened, and restoration of the Dockyard has made it a popular tourist destination.
On the first day we got a day pass for the buses and ferries. First up we took the ferry across to Hamilton which is the capital of Bermuda. We were really impressed with the friendliness of the locals. Everyone said hello and asked how you were and they were all so genuine. We really liked the architecture as well – lots of quaint and colourful buildings all over the island. The building roof’s are also unusual in that they are tiled with a concrete or plaster covering. This finishing adds protection against the storms and high winds that sometimes plague the island.
We were studying the map and bus schedule on the ferry and one of the guys who works on the ferry came over and sat down to chat about the island. We had heard that Bermuda was very expensive and this guy confirmed this by telling us that there was very little property on the island that cost under USD1.2 million. He also said to be above the poverty line you had to be earning at least USD70,000. Almost everything is imported which adds to the expensive nature of everything. The local currency is the Bermudian Dollar which is valued at approximately 1:1 with the US Dollar.
Bermuda’s economy is based on offshore insurance and reinsurance, and tourism, the two largest economic sectors. Bermuda had one of the world’s highest GDP per capita for most of the 20th century and several years beyond. Recently, its economic status has been affected by the global recession, however, the people of Bermuda enjoy a high standard of living.
We had a wander along the waterfront in Hamilton which is called Front St where the Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has one of his super yachts, Eclipse moored – it was huge. They have some lovely shops and they wouldn’t be a British Overseas Territory without Marks & Spencer. Apart from Marks & Spencer I found it hard to comprehend that the country was British as the people were all dark skinned and spoke with American like accents. The island actually reminded me of an upscale Fiji or Rarotonga.
We walked up to the bus station which was next to the City Hall. We were heading to St George. The island has these pink buses which go all over the island – we learnt quickly that the bus drivers think they are driving in the Formula One. The taxi driver we spoke to on our second day on the island said didn’t you see the t-shirts that said “I survived the Bermuda Buses” – definitely summed it up.
St George used to be the capital of Bermuda. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and there are many remnants of the island’s involvement in the American Civil War. We went to King’s Square which is the social centre of St George and saw the Town Hall which was built in 1782.
After St George we caught the bus back to Hamilton where we had lunch at the Pickled Onion. The menu was extensive and we enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the water. Back on the bus after lunch to check out one of the south shore beaches – Horseshoe Bay. The colour of the water is amazing and we enjoyed our walk along the beach. Apparently the sea temperature is about 25 degrees and there were a few people out swimming. Back to the bus stop to catch the bus back to the ship.
Bermuda lies about 600 nautical miles off the east coast of the US. “The Bermudas” are actually a group of approximately 180 islands, with the seven largest islands connected by causeways and bridges. At the core the islands are volcanic. The land above sea level is limestone formed over long centuries by coral and crushed sea shells. The ruggedly elegant limestone adds a wonderful (and practical) character to the style of the island’s architecture.
Bermuda has been on navigational maps of the new world since the 1500’s but none of the European powers exploring the Americas thought of settlement until the English in the early 1600’s. Well marked charts were obviously of little help over the centuries to the hundreds of ships which met their doom upon the treacherous reefs that surround Bermuda. Today the misfortune of the early sailors works to the islands advantage. The multitude of shipwrecks, together with having the northernmost coral reefs in the Atlantic, gives Bermuda some fantastic sites for snorkelling and SCUBA diving.
Following the US Civil War, Bermuda was growing and exporting a lot of vegetables to US markets in New York; among the best and most popular exports were onions. All was going smoothly and profitably until 1898 when some Texans got hold of a packet of onion seed from Bermuda. The entrepreneurial Texans registered the name Bermuda Onions and started growing and exporting them all over the US.
In the best English tradition, if it is 4pm in Bermuda it is time for Tea. Nearly 5,000 years after the Chinese first boiled the little green leaves, tea finally reached England in the mid 1600’s (well after coffee). It quickly became one of the favourite drinks of the working class. The tradition of Afternoon Tea as it is known today is said to have started in the mid 1800’s with the Duchess of Bedford, one of the Ladies-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria. On a stronger note, locally produced Black Seal Rum is an island favourite. When the rum is mixed with ginger beer soda you have the popular “Dark & Stormy.” Another popular mixed drink is the Bermuda Rum Swizzle. This cocktail combines rum, fresh fruit juice, bitters for the snap and grenadine syrup for sweetness. The Bermuda Brewery Company brews some very good, dark, German-Pilsner style stout beers.
Bermuda is the northernmost point of the so-called Bermuda Triangle, a region of sea in which, according to legend, a number of aircraft and surface vessels have disappeared under supposedly unexplained or mysterious circumstances. The island is in the hurricane belt and prone to severe weather.
The Bermuda Triangle is a region of the Western Atlantic Ocean that has become associated with mysterious disasters. Also known as the Devil’s Triangle, the triangle shaped area covers about 440,000 square miles between the island of Bermuda, the coast of southern Florida, and Puerto Rico.
The sinister reputation of the Bermuda Triangle may be traceable to reports made in the late 15th century by navigator Christopher Columbus concerning the Sargasso Sea, in which floating masses of gulfweed were regarded as uncanny and perilous by early sailors; others date the notoriety of the area to the mid 19th century, when a number of reports were made of unexplained disappearances and mysteriously abandoned ships. The earliest recorded disappearance of a United States vessel in the area occurred in 1918, when the USS Cyclops vanished.
The incident that consolidated the reputation of the Bermuda Triangle was the disappearance in December 1945 of Flight 19, a training squadron of five US Navy torpedo bombers. The squadron left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with 14 crewmen and disappeared after radioing a series of distress messages; a seaplane sent in search of the squadron also disappeared. Aircraft that have disappeared in the area since this incident include a DC-3 carrying 27 passengers in 1948 and a C-124 Globemaster with 53 passengers in 1951. Among the ships that have disappeared was the tanker ship Maine Sulphur Queen, which vanished with 39 men on board in 1963.
Books, articles, and television broadcasts investigating the Bermuda Triangle emphasise that, in the case of most of the disappearances, the weather was favourable, the disappearances occurred in daylight after a sudden break in radio contact, and the vessels vanished without a trace. However, sceptics point out that many supposed mysteries result from careless or biased consideration of data. For example, some losses attributed to the Bermuda Triangle actually occurred outside the area of the triangle in inclement weather conditions or in darkness, and some can be traced to known mechanical problems or inadequate equipment.
In the case of Flight 19, for example, the squadron commander was relatively inexperienced, a compass was faulty, the squadron failed to follow instructions, and the aircraft was operating under conditions of deteriorating weather and visibility and with a low fuel supply. Other proposed explanations for disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle include the action of physical forces known to science, a “hole in the sky”, an unusual chemical component in the region’s seawater, and abduction by extraterrestrial beings. Scientific evaluations of the Bermuda Triangle have concluded that the number of disappearances in the region is not abnormal and most of the disappearances have logical explanations. Paranormal associations with the Bermuda Triangle continue to persist in the public mind.