By Peter Schaub
Beautiful Bermuda was on nobody’s bucket list in the 1600s. Named for Juan Bermudez, who discovered them about 1505, the islands were feared by the Spanish and Portuguese who rode the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean to Europe. The reefs surrounding the islands are treacherous, making a purposeful entry to harbor all but impossible in that era. The screeching cahow birds would have sounded to superstitious sailors like wailing demons. They called the place the “Isle of Devils”.
Sea Venture was the flagship of the relief fleet sent from England to Jamestowne in 1609. Hit by a hurricane, six battered vessels made it into Jamestowne with most of the provisions spoiled. The Sea Venture carried the senior leaders and wrecked on Bermuda. Even as the gunwales were awash, Captain Newport, Admiral Somers and Governor Gates must have been wondering which fate was better: drowning at sea or being wrecked on that abhorred shore.
Unlike those shipwrecked Jamestowne settlers, Connie and I arrived safe and dry in Bermuda with our friends on a lovely April day. Bermuda is not only pink coral beaches, gentle turquoise waves, and great golf courses. We spent the next week meeting interesting people, learning about Bermuda’s history, and sampling the local favorite, the “dark and stormy” made with Bermuda dark rum. Our interest in Bermuda started with our interest in Historic Jamestowne where the recent discoveries are showing the connections between the earliest British settlements in America. For example, Bermuda limestone was found inside the Jamestowne fort site in a 1610 context. This was ballast used in the new ships built by the Sea Venture survivors.We began our visit attending an art auction at the World Heritage Center in the town of St. George.
Peter Schaub retired in 2010 after 40 years in management at the electric utility in Washington, DC. He and his wife moved to Williamsburg, Virginia where they enjoy the arts and the immersion in history available within a community that includes the College of William & Mary, Colonial Williamsburg, and Historic Jamestowne. They also enjoy travel, especially when it has a connection to history. Peter is a Master Gardener, and an amateur letterpress printer, continuing a hobby that began in his teen years. He is currently president of the American Amateur Press Association.