Bermuda

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Bermuda, officially the Bermudas or Somers Islands,[4] is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about 1,030 kilometres (640 mi) to the west-northwest(HP Pavilion dv6-3089la battery). It is about 1,373 kilometres (853 mi) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and 1,770 kilometres (1,100 mi) northeast of Miami, Florida. Its capital city is Hamilton.

Bermuda was discovered in 1505 by Spanish sea captain Juan de Bermúdez, after whom the islands are named, who claimed it for the Spanish Empire. Although he paid two visits to the archipelago(HP Pavilion dv6-3088la battery), Bermúdez never set foot on the uninhabited islands because of the dangerous reef that surrounded most of the islands. Subsequent Spanish or other visitors are believed to have released the feral pigs that were abundant on the island when settlement began. The archipelago was settled by England in 1609, by the Virginia Company(HP Pavilion dv6-3085ea battery), which had established Jamestown on the Continent two years earlier. Administered as an extension of Virginia by the Virginia Company until 1614, and by its successor, the Somers Isles Company, from 1615 until 1684, Bermuda became a British colony following the 1707 unification of the Kingdom of England with the Kingdom of Scotland to create the unified Kingdom of Great Britain(HP Pavilion dv6-3077la battery). Since Virginia's independence, Bermuda is the oldest (and since the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the most populous) remaining British overseas territory. Its first capital, St George's, was established in 1612 and is the oldest continuously-inhabited English town in the Americas(HP Pavilion dv6-3070ea battery).[5]

Bermuda has an affluent economy, with off-shore finance as its largest sector, followed by tourism.[5][6] In 2005 Bermuda claimed to have the world's highest GDP per capita, but these statistics are difficult to verify as Bermuda is classified as a territory of the UK rather than an independent country. It has a subtropical climate(HP Pavilion dv6-3068ea battery).[7] Bermuda makes up the easternmost point of the so-called "Bermuda Triangle," a region of sea in which a number of aircraft and surface vessels have allegedly disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The island is prone to severe weather and powerful hurricanes, with widespread power outages(HP Pavilion dv6-3067ea battery).

Geography

Topographic map of Bermuda

Main article: Geography of Bermuda

Bermuda is a group of low-lying islands located in the Atlantic Ocean, near the western edge of the Sargasso Sea, roughly 580 nautical miles (1070 km, 670 mi) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and roughly 590 nautical miles (1100 km, 690 mi) southeast of Martha's Vineyard. The island lies due east of Fripp Island, South Carolina(HP Pavilion dv6-3065ea battery). It has 103 km (64 mi) of coastline. There are two incorporated municipalities in Bermuda: the City of Hamilton and the Town of St George. Bermuda is divided into various "parishes," in which there are some localities called "villages," such as Flatts Village and Somerset Village. It is antipodal to Rottnest Island in Western Australia(HP Pavilion dv6-3060sa battery).

Although usually referred to in the singular, the territory consists of 181 islands, with a total area of 53.3 square kilometres (20.6 sq mi). The largest island, Main Island, sometimes itself called Bermuda. Compiling a list of the islands is often complicated, as many have more than one name (as does the entire archipelago(HP Pavilion dv6-3057sa battery), which has also been known historically as La Garza, Virgineola, and the Isle of Devils. Somers Isles is often rendered "Somers Islands", or mistaken for "Summer Isles"). Despite its small land mass, there has been a tendency for place names to be repeated; there are, for example, two islands named Long Island, and St George's Town is located on St George's Island within St George's Parish (each known as St George's) (HP Pavilion dv6-3056sa battery).

[edit]Climate

Main article: Climate of Bermuda

Bermuda has a humid subtropical climate[7][8] on the border of tropical climate. It's warmed by the neaby Gulf Stream, due to the westerlies, which carry warm, humid air eastwards over Bermuda, helping to keep winter temperatures above freezing. The climate is humid and, as a result, the summertime heat index can be high(HP Pavilion dv6-3055sa battery), even though mid-August temperatures rarely exceed 30 °C (86 °F). Winters are mild and windy, with average daytime temperatures in January and February around 20 °C (68 °F), although cold fronts bring Arctic air masses that can result in rapid temperature drops. Atlantic winter storms, often associated with these cold fronts, can produce powerful(HP Pavilion dv6-3050sa battery), gusting winds and heavy rain. Factoring in the wind chill, the felt air temperature in winter can fall below freezing, 0 °C (32 °F), even though the actual temperature rarely drops below 10 °C (50 °F). The lowest temperature recorded between 1949 and 1999 was 6.7 °C (44 °F), in February 1950.[9]

Bermuda is very susceptible to hurricanes. Its position along the Gulf Stream means that it is often directly in the path of hurricanes recurving in the westerlies(HP Pavilion dv6-3050eo battery), although they have usually begun to weaken as they approach the island. It is often affected by these hurricanes, although the island's small size means that direct landfalls are rare. The last hurricane to cause significant damage to Bermuda was category 3 Hurricane Fabian on 5 September 2003(HP Pavilion dv6-3048tx battery).

The only source of fresh water in Bermuda is rainfall, which is collected on roofs and catchments (or drawn from underground lenses) and stored in tanks. Each dwelling usually has at least one of these tanks forming part of its foundation. Residents typically add bleach to make the water safe to drink.

Average annual temperature of the sea is 23 °C (73 °F), from 20 °C (68 °F) in January to 28 °C (82 °F) in August(HP Pavilion dv6-3048sa battery).[10]

Flora and fauna

Young Bermuda cedar at Ferry Reach.

Main article: Flora and fauna in Bermuda

When discovered, Bermuda was uninhabited and mostly dominated by forests of Bermuda cedar, with mangrove swamps along its shores. Only 165 of the island's current 1000 vascular plant species are considered native, and of those 15, including the cedar, are endemic(HP Pavilion dv6-3047sa battery).

The only indigenous mammals of Bermuda are five species of bats, all of which also occur in the eastern United States — Lasionycteris noctivagans, Lasiurus borealis, Lasiurus cinereus, Lasiurus seminolus and Perimyotis subflavus.[13] Other commonly known fauna of Bermuda includes its national bird, the Bermuda Petrel(HP Pavilion dv6-3046sa battery), and the Bermuda Rock Skink. The skink was long thought to have been the only indigenous land vertebrate of Bermuda, discounting the marine turtles that lay their eggs on its beaches. It has recently been discovered, however, that a species of terrapin, which had been assumed to have been introduced, predated the arrival of humans on the archipelago(HP Pavilion dv6-3045sa battery). As this species spends most of its time in brackish ponds, there is some question as to whether it negates the skink's claim to be the only indigenous "land" vertebrate.

[edit]History

Main article: History of Bermuda

[edit]Pre-settlement

Bermuda was discovered in 1505 by Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez.[14] It is mentioned in Legatio Babylonica, published in 1511 by historian Pedro Mártir de Anglería, and was also included on Spanish charts of that year(HP Pavilion dv6-3044sa battery). Both Spanish and Portuguese ships used the islands as a replenishment spot for fresh meat and water. Legends of spirits and devils, now thought to have stemmed from the callings of raucous birds (most likely the Bermuda Petrel, or Cahow) and the loud noise heard at night from wild hogs(HP Pavilion dv6-3042tx battery), combined with perpetual storm-wracked conditions and a surrounding ring of treacherous reefs, led to the archipelago being called the Isle of Devils, and may have contributed to the lack of any attempt at permanent settlement.

[edit]Settlement by the British

John Smith wrote one of the first Histories of Bermuda (in concert with Virginia and New England) (HP Pavilion dv6-3040sa battery)

For the next century, the island is believed to have been visited frequently but not settled. After the failure of the first two English colonies in Virginia, a more determined effort was initiated by King James I of England (James VI of Scotland), who granted a Royal Charter to the Virginia Company(HP Pavilion dv6-3035sa battery). In 1609, a flotilla of ships left England under the Company's Admiral, Sir George Somers, and the new Governor of Jamestown, Sir Thomas Gates, to relieve the colony of Jamestown, settled two years before. Somers had previous experience sailing with both Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. The flotilla was broken up by a storm, and the flagship(HP Pavilion dv6-3033sa battery), the Sea Venture, was wrecked off Bermuda (as depicted on the territory's coat of arms), leaving the survivors in possession of a new territory. (William Shakespeare's play The Tempest is thought to have been inspired by William Strachey's account of this shipwreck.) [15] The island was claimed for the English Crown, and the charter of the Virginia Company was extended to include it(HP Pavilion dv6-3032tx battery).

Most of the survivors of the Sea Venture carried on to Jamestown in 1610 aboard two Bermuda-built ships. Among them was John Rolfe, who left a wife (Sarah Hacker) and child buried in Bermuda before marrying Pocahontas, a daughter of Powhatan, in Jamestown. Intentional settlement of Bermuda began with the arrival of the Plough(HP Pavilion dv6-3032sa battery), in 1612. St George's was settled in 1612 and made Bermuda's first capital. It is the oldest continually inhabited English town in the New World.[5]

In 1615, the colony was passed to a new company, the Somers Isles Company (The Somers Isles remains an official name for the colony, named after Admiral Somers, just as Gate's Bay and Fort Gates are named after Sir Thomas Gates) (HP Pavilion dv6-3031sa battery), formed by the same shareholders. The close ties with Virginia were commemorated even after Bermuda's separation by reference to the archipelago in many Virginian place names, such as Bermuda City, and Bermuda Hundred. The first British coins in America were struck here(HP Pavilion dv6-3030tx battery).

[edit]Company colony

Because of its limited land area, Bermuda has had difficulty with over-population. In the first two centuries of settlement it relied on steady human emigration to keep the population manageable. It is often claimed that, before the American Revolution more than ten thousand Bermudians (over half of the population) emigrated(HP Pavilion dv6-3030sa battery), primarily to the American South, where Great Britain was displacing Spain as the dominant European imperial power. A steady trickle of outward migration continued. With seafaring being the only real industry, by the end of the 18th century at least a third of the island's manpower was at sea at any one time(HP Pavilion dv6-3026tx battery).

The archipelago's limited land area and resources led to the creation of what may be the earliest conservation laws of the New World. In 1616 and 1620 acts were passed banning the hunting of certain birds and young tortoises.[16]

In 1649, the English Civil War raged and King Charles I was beheaded in Whitehall, London. The execution resulted in the outbreak of a Bermudian civil war; it was ended by militias(HP Pavilion dv6-3025sa battery). This created a strong sense of devotion to the crown for the majority of colonists and it forced those who did not swear allegiance, such as Puritans and independents, into exile in the Bahamas.[17]

Bermuda Gazette of 12 November 1796, calling for privateering against Spain and its allies, and with advertisements for crew for two privateer vessels(HP Pavilion dv6-3020sa battery).

In the 17th century the Somers Isles Company suppressed shipbuilding, as it needed Bermudians to farm in order to generate income from the land. Agricultural production met with only limited success, however. The Bermuda cedar boxes used to ship tobacco to England were reportedly worth more than their contents.[citation needed] (HP Pavilion dv6-3015sa battery) The colony of Virginia far surpassed Bermuda in both quality and quantity of tobacco produced. Bermudians began to turn to maritime trades relatively early in the 17th century, but the Somers Isles Company used all its authority to suppress turning away from agriculture. This interference led to the islanders demanding, and receiving, the revocation of the Company's charter in 1684(HP Pavilion dv6-3010sa battery), the Company itself being dissolved.

[edit]Maritime economy

After the dissolution of the Somers Isle Company, Bermudians rapidly abandoned agriculture for shipbuilding, replanting farmland with the native juniper (Juniperus bermudiana, called Bermuda cedar) trees that grew thickly over the whole island. Establishing effective control over the Turks Islands, Bermudians(HP Pavilion dv6-3011tx battery) deforested their landscape to begin the salt trade that became the world's largest and remained the cornerstone of Bermuda's economy for the next century. Bermudian sailors relied on more than salt, however. They vigorously pursued whaling, privateering, and the merchant trade. Vessels sailed the normal shipping routes, but were required to engage an enemy vessel no matter the size or strength(HP Pavilion dv6-3006tx battery), and as a result many ships were destroyed. The Bermuda sloop became highly regarded for speed and maneuverability. The Bermuda sloop HMS Pickle, one of the fastest vessels in the Royal Navy, brought the news of the victory at Trafalgar and the death of Admiral Nelson back to England(HP Pavilion dv6-3005tx battery).

[edit]Fortress Bermuda

An illustration of Devonshire Redoubt, Bermuda, 1614

After the American Revolution, the Royal Navy began improving the harbours and in 1811 started building the large dockyard on Ireland Island, in the west of the chain, to serve as its principal naval base guarding the western Atlantic Ocean shipping lanes. During the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States, the British attacks on Washington(HP Pavilion dv6-3005sa battery), D.C. and the Chesapeake (which prompted the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner) were planned and launched from Bermuda, where the headquarters of the Royal Navy's 'North American Station' had recently been moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The First Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps Contingent, raised in 1914. By the war's end, the two BVRC contingents had lost over 75% of their combined strength(HP Pavilion dv6-3000 battery).

In 1816, James Arnold, the son of Benedict Arnold, fortified Bermuda's Royal Naval Dockyard against possible U.S. attacks.[18] Today, the "Maritime Museum" occupies the Keep of the Royal Naval Dockyard, including the Commissioner's House, and exhibits artefacts of the base's military history(HP Pavilion dm3z-1000 battery).

As a result of Bermuda's proximity to the southeastern U.S. coast, it was regularly used by Confederate States blockade runners during the American Civil War to evade Union naval vessels and bring desperately needed war goods to the South from England. The old Globe Hotel in St George's, which was a centre of intrigue for Confederate agents, is preserved as a museum open to the public(HP Pavilion dm3z battery).

[edit]Economic and political development

In the early 20th century, as modern transport and communication systems developed, Bermuda became a popular destination for wealthy American, Canadian and British tourists arriving by frequent steamship service. In addition, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act enacted by the United States against its trading partners in 1930(HP Pavilion dm3a-1000 battery), cut off Bermuda's once-thriving agricultural export trade (primarily lilies and fresh vegetables to the U.S.), spurring the overseas territory to develop its tourist industry.

Bermuda mid-1920s

After several failed attempts, in 1930 the first aeroplane reached Bermuda. A Stinson Detroiter seaplane flying from New York, it had to land in the ocean once because of darkness and then again to refuel(HP Pavilion dm3a battery). Navigation and weather forecasting improved in 1933 when the Royal Air Force established a station at Bermuda and operated float planes from the harbour in coordination with the British fleet. In 1936 Luft Hansa began to experiment with seaplane flights from Berlin via the Azores with continuation to New York City.[19] In the late 1930s(HP Pavilion dm3-1095es battery), Imperial Airways and Pan American World Airways began operating scheduled flying-boat airline services from New York and Baltimore to Darrell's Island, Bermuda. In 1948, regularly scheduled commercial airline service by land-based aeroplanes began to Kindley Field (now L.F. Wade International Airport), helping tourism to reach its peak in the 1960s–1970s(HP Pavilion dm3-1031tx battery). By the end of the 20th century, international business had supplanted tourism as the dominant sector of Bermuda's economy (see Economy of Bermuda).

The S.S. Queen of Bermuda in Hamilton Harbour, December 1952 or January 1953

The S.S. Queen of Bermuda departing the island in December 1952 or January 1953

The Royal Naval Dockyard, and the attendant military garrison continued to be an important component of Bermuda's economy until the mid-20th century(HP Pavilion dm3-1013tx battery). In addition to considerable building work, the armed forces needed to source food and other materials from local vendors. Beginning in World War II, U.S. military installations also were located in Bermuda (see "Military" section, below, and Military of Bermuda).

Universal adult suffrage and the development of a two-party political system occurred in the 1960s. Before universal suffrage, adopted as part of Bermuda's Constitution in 1967(HP Pavilion dm3-1090es battery), voting was based on property ownership (see "Politics" section, below, and Politics of Bermuda). On 10 March 1973, then-Governor of Bermuda Richard Sharples was assassinated by local Black Power militants during a period of civil unrest in the 1970s.

[edit]Parishes and municipalities

Main article: Administrative divisions of Bermuda

Parishes of Bermuda(HP Pavilion dm3-1030us battery)

Bermuda is divided into nine parishes and two municipalities.

Bermuda's nine parishes:

Devonshire

Hamilton

Paget

Pembroke

St George's

Sandys

Smith's

Southampton

Warwick

Bermuda's two incorporated municipalities:

Hamilton (city)

St George (town)

Bermuda's two informal villages:

Flatts Village

Somerset Village

Despite their names, Jones Village (in Warwick), Cashew City (St. George's), Claytown (Hamilton), Middle Town (Pembroke) and Tucker's Town (St. George's) are merely neighborhoods; Dandy Town and North Village are sports clubs and Harbour View Village is a small public housing development(HP Pavilion dm3-1013ax battery).

[edit]Politics

Main article: Politics of Bermuda

Executive authority in Bermuda is vested in the monarch and is exercised on her behalf by the Governor. The governor is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the British Government. The current governor is Sir Richard Hugh Turton Gozney KCMG CVO; he was sworn in on 12 December 2007.[20] There is also a Deputy Governor (currently David ArkleyJP) (HP Pavilion dm3-1080es battery).[21] Defence and foreign affairs remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom, which also retains responsibility to ensure good government. It must approve any changes to the Constitution of Bermuda. Bermuda now exists as an overseas territory of Britain, but it is the oldest British colony. In 1620, a Royal Assent granted Bermuda limited self-governance(HP Pavilion dm3-1030sa battery), thus making the Parliament of Bermuda the fifth oldest in the world, behind only the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the Tynwald of the Isle of Man, the Althing of Iceland and Sejm of Poland.[22] Of these, it is the only one to have met continuously as a legislature since its inception through to today.

The State House, the home of Bermuda's parliament 1620–1815(HP Pavilion dm3-1012tx battery)

Sessions House, current home of the House of Assembly and the Supreme Court

The Constitution of Bermuda came into force on 1 June 1967 and was amended in 1989 and 2003. The head of government is the premier. A cabinet is nominated by the premier and appointed officially by the governor(HP Pavilion dm3-1080ef battery). The legislative branch consists of a bicameral parliament modelled on the Westminster system. The Senate is the upper house consisting of 11 members appointed by the governor on the advice of the premier and the leader of the opposition. The House of Assembly, or lower house, has 36 members elected by the eligible voting populace in secret ballot to represent geographically defined constituencies(HP Pavilion dm3-1030er battery). Elections must be called at no more than five-year intervals. The Progressive Labour Party won the most recent general election held on 18 December 2007, winning 22 of 36 seats in the House of Assembly.[23]

Following her victory at the Progressive Labour Party delegates' conference in October 2010, the current premier is Paula Cox. The One Bermuda Alliance serves in opposition(HP Pavilion dm3-1012ax battery). The Progressive Labour Party leadership favours independence from the United Kingdom, although polls have indicated that this is not supported by the population. While a referendum in 1995 on independence was defeated by a substantial margin, the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Progressive Labour Party (then in the Opposition) had called for a boycott of the referendum, having an unquantified impact on the result(HP Pavilion dm3-1075eo battery).

There are few accredited diplomats in Bermuda. The United States maintains the largest diplomatic mission in Bermuda, comprising both the United States Consulate and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Services at the L.F. Wade International Airport. The current U.S. Consul General is Grace Shelton, who replaced Gregory W. Slayton as the U.S. Chief of Mission in Bermuda in August 2009(HP Pavilion dm3-1030ei battery). Given that the United States is by far Bermuda's largest trading partner (providing over 71% of total imports, 85% of tourist visitors, and an estimated $163 billion of U.S. capital in the Bermuda insurance/re-insurance industry alone, and the fact that an estimated 5% of Bermuda residents are U.S. citizens, which represents 14% of all foreign-born persons) (HP Pavilion dm3-1011tx battery), American diplomatic presence is seen as an important element in the Bermuda political landscape.

A General Election must be held in Bermuda every five years. Following the PLP's re-election in 2007, the next election must be held no later than 2012.

[edit]Role in international relations

As a British Overseas Territory, Bermuda has no seat in the United Nations and is represented by Britain in matters of foreign affairs(HP Pavilion dm3-1070es battery). To promote its economic interests abroad Bermuda maintains representative offices in key influential cities such as London[24] and Washington D.C..[25]

Bermuda's proximity to the United States has made it the site of past summit conferences between British Prime Ministers and U.S. Presidents. The first summit was held in December 1953, at the insistence of Prime Minister Winston Churchill(HP Pavilion dm3-1030eg battery), to discuss relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Participants at the conference included Churchill, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and French Premier Joseph Laniel. In 1957, a second summit conference was held; this time British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan arrived earlier than President Eisenhower, to make it clear that they were meeting on British territory, as tensions were still high regarding the previous year's conflict over the Suez Canal(HP Pavilion dm3-1011tu battery). It was said the two discussed the general situation of the world. Macmillan returned in 1961 for the third summit with President John F. Kennedy, who was familiar with Bermuda, having made numerous personal visits. The meeting was called to discuss Cold War tensions arising from construction of the Berlin Wall(HP Pavilion dm3-1070eo battery). The most recent summit conference in Bermuda between the two powers occurred in 1990, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher met U.S. President George Bush.[26]

Direct meetings between the President of the United States and the Premier of Bermuda have been rare. The most recent meeting was on 23 June 2008, between Premier Ewart Brown and President George W. Bush. Prior to this(HP Pavilion dm3-1030ef battery), the leaders of Bermuda and the United States had not met at the White House since a 1996 meeting between Premier David Saul and President Bill Clinton.[27]

[edit]Asylum offered to four former Guantánamo detainees

Main article: Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo Bay: Bermuda

On 11 June 2009, four Uyghurs who had been held in extrajudicial detention in the United States Guantánamo Bay detention camp, in Cuba were deported to Bermuda. The four men were among 22 Uyghurs who claimed to be refugees(HP Pavilion dm3-1010tx battery), who were captured in 2001 in Pakistan after fleeing the American aerial bombardment of Afghanistan. They were suspected of training to assist Taliban's military. They were cleared as safe for release from Guantánamo in 2005 or 2006. But U.S. domestic law prohibited deporting them back to China, their country of citizenship, because the U.S. government determined that China was likely to abuse their human rights(HP Pavilion dm3-1070ea battery).

In September 2008 the men were cleared of all suspicion, and Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington ordered their release. However domestic opposition to their admittance to the United States was very strong,[citation needed] and, until Bermuda and Palau agreed to accept them in June 2009, the U.S. had failed to find a home for them(HP Pavilion dm3-1030ed battery).

The secret bilateral discussions that led to prisoner transfers between the U.S. and the devolved Bermuda government sparked diplomatic ire from the United Kingdom, which was not consulted on the move despite Bermuda being a British territory. The British Foreign Office issued the following statement(HP Pavilion dm3-1010ew battery): "We've underlined to the Bermuda Government that they should have consulted with the United Kingdom as to whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue, for which the Bermuda Government do not have delegated responsibility. We have made clear to the Bermuda Government the need for a security assessment(HP Pavilion dm3-1065eo battery), which we are now helping them to carry out, and we will decide on further steps as appropriate."

[edit]Caribbean Community

Despite its location well north of the Caribbean, Bermuda became an associate member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 2003 .[32][33] This is a socio-economic bloc of nations in the Caribbean, or near the Caribbean—such as the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the Republic of Suriname, and Belize in Central America as full members. Bermuda(HP Pavilion dm3-1030ea battery) [34] and the Turks and Caicos Islands which are in the Atlantic Ocean as Associate members of CARICOM, and the same goes for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas which is a full member of the Caribbean Community and also in the Atlantic. Among scholars[who?], “the Caribbean” can be a socio-historical category(HP Pavilion dm3-1010ev battery), commonly referring to a cultural zone characterised by the legacy of slavery and the plantation system. It embraces the islands and parts of the adjoining mainland—and may be extended to include the Caribbean Diaspora overseas.[35]

[edit]Armed forces

Main article: Military of Bermuda

Remembrance Day Parade, Hamilton, Bermuda

Once known as the Gibraltar of the West, the defence of Bermuda remains the responsibility of the British government. For the first two centuries of settlement, the most potent armed force operating from Bermuda was its merchant shipping fleet(HP Pavilion dm3-1060es battery), which turned to Privateering at every opportunity. After the American Revolutionary War, Bermuda became the Royal Navy's Western Atlantic headquarters, before which the Bermuda government had maintained militia for the defence of the colony. Once the Royal Navy established a base and dockyard defended by regular soldiers, however(HP Pavilion dm3-1028tx battery), these militias became superfluous and were disbanded following the War of 1812. At the end of the 19th century, the colony did raise volunteer units to form a reserve for the military garrison.

Due to its strategic location in the North Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda was vital to the Allies' war effort during both world wars of the 20th century, serving as a marshalling point for trans-Atlantic convoys, as well as a naval air base. By the Second World War, both the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force were operating Seaplane bases on Bermuda.

In May 1940, the U.S. requested base rights in Bermuda from the United Kingdom, but British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was initially unwilling to accede to the American request without getting something in return.[36] In September 1940, as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, the United Kingdom granted the U.S. base rights in Bermuda. Ber(HP Pavilion dm3-1010et battery)muda and Newfoundland were not originally included in the agreement, but both were added to it, with no war material received in exchange. However, one of the terms of the agreement was that the airfield the U.S. Army built would be used jointly by the U.S. and the UK (which it was for the duration of the war, with RAF Transport Command relocating there from Darrell's Island in 1943) (HP Pavilion dm3-1060er battery). Construction began in 1941 of two airbases consisting of 5.8 km² (2¼ sq mi, 1,400 acres) of land, largely reclaimed from the sea. For many years, Bermuda's bases were used by U.S. Air Force transport and refuelling aircraft and by U.S. Navy aircraft patrolling the Atlantic for enemy submarines, first German and, later, Soviet. The principal installation(HP Pavilion dm3-1027tx battery), Kindley Air Force Base on the eastern coast, was transferred to the U.S. Navy in 1970 and redesignated Naval Air Station Bermuda. As a naval air station, the base continued to host both transient and deployed USN and USAF aircraft, as well as transitioning or deployed Royal Air Force and Canadian Forces aircraft(HP Pavilion dm3-1010eo battery).

The original NAS Bermuda on the west side of the island, a seaplane base until the mid-1960s, became the Naval Air Station Bermuda Annex and provided optional anchorage and/or dockage facilities for transiting U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and NATO vessels, depending on size.. An additional U.S. Navy compound known as Naval Facility Bermuda (NAVFAC Bermuda) (HP Pavilion dm3-1060eo battery), a SOSUS station, was located to the west of the Annex near a Canadian Forces communications facility. Although leased for 99 years, U.S. forces withdrew in 1995, as part of the wave of base closures following the end of the Cold War.

Canada, which had operated a war-time naval base, HMCS Somers Isles, on the old Royal Navy base at Convict Bay, St George's, also established a radio-listening post at Daniel's Head, in the West End of the islands during this time(HP Pavilion dm3-1026tx battery).

In the 1950s, after the end of World War II, the Royal Naval dockyard and the military garrison were closed. A small Royal Navy supply base, HMS Malabar, continued to operate within the dockyard area, supporting transiting Royal Navy ships and submarines until it, too, was closed in 1995, along with the American and Canadian bases.

HMS Ambuscade at the Royal Naval Dockyard(HP Pavilion dm3-1010el battery)

In both World War I and World War II, Bermudians served in the British armed forces. Amongst the latter was Major-General Glyn Charles Anglim Gilbert, Bermuda's highest ranking soldier. After the war, he was instrumental in developing the Bermuda Regiment. A number of other Bermudians and children of Bermudians had preceded him into senior ranks(HP Pavilion dm3-1060ef battery), including Bahamian-born Admiral Lord Gambier, and Bermudian-born Royal Marines Brigadier Harvey, who, when promoted to that rank at age 39, following his wounding at the Anzio landings, became the youngest-ever Royal Marine Brigadier. The Cenotaph in front of the Cabinet Building (in Hamilton) was erected in tribute to Bermuda's Great War dead (HP Pavilion dm3-1025sa battery) (the tribute was later extended to Bermuda's Second World War dead) and is the site of the annual Remembrance Day commemoration.

Today, the only military unit remaining in Bermuda is the Bermuda Regiment, an amalgam of the voluntary units originally formed toward the end of the 19th century. Although the Regiment's predecessors were voluntary units(HP Pavilion dm3-1010ej battery), the modern body is formed primarily by conscription in which balloted males are required to serve for three years, two months part time, once they turn 18.

[edit]Economy

Main article: Economy of Bermuda

Bermudian $50 Banknote

Since switching from the Bermudian pound in 1970, Bermuda's currency has been the Bermudian dollar, which is pegged to the US dollar. US notes and coins are used interchangeably with Bermudian notes and coins within the islands for most practical purposes(HP Pavilion dm3-1060ea battery); however, banks levy a small exchange rate for the purchase of US dollars with Bermudian dollars.[37] Bermudian notes carry the image of HM Queen Elizabeth II. The Bermuda Monetary Authority is the issuing authority for all banknotes and coins, as well as being responsible for the regulation of financial institutions. There is a permanent exhibition of Bermuda notes and coins at the Royal Naval Dockyard Museum(HP Pavilion dm3-1025ez battery).

According to the Bermuda Government's Economic Statistics Division, Bermuda's GDP was $5.85 billion in 2007, or $91,477 per-capita, giving Bermuda the highest GDP per capita in the world.[3]

The affordability of housing has become a prominent issue over the past few years. The CIA World Factbook lists the average cost of a house in June 2003 as $976,000(HP Pavilion dm3-1010eg battery),[2] while real estate agencies have claimed that this figure had risen to $1.6.[38] and to $1.845 million by early 2007,[39] though such high figures have been disputed.[40]

Bermuda is an offshore financial centre, which results from its low direct taxation on personal or corporate income. The local tax system is based upon import duties, payroll taxes and consumption taxes. The legal system is derived from that of the United Kingdom, with recourse to English courts of final appeal(HP Pavilion dm3-1058nr battery). However, foreign private individuals cannot easily open bank accounts or subscribe to mobile phone or internet service.[41]

As the offshore domicile of many foreign companies, Bermuda has a highly developed international business economy; it is a financial exporter of financial services, primarily insurance, reinsurance(HP Pavilion dm3-1024ca battery), investment funds and special purpose vehicles (SPV). Finance and international business now constitute the largest sector of Bermuda's economy.[5] However, in September 2009, it was reported that a growing number of companies were moving from Bermuda to Ireland as part of a search for "a more stable environment"(HP Pavilion dm3-1010ed battery).[42]

Hamilton

Large numbers of leading international insurance companies are based in Bermuda, making the territory one of the world's largest reinsurance centres.[43] Those internationally owned and operated businesses that are physically based in Bermuda—of which there are around four hundred—are represented by the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC) (HP Pavilion dm3-1055eo battery). In total, over 15,000 exempted or international companies are currently registered with the Registrar of Companies in Bermuda.

Thanks to its favourable tax regime and a highly reactive regulatory framework Bermuda is the domicile of choice for the implementation of insurance-related innovative solutions also known as Alternative Risk Transfer (ART). ART includes captive insurances, Finite Risk insurance and insurance securitisation such as Cat bonds(HP Pavilion dm3-1024ax battery).

The Bermuda Stock Exchange (BSX), established in 1971, is now the world's largest fully electronic offshore securities market, with a current market capitalisation (excluding mutual funds) in excess of US$330 billion[citation needed]. There are four hundred securities listed on the stock exchange(HP Pavilion dm3-1010eb battery), of which almost three hundred are offshore funds and alternative investment structures attracted by Bermuda's regulatory environment. The Exchange specialises in listing and trading of capital market instruments such as equities, debt issues, funds (including hedge fund structures) and depository receipt programmes(HP Pavilion dm3-1053xx battery).

The BSX is a full member of the World Federation of Exchanges and is located in an OECD member nation. It also has Approved Stock Exchange status under Australia's Foreign Investment Fund (FIF) taxation rules and Designated Investment Exchange status by the UK's Financial Services Authority(HP Pavilion dm3-1023tx battery).

Tourism is Bermuda's second largest industry, with the island attracting over one-half million visitors annually, of whom more than 80% are from the United States. Other significant sources of visitors are from Canada and the United Kingdom. Tourists arrive either by cruise ship or by air at L.F. Wade International Airport, the only airport on the island(HP Pavilion dm3-1010ea battery).[44]

[edit]Education

The Bermuda Education Act 1996 requires that only three categories of schools can operate in the Bermuda Education system:

aided school, has all or a part of its property vested in a body of trustees or board of governors and is partially maintained by public funding or, since 1965 and the desegregation of schools, has received a grant-in-aid out of public funds(HP Pavilion dm3-1050ss battery).

maintained school, has the whole of its property belonging to the Government and is fully maintained by public funds.

private school, not maintained by public funds and has not, since 1965 and the desegregation of schools, received any capital grant-in-aid out of public funds. The private school sector consists of 6 traditional private schools(HP Pavilion dm3-1010ax battery), two of which are religious schools, and the remaining four are secular with one of these being a single gender school and another a Montessori school. Also, within the private sector there are a number of home schools which must be registered with the government and receive minimal government regulation. The only boys’ school opened its doors to girls in the 1990s and in 1996(HP Pavilion dm3-1050er battery), one of the maintained public schools became a private school.

Prior to 1965, the Bermuda school system was racially segregated and when the desegregation of schools was enacted in 1965, two of the formally maintained "white" schools and both single-sex schools opted to become private schools. The rest became part of the public school system and were either aided or maintained(HP Pavilion dm3-1022tx battery).

At present there are 26 schools in the Bermuda Public School System, 18 of which are primary schools, five are middle schools, two senior schools and one special school. There is also an Alternative Programme provided for students with behavioural challenges who cannot function in the public mainstream(HP Pavilion dm3-1009tu battery). There are two aided primary schools, two aided middle schools and one aided senior school.

For higher education, the Bermuda College offers various associate degrees and other certificate programmes.[45] Bermuda does not have any four-year colleges or universities(HP Pavilion dm3-1050ep battery).

In May 2009, Bermudian Government's application was approved to become a contributory member of the University of the West Indies (UWI). Bermuda's membership is slated to allow Bermudian students to enter the University at an agreed upon subsidised rate possibly as early as the 2009/2010 school year(HP Pavilion dm3-1022ax battery). UWI also agrees that their Open Campus (online degree courses) would become open to Bermudian students in the future, with Bermuda becoming the 13th country to have access to the Open Campus.[46][47]

[edit]Main sights

One of Bermuda's pink sand beaches, at Astwood Park

Bermuda's pink sand beaches and clear, cerulean blue ocean waters are popular with tourists and many of Bermuda's hotels are located along the south shore of the island(HP Pavilion dm3-1009ax battery). In addition to its beaches, there are a number of sightseeing attractions. Historic St George's is a designated World Heritage Site. Scuba divers can explore numerous wrecks and coral reefs in relatively shallow water (typically 30–40 ft/9–12 m in depth) with virtually unlimited visibility. Many nearby reefs are readily accessible from shore by snorkellers, especially at Church Bay(HP Pavilion dm3-1050eo battery).

Bermuda's most popular visitor attraction is the Royal Naval Dockyard, which includes the Bermuda Maritime Museum. Other attractions include the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo,[48] Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, the Botanical Gardens, lighthouses, and the Crystal Caves with its impressive stalactites and underground saltwater pools(HP Pavilion dm3-1021tx battery).

It is not possible to rent a car on the island; however, visitors can hire scooters for use as private transport, or use public transport.

[edit]Arts and culture

Main article: Culture of Bermuda

Bermuda's culture is a mixture of the various sources of its population; Native American, Spanish-Caribbean, Irish, and Scots cultures were evident in the 17th century, though ultimately eclipsed by the dominant Anglo-Saxon culture(HP Pavilion dm3-1008tu battery). Today, the only language other than English that is spoken by any substantial part of the population is Portuguese, following one hundred and sixty years of immigration from Portuguese Atlantic islands (primarily the Azores, though also from Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands). There are strong British influences, together with Afro-Caribbean ones(HP Pavilion dm3-1050en battery). A second wave of immigration from the West Indies was sustained throughout the 20th century, although, unlike the Blacks who immigrated from there as indentured servants, or who were imported as slaves in the 17th century, the more recent arrivals have mostly come from English-speaking countries (albeit, most of the West Indian islands whose populations now speak English were then part of the Spanish Empire) (HP Pavilion dm3-1021ax battery). This new infusion of West Indians has both accelerated social and political change, and diversified Bermuda's culture. West Indian musicians introduced Calypso music when Bermuda's tourist industry was expanded with the increase of visitors brought by post Second World War aviation. While Calypso music appealed more to the visitors than to the locals(HP Pavilion dm3-1008eg battery), Reggae has been embraced by many Bermudians since the 1970s with the influx of Jamaican immigrants.

Gombey dancers in Bermuda

Bermuda's early literary history was largely limited to non-Bermudian writers commenting on the island. These included John Smith's The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles (1624), and Edmund Waller's poem, Battle of the Summer Islands (1645) (HP Pavilion dm3-1050ee battery).[49][50]

In the 20th century, a large number of books were written and published locally, though few were aimed at a wider market than Bermuda (most of these being scholarly reference books, rather than creative writing). One Bermudian novelist, Brian Burland, has achieved a degree of success and acclaim internationally(HP Pavilion dm3-1020er battery), although the first notable, and historically important, book credited to a Bermudian was the History of Mary Prince, a slave narrative by a Bermudian woman, Mary Prince, which helped to end slavery in the British Empire. Bermuda's proximity to the United States, as well as its origin as part of Virginia, means that many aspects of US culture are reflected in(HP Pavilion dm3-1008ax battery), or incorporated into, Bermudian culture. Many non-Bermudian writers have also made Bermuda their home, or have had homes here, including A.J. Cronin and F. Van Wyck Mason, who wrote on Bermudian subjects.

Bermuda has produced, or been home to, actors such as Oona O'Neill, Earl Cameron, Diana Dill, Lena Headey, Will Kempe, and most famously, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones(HP Pavilion dm3-1048la battery). Other film and television personalities who were born, or have lived, in Bermuda include producer Arthur Rankin, Jr., and cartoonist and Muppet man Michael Frith.

Music and dance are important in Bermuda. Noted musicians have included local icons The Talbot Brothers, who performed for many decades both in Bermuda and the United States, and appeared on Ed Sullivan's televised variety show(HP Pavilion dm3-1020eo battery), jazz pianist Lance Hayward, singer-songwriter Heather Nova, tenor Gary Burgess, classical musician and conductor Kenneth Amis, and more recently, dancehall artist Collie Buddz.

The dances of the colourful Gombey Dancers, seen at many events, are heavily influenced by African, Caribbean, Native American and British cultural traditions(HP Pavilion dm3-1007tu battery).

In 1979, Gina Swainson was crowned "Miss World".

Every year, Bermuda hosts an international film festival which shows many independent films. One of the festival's founders is film producer and director Arthur Rankin, Jr., co-founder of the Rankin/Bass production company.[51]

Bermuda watercolours painted by local artists are sold at various galleries, and elaborately hand-carved cedar sculptures are another specialty(HP Pavilion dm3-1047nr battery). One such 7 ft (2.1 m) sculpture created by Bermudian artisan Chesley Trott is on display at the airport's baggage claim area. Local artwork may also be viewed at several galleries around the island. Alfred Birdsey was one of the more famous and talented water colourists; his impressionistic landscapes of Hamilton(HP Pavilion dm3-1020eg battery), St George's and the surrounding sailboats, homes, and bays of Bermuda are world-renowned.

Every Good Friday, Bermudians of all ages build kites, usually of a traditional Bermudian type, which are flown to symbolise Christ's ascent. A Bermudian kite is made to geometric designs, quite colourful, and is an art form as much as a recreational tool. Despite this, Bermudian kites are very airworthy(HP Pavilion dm3-1007ax battery), holding world records for altitude and duration of flight.[citation needed]

[edit]Sports

Main article: Sports and recreation in Bermuda

Bermuda's national cricket team participated in the Cricket World Cup 2007 in the West Indies. Their most famous player is a 130 kilograms (290 lb) police officer named Dwayne Leverock(HP Pavilion dm3-1047cl battery). But India defeated Bermuda and set a record of 413 runs in an ODI and therefore Bermuda were knocked out of the World cup. Also very well known is David Hemp, who is a former captain of Glamorgan in English first class cricket. The annual "Cup Match" cricket tournament between rival parishes St George's in the east and Somerset in the west is the occasion for a popular national holiday(HP Pavilion dm3-1020ef battery).

Bermuda has large amount of golf courses of which some were maintained by Uighur's refugees from Guantinamo Bay. In 2007 Bermuda hosted the 25th PGA Grand Slam of Golf. This 36-hole event was held on 16–17 October 2007, at the Mid Ocean Club in Tucker's Town. This season ending tournament is between only four golfers – the winners of the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship(HP Pavilion dm3-1007au battery). The event returned to Bermuda again in 2008 and 2009. Bermudian Quinn Talbot was once the World one-armed golf champion.

An IOD racer on a mooring in Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda

The Government announced in 2006 that it will provide substantial financial support to Bermuda's cricket and football teams. Bermuda's most prominent footballers include Clyde Best, Shaun Goater(HP Pavilion dm3-1044nr battery), The legendary Kevin De Silva, Reggie Lambe, Sam Nusum and Ralph Bean. In 2006, the Bermuda Hogges were formed as the nation's first professional football team in order to raise the standard of play for the Bermuda national football team. The team plays in the United Soccer Leagues Second Division(HP Pavilion dm3-1020ed battery).

Sailing, fishing, and equestrian sports are popular with both residents and visitors alike. The prestigious Newport–Bermuda Yacht Race is a more than 100-year old tradition. In 2007, the 16th biennial Marion-Bermuda yacht race occurred. A sport unique to Bermuda is racing the Bermuda Fitted Dinghy. International One Design racing also originated in Bermuda(HP Pavilion dm3-1006tx battery).[52]

At the 2004 Summer Olympics, Bermuda competed in sailing, athletics, swimming, diving, triathlon and equestrian events. In those Olympics, Bermuda's Katura Horton-Perinchief made history by becoming the first black female diver to compete in the Olympic Games. Bermuda has had one Olympic medallist, Clarence Hill(HP Pavilion dm3-1040us battery), who won a bronze medal in boxing. Bermuda also competed in Men's Skeleton at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Patrick Singleton placed 19th, with a final time of 1:59.81. Jillian Teceira competed in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It is also tradition for Bermuda to march in the Opening Ceremony in Bermuda shorts, regardless of the summer or winter Olympic celebration(HP Pavilion dm3-1020ec battery). Bermuda also competes in the biennial Island Games, which it will host in 2013.

Bermuda has developed a proud Rugby Union community. The Bermuda Rugby Union team won the 2011 Caribbean championships - defeating Guyana in the final - they previously beat The Bahamas and Mexico to take the crown. Rugby 7's is also played(HP Pavilion dm3-1006ax battery), with four rounds scheduled to take place in the 2011-2012 season. The Bermuda 7's team competed in the 2011 Las Vegas 7's (defeating Mexico). There are four clubs on the island: (1) Police (2) Mariners (3) Teachers (4) Renegades. There is a men's and women's competition - current league champions are Police (Men) (winning the title for the first time since the 1990s) (HP Pavilion dm3-1040ez battery) and Renegades (women's). Games are currently played at Warwick Academy. Bermuda u/19 team won the 2010 Caribbean Championships.

[edit]Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Bermuda

Demographics in Bermuda, at least in terms of race, is a thorny subject, complicated by unscientifically collected census data, the legacy of racism, general ignorance of ancestry, and the pressure to conform to racial identities(HP Pavilion dm3-1020eb battery). The current increasingly divisive racial politics further complicate the matter, and these facts must be born in mind when considering data based on census reports.

A July 2005 estimate put Bermuda's population at 65,365. The ethnic makeup of Bermuda is 64.8% Black,[35] 28.8% White, and 6.4% multiracial. A significant segment of the White population is also of Portuguese ancestry (10%)(HP Pavilion dm3-1006au battery), the result of immigration from Portuguese islands (especially the Azores) during the past 160 years.[53]

Some islanders, especially in St David's, trace their ancestry to Native Americans. Hundreds were shipped to Bermuda, possibly from as far as Mexico. The best known examples were the Algonquian peoples who were exiled from the New England colonies and sold into slavery in the 17th century(HP Pavilion dm3-1040ev battery), notably in the aftermaths of the Pequot War, and King Philip's War.

Several thousand expatriate workers, principally from the UK, Canada, the West Indies, South Africa and the U.S., also reside in Bermuda, primarily engaged in specialised professions such as accounting, finance, and insurance. Others are employed in various trades, such as hotels, restaurants, construction, and landscaping services(HP Pavilion dm3-1020ea battery). Of the total workforce of 38,947 persons in 2005, government employment figures state that 11,223 (29 percent) are non-Bermudians.[54]

[edit]Holidays

1 January        New Year's Day

Friday immediately preceding Easter Sunday Good Friday  Bermudians fly home-made kites to celebrate Easter

24 May   Bermuda Day         Originally celebrated Queen Victoria's birthday as Empire Day; later changed to "Bermuda Day" to provide an official opportunity to celebrate the islands' heritage and culture(HP Pavilion dm3-1005tx battery). [55]

Second Monday in June       National Heroes' Day

Thursday before the First Monday in August  Emancipation Day         First day of Cup match. BEACHFEST Emancipation Celebration.

Friday before the First Monday in August         Somers' Day  Second day of Cup match

First Monday in September         Labour Day

11 November Remembrance Day

25 December Christmas Day(HP Pavilion dm3-1040eo battery)

26 December          Boxing Day

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