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It All Started With A Shipwreck


Bermuda: Destination Cruising Off The Beaten Track Web Extra

For all its ties with Britain, Bermuda's history is inextricably linked with that of the United States. You see, Bermuda wouldn't exist at all but for the New World settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.

Established in 1607 by a group of British investors, the fledgling American colony endured multiple hardships of famine, disease, and attacks by native peoples. By 1609, the colony was barely surviving. At the urgent request of Capt. John Smith, a supply fleet of nine ships carrying much-needed provisions and additional settlers set sail from Britain under the command of Admiral Sir George Somers. The flagship of this relief mission-the third sent out-was Sea Venture, a 300-ton displacement vessel on her maiden voyage.

On July 25, 1609, the flotilla was caught in the mid-Atlantic "in a fierce tempest"-most likely an early-season hurricane-and the ships were scattered. After four days of raging seas, Somers, aboard the battered and now-leaking Sea Venture, spied land: the "dreadful coast of the Bermodes," avoided by all nations for its hazard of shipwreck. In desperation, the captain directed the ship landward, wedging her between two large rocks. Although presumed dead by those who managed to arrive in Virginia, all 150 aboard Sea Venturesurvived the grounding to discover Bermuda's bounty: plentiful fruit, fish, turtles, and wild hogs.
Sir George and the other survivors immediately set to work supervising the building of two new vessels, using salvaged parts from Sea Venture and newly hewn Bermuda cedar. In May 1610, just nine months after their stranding, the 30-ton pinnace Patience and the 80-ton bark Deliverance sailed to Virginia. Somers and crew were startled to find the colony near collapse, with just 60 desperate survivors out of the original 214 settlers.

Jamestown was nearly abandoned for Bermuda when three other English ships arrived to rescue the colony yet again. Sir George Somers immediately volunteered to return to Bermuda aboard Patience to collect more food, knowing the island's abundance. Despite a safe arrival back in Bermuda, Somers fell ill and died in November 1610, never to return to the Virginia colony, which was at last gaining a tenuous hold. Thus, the salvation of Jamestown-and the founding of Bermuda-began with a single shipwreck.