Daily Archives: June 7, 2011

Streets of St. George

We just returned from a quick visit to Bermuda, where we spent most of our time at the eastern end of the archipelago in the town of St. George and its environs.  The English first settled this part of Bermuda in the early seventeenth century, after a shipwreck in 1609 established its potential as a way station en route to Virginia.  Paradoxically, both Bermuda’s strategic location and its relative remoteness seem to be central factors in its history.

St. George is named after Sir George Somers (1554-1610) and the archipelago was briefly referred to as the Somers Isles.  Somers had been an admiral in the ongoing Anglo-Spanish wars and was working for the Virginia Company in charge of a fleet sent to aid the struggling and starving Jamestown Colony when his ship the Sea Venture  foundered on the rocks of Discovery Bay.  Somers and his fellow castaways, about 150 people (and a dog), remained onshore for 10 months, during which they built two ships and several buildings which established the town of St. George and the colony of Bermuda.  After proceeding to the mainland to complete his mission and replenish Jamestown, Somers returned to Bermuda where he promptly died, apparently leaving instructions to bury his heart on his island and return his (pickled) body to England.  The Somers saga might have been one of the inspirations for Shakespeare’s contemporary play The Tempest, in which the hypothetical island setting is called the “Bermoothes”.  Below is Somers’ portrait, from about 1605 by an anonymous Dutch painter, which I have always admired not so much for its technique but for its projection; Somers seems like such a forthright man of the moment, a real maritime adventurer with no aristocratic airs.

And now for some of my views of St. George:  a storm coming into the harbor, steps along Somers Wharf, some street scenes and St. Peter’s Church, the oldest Anglican church in North America.

Some fauna and flora:  cats on a scooter, a chameleon-like lizard, a chartreuse plant whose name I do not know, and rosemary in the seventeenth-century garden of the Bermuda Perfumery:

And finally, the “Unfinished Church” at twilight, Fort St. Catherine and its beach, and a “Bermuda sloop” in an 1831 painting by John Lynn and off the fort on Sunday.

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