Bermudas, Or Somers Islands, a group of small islands belonging to Great Britain, said to be 365 in number, in the Atlantic ocean, 580 m. S. S. E. of Cape Hatteras, between lat. 32° 14' and 32° 25' N, and lon. 64° 38' and 64° 52' W. The group is formed upon a coral reef, and is 18 m. in length and 6 in greatest breadth; area, 24 sq. m.; pop. in 1871, 12,121, including about 5,000 whites. The land is low, the greatest elevation being that of Gibbs Hill, 180 feet high, on which there is a lighthouse. Most of the islands are mere rocks, and only 12 or 15 are inhabited. Bermuda, or Long Island, is 16 m. long and about 1 1/2 m wide. The other principal islands are St. George's, Ireland, Somerset, and St. David's. Dangerous and extensive coral reefs, mostly under water, enclose them on the north, west, and south, and the channels of approach are very intricate. They have some excellent harbors, however, that of St. George's, the easternmost island, having been formed at great cost by blasting away the reefs and constructing a breakwater on the point of the adjacent island of Ireland. St. George is now an important naval station, and is strongly fortified. The climate is damp, but mild. Violent gales are frequent during the winter.
Vegetation is green throughout the year, and the islands yield abundance of garden vegetables, potatoes, fruit, and excellent arrowroot. Grain, flour, rice, and live stock are imported from the United States. The soil, a thin layer of mould upon a rocky foundation, is still fertile, though much overworked. A good quality of cedar grows on the islands, and is extensively used for building small and swift vessels. There are no fresh-water streams nor good wells; rain water is collected in tanks. The fisheries are valuable. Limestone and sandstone are abundant. The only towns are Hamilton, the capital, on Bermuda island, and St. George, on the island of that name, the latter being the larger of the two. The government consists of a governor and council appointed by the crown, and an assembly of 36 members elected by the people. The revenue in 1869 was £30,040; expenditure, £32,040; public debt,
View in the Bermudas, with Hamilton in the distance.
£8,000; imports from the United Kingdom in 1870, £54,903; exports to the United Kingdom, £8,928. A penal colony has been established on the islands, and the convicts are employed on the public works. There is an admiralty school on Ireland island, and private and free schools, churches, and chapels are numerous. - In 1522 Juan Bermudez, a Spaniard, was wrecked upon these islands while on a voyage from Spain to Cuba with a cargo of hogs. Sir George Somers was wrecked upon them in 1609 on his way to Virginia. In 1614 the islands were settled under a charter from James I., and in 1640 a regular government was established. The islands prospered, and during the civil wars many persons of position and wealth took refuge on them. Among them was the poet Waller, who sang their beauties in the "Battle of the Summer Island." They are called in Shakespeare's "Tempest" the "still vexed Bermoothes."