1902 Encyclopedia > Bermdua

(Original title of article: Bermudas)

BERMUDAS, SOMERS’S ISLANDS, or SUMMER ISLANDS, a group in the Atlantic Ocean, the seat of a British colony, in lat. 32º20´ N. and long. 64º 50´W., about 600 miles E. by S. from Cape Hatters on the American coast. They lie to the south of a coral reef or atoll, which extends about 24 miles in length from N.E. to S.W., by 12 in breadth. The largest of the series is Great Bermuda, or Long Island, enclosing on the east Harrington or Little Sound, and on the west the Great Sound, which is thickly studded with islets, and protected on the north by the islands of Somerset, Boaz, and Inland. The remaining members of the group, St George’s Paget’s, Smith’s St David’s, Cooper’s, Nonsuch, &c., lie to the east, and form a semicircle round Castle Harbour. The islands are wholly composed of a white granular limestone of various degrees of hardness, from the crystalline "base rock," as it is called, to friable grit. It seems that they are in a state of subsidence and not elevation. The caves which usually appear in limestone formations are well represented, many of them running far into the land and displaying a rich variety of stalagmites and stalactites. Among the less ordinary geological phenomena may be mentioned the "sand glacier" at Elbow Bay. The surface soil is a curious kind of red earth, which is also found in ochre-like strata throughout the limestone. It is generally mixed with vegetable matter and coral sand. There is a total want of streams and wells of fresh water, and the inhabitants are dependent on the rain, which they collect and preserve in tanks. The climate of the Bermudas has a reputation for unhealthiness which is hardly borne out, for the ordinary death-rate is only 22 per 1000. Yellow fever and typhus, however, have on some occasions raged with extreme violence, and the former has appeared four times within the space of thirty years. The maximum reading of the thermometer is about 85·8, and its minimum 49,—the mean annual temperature being 70º Fahr., and that of March 65º. Vegetation is very rapid, and the soil is clad in a mantle of almost perpetual green. The principal kind of tree is the so-called "Bermudas cedar," really a species of juniper, which furnishes timber for small vessels. The shores are fringed with the mangrove ; the prickly pear grows luxuriantly in the most barren districts ; and wherever the ground is left to itself the sage-bush springs up profusely. The citron, sour, orange, lemon, and lime grow wild ; but the apple and peach do not come to perfection. The loquat, an introduction from China, thrives admirably. The gooseberry, currant, and raspberry, all run to wood. The oleander bush, with all its beauty, is almost a nuisance. The soil is very fertile in the growth of esculent plants and roots ; and a considerable trade has grown up within recent years between Bermudas and New York, principally in arrowroot, of excellent quality, onions, Irish potatoes, and tomatoes. Regular steam communication between the island and that city is maintained, the Government subsidizing the vessels. The total value of the export of these articles in 1872 was £64,030. Medicinal plants, as the castor-oil plant, aloe, and jalap, come to great perfection without culture; and coffee, indigo, cotton, and tobacco are also of spontaneous growth. Tobacco curing ceased about 1707. Few oxen or sheep are reared in the colony, a supply being obtained from North America ; but goats are kept by a large number of the indigenous Mammalia are very few, and the only Reptilia are a small lizard and the green turtle. Birds, however, especially aquatic species, are very numerous,—one of the commonest being the cardinal-grosbeak. The list includes the cat-bird, blue-bird, kingfisher, ground-dove, blue heron, sandpiper, moorhen, tropic bird, and Carolina crake. Heron, sandpiper moorhen, tropic bird, and Carolina crake. Insects are comparatively few ; but ants swarm destructively in the heat of the year, and a species of ant-lion, a cicada (scissor-grinder), and the chigre or jigger, are common. Fish are plentiful round the coasts, and the whale-fishery was once an important industry. Gold-fish, introduced from Demerara, swarm in the ditches.

There are two towns in the Bermudas, St George’s, founded in 1794, and Hamilton, founded in 1790, and incorporated in 1793. The former was the capital till the senate and courts of justice were removed by Sir James Cockburn to Hamilton, which being centrally situated, is much more convenient. The streets of St George’s are close and narrow, and the drainage bad. It is a military station, the barracks lying to the east of the town. The population is about 2000. Hamilton, in the Great Bermuda, at the bottom of a bay which is entered by Trenblin’s Narrows, consists of an irregular half-street fronting a line of wharves. Its principal buildings include a court-house, a legislative assembly house, a council room, a library (1839), a jail, and a large church. About a mile from the town is Langton, the governor’s residence. In Inland Island is situated the royal dockyard and naval establishment. A hospital stands on the highest point, and a lunatic asylum, has also been built. The bay is defended by a breakwater. On Boaz Island there is a convict station. A causeway, opened in 1871, runs from St George’s through Longbird Island westward, across Castle Harbour. The harbour of St George’s has space enough to accommodate the whole British navy ; yet, till deepened by blasting, the entrance was so narrow as to render it almost useless. A marine slip was constructed in 1865, with a capacity of 1200 tons. The chief military establishment is at Prospect.

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