Finding the weird and wonderful in Bermuda

Cross one item off my bucket list for 2022: I visited Bermuda on a family holiday. Unsurprisingly, when I visit new places, I look for spooky things and natural wonders. So this post will mainly be about the unusual aspects of the tiny island country.

Bermuda is definitely another world from what I’m used to. Island life is relaxed – no highways, lots of greenery, very friendly people, colorful buildings, interesting geology, incredible ocean views, and an unnaturally (to me) unconcerned concept of time and schedules (which is something to be aware of if you in a hurry or are traveling by public bus transportation). 

Bermuda is a fishhook-shaped archipelago that sits on a platform with a limestone cap and a volcanic basement.

We stayed in St. George’s parish (a UNESCO World Heritage site), which is the northernmost point of a generally SW-NE trending fishhook-shaped series of islands interspersed with harbors, bays, and sounds. Except for a few main streets, many travel ways are narrow alleys, sometimes not navigable by anything larger than a mini car. It is not a pedestrian or bike-friendly place and the cost of most consumables is exceedingly high because of the necessity of imports. But it is unique in that way.

The Isle of the Devil

Bermuda’s official “founding” year is 1609. It had no native human population. It was named in honor of Spanish ship captain Juan de Bermudez who “discovered” it by accident in 1505. The island group called La Bermuda or “the Bermudas” was feared by sailors supposedly for the stormy seas, dangerous reefs, deadly rocks, deep water-filled holes and caves, and the eerie sounds whipped by the wind, earning it the name Devil’s Isle. The island was home to huge flocks of native petrels called cahow (Pterodroma cahow). The birds’ sad and spooky sound may have frightened the crews. The island had also been stocked with squealing pigs by previous seafarers. It’s unclear how true the stories are about the evil sounds emanating from the land but they are ingrained in the lore of the island now. 

The offshore area is riddled with shipwrecks because of the shallow rocks.

Bermuda had a negative reputation with sailors. From an exhibit at Bermuda National Museum.

Sound of the Bermuda Petrol (now endangered)

The location of the island was strategic for the new American colony. Military forts are ubiquitous across the country. There are some 90 forts in various states of preservation/decay. Some are maintained and can be toured. Others are overgrown or partially destroyed (such as Fort Victoria, which made way for now-demolished hotels). The fort areas are definitely creepy with their silent cannons, rusty doors, and enclosed spaces. Surprisingly, there is no promotion of these historic sites as “haunted”. In fact, there is only one ghost tour that I noted on the island and it was in St. Georges, the oldest established town. It was not operating in December.

Rocks and caves

Limestone “pavement” is formed from the natural fracturing of the rock. The Checkerboard, Spittal Pond

Natural caves abound on the island. Bermuda is capped with limestone rock. The streets are cut into it, and the houses are built upon it. The base of most walls is original limestone with subsequent cut blocks placed on top. The beaches are mostly rocky and very rugged. You can easily get injured or killed on very sharp rocks if not careful. There are almost no safety features like you would expect to find in the US. We discovered this firsthand on a trip to Blue Hole park, a nature area riddled with caves. The openings are not blocked. You can walk right in, and we did. If you get trapped by the tide on an enclosed beach or cave, things could get scary.

One dry cave allowed us to walk right through with the help of a keychain flashlight and phone light. Upon exiting, we realized we’d completely lost our sense of location and had been turned around in the short cave system. Luckily the path was close by. Caves with water often contained fish. But they were also slightly more cloudy than the protected Crystal Cave nearby. Clearly, pollution and vandalism have taken a toll on the natural areas. 

No one was swimming at the Blue Hole when we visited there; swimming in the caves and holes isn’t encouraged. We did visit Crystal Cave. The guide, who was an EMT, told us that Bermuda has a deficit of emergency personnel. So, if you get hurt, you could really be in trouble. 

One day we made a trip to find Devil’s Hole, previously a tourist spot used as a natural aquarium for fish and turtles. The location of the hole was poorly marked on the maps. It was actually not in the waters of Harrington Sound but slightly uphill. However, now the location is closed. We completely missed it because it’s surrounded by a high wall and entirely inaccessible. I was sad. 

The Devil’s Hole is no longer accessible to visitors.


Finally, who goes to Bermuda and doesn’t think about the TRIANGLE?

There is an awful lot to unpack about the mythology and contemporary folklore about the triangle. To be clear, it’s well-known that the scary legends have been demystified many times over. There is a huge amount of ship and plane traffic in the so called Bermuda Triangle area and no unusual disappearances have been documented. In fact, the old ones that were widely circulated were thoroughly debunked. Google trends show that interest in the topic decreasing worldwide. TV shows regularly take the position now that fear is unwarranted and the scary tales are exaggerated. However, like Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle is an iconic idea that most people over the age of 30 are familiar with. Therefore, it behooves Bermuda tourism promoters to keep the concept alive. And I found out firsthand that they do.

The location of the Triangle is most often depicted with its apex at Miami, Fl, Bermuda, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. I don’t know if the other two cities have markers, but Bermuda has placed a spot on the ground so you can officially stand at the “Top of the Triangle”.

Limits of the Bermuda Triangle are disputed (because it’s a social construct) but this is the typical boundary.

At Albuoy’s Point at the Point Pleasant Park in Hamilton, there is a new spot for photo opportunities. While waiting for the ferry, you can memorialize your trip by standing by the triangular mark, on the triangular point, next to the triangular walkway. 

The merchandise in the nearby stories also reflects the triangle motif. You can get shirts that say “I survived the Bermuda Triangle”. You can also get beautiful triangle-shaped jewelry, some of which is made from the pink sand of the south shore beaches. The most stunning piece was made by davidrose studios and is the color of the nearshore water. 

Overall, the Triangle talk is just for show. No one really believes it. It’s not overly emphasized either. Everything was quite tasteful, with one exception. I wasn’t able to get to the Bermuda Ocean Discovery Centre but they did their best to depict the paranormal tropes so people would visit them. 

and how the legend of the Bermuda Triangle evolved at my Spooky Geology site.

Overall, Bermuda was an incredible experience. We had no troubles during our stay. If you are planning to go there, message me with questions or if you need tips on where to stay or what to do. 

View from near Tobacco Bay showing protected coves amid the sharp rock formations and sea stacks.
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