History of Bermuda

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Bermuda was discovered by Juan de Bermudez in 1505.[1] The island is shown as "La Bermuda" in Peter Martyr's Legatio Babylonica (1511). Bermudez returned again in 1515, with the chronicler Oviedo y Valdés. Oviedo's account of the second visit (published in 1526) records that they made no attempt to land because of weather.

In 1609, Sir George Somers set sail aboard the Sea Venture, the new flagship of the Virginia Company, leading a fleet of nine vessels, loaded with provisions and settlers for the new English colony of Jamestown, in Virginia. The fleet was caught in a storm, and the Sea Venture was separated and began to founder. When the reefs to the East of Bermuda were spotted, the ship was deliberately driven on them to prevent its sinking, thereby saving all aboard (150 sailors and settlers, and one dog). The survivors spent ten months on Bermuda. Several were lost-at-sea when the Sea Venture's longboat was rigged with a mast and sent in search of Jamestown. Neither it nor its crew were ever seen again. The remainder built two new ships: the Deliverance, largely from the material stripped from the Sea Venture (which sat high-and-dry on the reef, and was still being cannibalised in 1612 – its guns were used to arm a fort) and the Patience. The latter was made necessary by the food stores the survivors had begun to collect and stockpile in Bermuda, and which could not be accommodated aboard the Deliverance. It was built almost entirely from material sourced on the islands. When the two new vessels were complete, most of the survivors set sail, completing their journey to Jamestown.

They arrived to find the colony's population almost annihilated by the Starving Time, which had left only 60 survivors out of the 500 who had preceded them, and most of these survivors were sick or dying. The food the Sea Venture survivors brought with them was woefully insufficient, and the colony seemed unviable. It was decided to abandon it, and to return everyone to England. Loaded aboard the two ships, they were prevented from making this evacuation by the timely arrival of another relief fleet, bearing Governor Lord De La Warre, among others. The Sea Venture survivors had brought pork from the pigs that had been found wild on the island, which had presumably been left by previous visitors. This led the Jamestown colonists to refer to "Bemuda Hogs" as a form of currency. Somers returned to Bermuda with the Patience to obtain more food supplies, but died there from a surfeit of pork. The Patience, captained by his nephew, Matthew Somers, returned to England, instead of Virginia. Somers left three volunteers – Carter, Chard and Waters – behind on Bermuda (two when the Deliverance and Patience had departed, and the third following the Patience's return) to maintain the claim of the island for the England, leaving the Virginia Company in possession of the island. As a result, Bermuda has been continuously inhabited since the wrecking of the Sea Venture, and claims its origin from that date, and not the official settlement of 1612.

Returning to Somers' hometown of Lyme Regis, in Dorset, his body (which had been pickled in a barrel) was landed via The Cobb, the notable breakwater which protects town's harbour. His heart, however, was left buried on what would subsequently also be known as The Somers Isles. After reaching England, the reports of the survivors of the Sea Venture aroused great interest about Bermuda. Accounts were published by two survivors, William Strachey and Sylvester Jordain. Two years later, in 1612, the Virginia Company's Royal Charter was officially extended to include the island, and a party of 60 settlers was sent, under the command of Sir Richard Moore, the island's first governor. Joining the three men left behind by the Deliverance and the Patience (who had taken up residence on Smith's Island), they founded and commenced construction of the town of St. George.

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