Bermuda, a tiny collection of rocks in the Atlantic Ocean some 580 miles due east of Cape Hatteras, is isolated. Even so, this group of British islands is one of the most popular tourist resorts in the Western Hemisphere. On most maps, if it shows at all, it’s no more than a tiny dot. Close up, Bermuda looks somewhat like a fishhook, with the curve at the southwest end and the stem extending to the northeast.
The flight in over the island is incredible. The view is never quite what you expect. The sparkling blue waters seen around any tropical island are mixed with eye-catching colors. Homes and shops painted pastel shades of pink, blue, green, yellow and other colors of the rainbow sit anchored under snowy white roofs. The effect is a patchwork quilt, thrown down on a field of green in the middle of the blue ocean.
Bermuda rests on the peaks of a volcanic mountain that rises steeply from the ocean floor to a point some 200 feet below the surface. Above this level, the islands consist mainly of limestone formed by seashells and corals. Along the shores rise huge rocks, sculpted by the action of the wind and water into improbable pinnacles, pillars and grottoes.
The reefs surrounding the islands are made of coral, and the Bermudian archipelago is the northernmost point on the planet that supports its growth. Coral stone, one of its great natural resources, provides Bermuda with an excellent source of road-building and construction material. The stone is so soft that it can be cut with handsaws, but it hardens with exposure to air. Bermuda’s attractive white roads are nothing more than coral bedrock, which have been stripped of the surface soil, smoothed and then allowed to harden. Even the roofs of houses, which are unique to Bermuda, are built of coral stone. Some say they are designed to resemble upturned lifeboats, which were probably the first shelters of the early mariners shipwrecked here.
Today, the roofs serve a second and extremely important
purpose: they are used to catch rainwater and are the
islands’ chief source of drinking water. Because Bermuda has no rivers or fresh-water lakes, most of the island’s fresh water falls from the skies and is stored in underground cisterns.
There are about 180 islands in the Bermudian archipelago,
but they comprise a total land mass of less than 22 square
miles. Only 20 of the islands are inhabited. Of those, the
seven largest are joined by a series of bridges and scenic
causeways. At its widest point, Bermuda measures just two
miles. The sea is never far away and can be seen from almost
anywhere. Great Bermuda, the Main Island, is larger than all
the other islands combined. Its highest point, Town Hill,
rises 260 feet above sea level.
The Bermudian community is divided into nine parishes,
each managed by advisory councils. These include Sandy’s,
Southampton, Warwick, Paget, Devonshire, Pembroke,
Smiths, Hamilton, and St. George’s.
The delightful climate and great natural beauty of Bermuda
attract thousands of visitors each year. The average temperature is 70°F. The winter seldom sees temperatures below 55°; in summer it rarely climbs above 87°.
Rainfall on the islands is often heavy, with almost 60 inches
falling annually. That, accompanied by eight hours of brilliant
sunshine 315 days on average each year, ensures an
abundance of lush vegetation. Palms, casuarinas and
swamp mangroves are among the common trees. Hibiscus,
oleander, poinsettia, and many other flowering plants and
trees bloom profusely. Easter lilies are cultivated for export
and are also used to make perfumes. Two hundred species of
birds have been catalogued here (although most of them are
migratory birds blown off course). The waters off Bermuda
literally teem with fish, many of which are remarkable for
their striking colors and markings. Clear waters offer good
visibility up to 200 feet and beyond.
Most of the island
is residential, a
fact that becomes
as you travel through
town of neat, pastel-
colored homes with white roofs and beautifully maintained English
gardens full of hibiscus, oleander and Bermudiana.
areas, tiny farms
create a magic quilt of tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and
other vegetables. Bananas hang heavily from trees in great
green and yellow bunches. Magnificent pink beaches, green
golf courses and the eye-popping turquoise ocean combine
to create a tropical utopia. And with 12 nature reserves on
the Main Island alone, Bermuda is also a haven for naturalists.