A Sea Venture to the Summer Isles

By | Jul 24, 2013

It was the summer of 1609 when the Sea Venture lead a fleet of nine vessels loaded with provisions and settlers for the Virginia Colony in Jamestown. When the fleet encounter a storm, probably a hurricane on July 24th the Sea Venture became separated from the fleet. After fighting the storm for three days the ship began to flounder. Before the ship sank the reefs of Bermuda was spotted and the ship was put onto them to keep from sinking.

The 150 people on board the ship ended up staying on the island for nine months before they were able to build two ships in which they carried their cargo of salted port to Jamestown. A few died during this time including the wife and child of John Rolfe. Rolfe would found Virginia’s tobacco industry as well as getting a new wife in Powhatan princess Pocahontas in Virginia.

Three years later the Virginia Charter was expanded to include the Island of Bermuda and the city of St. George’s was settled becoming Bermuda’s first capital. St. George is the oldest continually inhabited English town in the New World. Bermuda considers 1609 as their date of origin since members of the Sea Venture remained on the island and there has been English inhabiting the island since.

John Smith published one of the earliest histories of the New World with his 1624 book The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles. Bermuda at the time was called the Summer Isles.

Some have argued that William Shakespeare may have based his play The Tempest on William Strachey’s eyewitness report of the shipwreck of the Sea Venture. Strachey’s report was written in 1610. There has been shipwreck reports written during this period with Shakespeare possibly taking bits and pieces from any of them.

Bermuda was first discovered by Europeans in the early 16th century, possibly as early as 1503. The Island takes its name from Spanish explorer, Juan de Bermudez who traveled there on a couple of different voyages. It was first listed on a map in 1511 made by Peter Martyr d’Anghiera in his book Legatio Babylonica.

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