Tag Archives: Bermuda

A week in Bermuda: the perfect holiday!

An itinerary for visitors:

Having had a series of visitors during this last year I realised that the itinerary we used for them might be of interest to others. So here it is:

Day 1: Meet at airport, drive to home (or hotel) and sit in garden with cool drinks, listen to tree frogs and wait for the sunset. If your visitors have come from UK then keep them awake until past 9pm – they will still wake early but won’t be asking for breakfast at 4am the next day. The BA flight arrives around supper time but the passengers are very well fed generally, +/- wine, so I have discovered the best solution to “do we have supper?” is a bacon roll with a glass of wine. If you are island visitors staying in a hotel then perhaps a bowl of Fish Chowder – practically every restaurant/eating place serves this.

On the water.

On the water.

Day 2: This might depend on which day of the week it happens to be, so the days are interchangeable with the basic premise of “just one big thing each day”. So this day is a Kayak paddle with snorkelling. It does help if you have your own kayak and water access but even if not there are plenty of places to hire kayaks. We are lucky enough to have water access into Harrington Sound so we paddled across to Trunk Island and swam around the shallow waters there, good site for the snorkel-naive to practise.

Experiments with GoPro (image with permission from SL)

If based at the West End then Mangrove Bay and the islands around there would work just as well. For our last visitors we did a picnic lunch and took them into Hamilton for dinner. This coincided with Harbour Night, gombeys and craft stalls along Front Street. At the moment Harbour Night is only during the peak summer months, but I did see a news article that it might be extended later into the Autumn or that the Winter tourist program might have a similar event on a regular basis. Gombeys are amazing so if you don’t catch them at Harbour night look out for the Saturdays in the Park at Queen Elizabeth Park (Par-la-ville) or if it’s winter then Tuesday’s at Pier 6 along Front Street.
For dinner my recommendation is Angelo’s in the Walker Arcade, good menu, pleasant ambience and always tasty food. Of course that depends on your budget, but I am assuming you don’t wish to take out a mortgage to fund your island holiday.

Image with permission from SL.

Image with permission from SL.

Day 3: Start with a Jetski adventure. See previous post for suggestions. This was probably my son’s favourite activity, the girls on the other hand were “glad we have done it but never again” – with varying degrees of tremor when they finished! Substitutions for this would be a Wildcat Round the Island tour or one of the Boat trips around the Great Sound.
After the Jetski we visited the small Hayden Chapel, with a bottle of water and half an hour to watch the view or read a book. If you are closer to the East End then this would be a brief visit to Tucker House in St George or to Carter House on St David’s Island.
For lunch we visited the Southampton Princess Hotel – their Pulled Pork Tacos are delicious and I recommend the strawberry lemonade. I understand the cocktails here are also good, but I was driving 😟

The afternoon is for one or more of the South Shore beaches.

Image by SL

Image by SL

Day 4: In the morning visit Miles Market to pick up a picnic lunch then hire a Boston Whaler from Grotto Bay for the afternoon – 1-5pm, very reasonable cost at $140 plus fuel. Remember sun lotion, hats, snorkels and water.
If you wish to have a slightly bigger boat I would suggest St George, Mangrove Bay or Somerset. The advantage of doing this in Castle Harbour is the wreck off Nonsuch Island and the almost deserted beach that is only accessible by boat. Round this off with a drink at the bar at Grotto Bay or Swizzle Inn, then supper at home. I chose not to cook so a take-out from East meets West solved that issue.

Day 5: Dockyard, Glass-bottom boat, Mini-golf with a drive back via the sea-glass beach. To be honest the glass bottom part of the boat trip is the hook to get you on the boat, you don’t actually see that much under the boat, but what you do get is a gentle chug out to the Wreck of the Vixen, a feeding frenzy of bream, chub and snapper and maybe a few turtles on the way. Oh, and a rum swizzle! This is very reasonably priced at $45 per person and the tour guides are great. We were on a boat piloted by the youngest Captain on the island who started driving boats at the age of 4 – he is a little older than that now!
Don’t like mini-golf? What’s not to like – our very sceptical visitor was a convert after the first six holes, or was that just because each set of six ended up at the bar?

Turtle

Turtle

Day 6: Tobacco Bay for an early snorkel – before 10:30 the visibility is best as after that people kick up sand and you have to go further out in order to see the big fish. Then take a walk to the end of the little promontory with a can of drink and sit watching the parrot fish around the rock towers. That brings you to around midday for lunch at Blackbeards Restaurant, just around the corner overlooking Achilles Bay. I would highly recommend the scallops wrapped in bacon. Sun cream and hat are vital here if you want to sit and look out at the sea while you eat.

IMG_0143
Replete with lunch you take a drive to St David’s Island for a gentle walk along Cooper’s Island nature reserve. The second and third beach along from Clearwater Bay are just amazing, white sand, unspoilt, turquoise sea, everything that’s good about Bermuda.

IMG_0148
Then to cap this day off I suggest a Sunset Cruise. Our last visitors went with AnaLuna Adventures and they asked me to give the company five stars in the TripAdviser Review – they sailed to Flatts Inlet, swam around the island there and then off into the sunset with champagne. Idyllic.

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Day 7: This is where you have some choices to make : shopping in Hamilton, any of the museums, a wander in the Botanic Gardens or perhaps a walk along the railway trail at Baileys Bay. It is your last evening so a meal out perhaps? We enjoyed a relaxed meal at La Trattoria, good choice on their menu, and attentive wait staff (my husband suggested that was down to having two beautiful young ladies with us, but whatever, they were fun).

Day 8: A brief trip to the Zoo/Aquarium (it still isn’t fully open yet but at least what they have done is looking very good, much better displays than previously) and then drive into St George for the Ducking Stool at 12:30. Note this doesn’t happen on Friday or Sunday so you may need to shift days around. It was pouring with rain when we went this week, but the Town Crier announced that he wouldn’t let a bit of rain prevent the wench from getting what she deserved! So we all got soaked in one way or another.
End the week with a bacon butty and glass of wine looking out across the water.

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Prescription: Seven day course of treatment. Repeat often, prn (when required) with food and wine.

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Tribe Matters: Devonshire

The Tribes of Bermuda

The Tribes of Bermuda

Tribe:  a social division of people defined by a common characteristic

Early on in the colonial history Bermuda was divided into tribes which were further subdivided into shares.  The painstaking work that this entailed fell to Richard Norwood, a teacher from England.  Each tribe was 1,250 acres and each share was 25 acres – the divisions in straight lines across from North shore to South shore making plots of land of varying width but crucially each with access to a portion of coast. There were 8 tribes divided in this way, with St George’s and several other discrete islands remaining as company land. The tribe was then named after the Adventurer who had purchased most share within that tribe.

Thus the tribes were named:

  • Sandys – Sir Edwyn Sandys
  • Southampton – Henry Wrothesley, Earl of Southampton
  • Mansil’s – Robert Mansell aka Mansfleid (who later sold his shares to Earl of Warwick)
  • Paget – William Paget, Fourth Lord Paget
  • Pembroke – William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke
  • Cavendish – William Cavendish who became First Earl of Devonshire
  • Smith’s – Sir Thomas Smith
  • Bedford’s – Lady Lucy Harrington, Countess of Bedford (later sold to James Hamilton)

They were referred to as Tribes up to 1684, presumably as churches were established within them. The remnants of the earlier naming is seen in the multiple “Tribe Roads” that dissect the island perpendicular to the long roads.  To call them roads is somewhat ambitious – some only wide enough to roll a barrel.

I have focussed first on Devonshire because that’s where I am living.

William Cavendish is, I have discovered, a common name – the one in question was born 1552 and died 1626 and was the First Earl of Devonshire, but research is complicated by unimaginative naming of children, all William, with the occasional Henry thrown in randomly.

William Cavendish must have had a large extended family – his father had three wives and his Mother married four times, dissatisfaction as much as death prompting the changes.  Anyhow, he was the second son of (predictably) William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick.  Second son? Yes, Henry was an embarrassment to his Mother who disowned him so William became her favourite.

William Cavendish, First Earl of Devonshire. (1552-1626)

William Cavendish, First Earl of Devonshire. (1552-1626)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my English readers will recognise the “Devonshire ” and correctly link him to Chatsworth House (in Derbyshire, just to confuse everyone).  This now enormous estate was originally purchased by William’s father for £600; his money came from land he had amassed in his name during the dissolution of the monasteries – he was Privy Councillor and Treasurer to Henry VIII.  Sadly William the elder lived only long enough to conceive three sons and spend just five years owning Chatsworth – maybe three wives is not such a good idea. So at the age of 5, our William was left fatherless, with two not-so-very-nice stepfathers to come.

He was educated at Eton, Cambridge and Gray’s Inn.  He didn’t inherit his vast estates until he was 56 when his mother died leaving him four impressive estates in the English Midlands.  William was a Member of Parliament for two years – first for Liverpool (1586) and then for Newport, Cornwall (1587).  It might seem odd that he represented areas so far from his family home, but explained by the acrimonious relationship with his stepfather George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.  In 1605 William became Baron Cavendish, step one on the ladder to peerage. Debrett’s informs that he advanced to the dignity of Earl of Devonshire in 1618.

William married Anne Keighley, a fecund lady who gave birth to 6 children in 8 years; of course they named the eldest William. They hired Thomas Hobbes, later philosopher, as tutor to the young boy, a relationship lasting over 20 years and enabling Hobbes himself to invest in The Somers Island Company.  Inevitably this new William became Earl of Devonshire and so on almost ad infinitum (current incumbent is called Peregrine, and it’s a Dukedom now)

All that is preamble to explaining how he managed to own 10 shares of land in the parish of (now) Devonshire.  fellow parishioners included Pennistone, Dike, Barnard, West, Lukin, Ditchfield, Nicholls, Fletcher, Delaune, Roger, Palmer and Rich.  Of course, it is unlikely that many if any of them actually came to Bermuda, preferring absentee landlord status – the rules are tighter these days.

It has been hard to find anything pertaining to the character of  William Cavendish. One small extract from “History of The Virginia Company” by Edward Duffield Neill describes how Cavendish quarrelled with Earl of Warwick, each calling the other a liar over a matter not detailed.  It is said that he challenged Warwick to a duel and that the Privy Council subsequently blocked the ports of England to prevent them reaching the continent (were duels perhaps banned in England ?)  Cavendish was apprehended at Shoreham, Essex , but Warwick reached Ghent.  The whole incident contributed to the Virginia Company Charter being declared null and void in 1624. It is said that their wives remained friends throughout.

Devonshire has for its coat of arms that of the Cavendish Family.

Bermuda stamp

Bermuda stamp

Sable (black) shield

3 stags heads caboshed (cut of behind the ears)

coronet of an Earl – silver balls on points with gold strawberry leaves between

Cavendish green serpent

2 rampant stag supporters

 

 

This is the sign along South Road approaching Devonshire from Smiths (needs a soapy brush)IMG_2062

Out and About

Who would give you a car wash for your birthday?

Who would give you a car wash for your birthday?

 

I had the car washed this morning – one of those that pulls you through which is always a scary experience. As a new customer I was given this leaflet and I must say I had never thought of buying someone a carwash as a birthday present.  I have to thank Chuck because I have inherited his unused points and points can be exchanged for soapsuds 🙂

 

 

 

 

Camouflaged zebra

Camouflaged zebra

 

Outside my husband’s office they have resurfaced the road and this is how they have reinstated the pedestrian crossing!

 

 

 

 

 

Car park round the back

Car park round the back 

 

Just up from here, I think it might be called Park Road, there is the junction where you fail a driving test: coming from Wesley Street you turn right into what looks like a one way street but for about 15 feet it is two-way and if you don’t pull over to the left, well, sorry, you have just failed.

😦

 

 

 

 

From a tourist guide book 1952

From a tourist guide book 1952

 

or get her a pink bike?

 

Bus stop

  Bus stop

Maybe not suited for wheelchairs

Maybe not suited for wheelchairs

 

North Shore Road, outside a primary school – double buggy not such a good idea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chainlink

Chainlink

Airbrick

Airbrick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do the guns point inland?      Alexandra Battery

Why do the guns point inland? Alexandra Battery

Old fire hydrant

Old fire hydrant

New fire hydrant

New fire hydrant

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaking tree

Leaking tree

 

Paget Marsh is a boardwalk through dense vegetation, a nature reserve run by the Bermuda National Trust.

 

 

 

Aerial roots

Aerial roots

 

 

 

 

 

 

No door

No door

Locks?

Locks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No self-respecting girl...

No self-respecting girl…

Clothes to pack 1952 Travel Guide to Bermuda

Clothes to pack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kiskadee

Kiskadee

HMS Bermuda Floating Dock

When you first explore Spanish Point you may be forgiven for wanting to go home and contact Greenpeace about dumping at sea. For, sitting in the mouth of Stoves Bay is a rusty hulk, which, if not quite of Brobdingnagian proportions, dominates the view across to Dockyard.  If it wasn’t there you could see past Long Point to Cobblers Island, Lapstone, Nets Rock and beyond Hogfish Beacon across the Great Sound Ledge to Pepperpot Beacon and Cockburn’s Cut. It is from across the water that this sad skeletal shell originated. Once, tidily tucked behind the safety of the South Breakwater, it was HMS Bermuda Floating Dock.

Installation at Dockyard 1869

Installation at Dockyard 1869

 

If you think of Bermuda as a giant fish-hook then Ireland island is the tip of the hook, the far end of Middle Road, the last of the rocky outcrops connected by short bridges, reaching out into the deeper waters of the oddly named Grassy Bay.  Ferry across the Great Sound is the quickest route.

 

 

 

 

A patient explanation from my husband told me that while small boats can be careened (nautical jargon for tilted) to one side for repairs and cleaning, larger ships require some form of dry-docking. Bermuda limestone is too soft and porous for a water-tight dry dock construction (which is also the explanation of occasional wet walls indoors in old Bermuda homes) so an alternative solution was necessary.

The floating dock was proposed by Lord Clarence Paget in 1866:

The only further work connected with this Vote relates to the proposed dock at Bermuda, We propose to construct a great iron floating dock, and there have been various plans before us for the execution of this work. One of these is quite of a novel and ingenious character. I do not venture to describe it, but I intend to lay a model of it in the Library, that hon. Members may see it for themselves. The plan, although it is one of a hydraulic first-class dock, dispenses almost altogether with any steam machinery; and, what is still more remarkable, the inventor proposes to build it here and to go out in it. (from Hansard, Commons Sittings)

The model mentioned in the above paragraph is kept at the Science Museum, London.  The design was patented by James Campbell and construction began at Woolwich in 1866.

The dock was 381 feet long by 123 feet wide and 74 feet deep. This was big enough to take ships of the Bellerophon class.

HMS Bellerophon 1866

HMS Bellerophon 1866

The building was completed by 1868.  It cost  £247,589 5s. 7d. to build. (Hansard)

Two steam-sail ironclads, HMS Agincourt and HMS Northumberland towed the dock as far as Madeira, then HMS Warrior and HMS Black Prince, the most powerful ironclads of the fleet, took it across the Atlantic.  A sail was placed inside the U-shaped dock to make use of following winds and HMS Terrible guided the stern for the whole journey.

35-day Atlantic journey, 1869

35-day Atlantic journey, 1869

 

July 4th 1869 as they left Ponto Santo

(National Maritime Museum)

 

 

 

 

There is a picture of HMS Warrior resting inside the floating dock with the dock in an elevated position – this is taken from an engraving by Thomas Dutton, but is historically inaccurate – it never happened – more a product of his imagination.

Thomas Dutton Engraving

Thomas Dutton Engraving

The dock was used through until 1906; more than 78 lifts are documented in the Dockyard records.

Intrepid in bermuda Dock  ? date  from Battleships-cruisers.co.uk

Intrepid in Bermuda Dock (?date)
from Battleships-cruisers.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But after 40 years service she was no longer big enough to manage the Royal Navy Dreadnought class of the early 1900s. (Confusingly the navy re-use ship names so the famous Flagship HMS Dreadnought of 1906 was actually the sixth ship of that name)

Careening

Careening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next part of the story, how the dock ended up ay Spanish Point, has two versions and I have not been able to unravel the truth.  Two Bermudian experts, Edward Harris and Richard Gould, have tried before me.  The former describes the arrival of the floating dock at

http://www.bermudarentals.com/wp-content/uploads/HMAFDBda.pdf 

But it is Richard Gould who provides detail of the dismantling process and proposes a story to explain how it becomes abandoned. In 1996 Gould and Souza published results of an archeological exploration of the wreck  – History and Archaeology of HM Floating Dock Bermuda, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 1996 25,1:4 20. They quote from an unpublished diary of a dock worker at the time, D Barrit, who described the arrival of German ship-breakers in January 1907. It took over a year to remove the copper, bronze and brass which was done in-situ at the dockyard, then in March 1908 tugs hauled the remains to the opposite shore and secured it with anchors and hawsers.  Subsequently it seems the hulk broke free of the restraints during storms and drifted to block the mouth of the bay.

In April 1908 a Certificate of Abandonment was issued.

The wreck of the floating dock

The wreck of the floating dock

In the mid twentieth century attempts were made to reduce the wreckage with dynamite. It was partially successful and opened up a channel through for small boats, but the remains are still clearly visible. When we were there this weekend a heron was using the elevation to find its lunch, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera.

Does it fall under UNESCO’s underwater heritage protection rules?

Is it heritage or an eyesore?

 

Bermuda Fish Chowder

Fish Chowder with Sherry Peppers and Rum

Fish Chowder with Sherry Peppers and Rum

The first time I ate Bermuda fish chowder was when we came over here on an exploratory visit in March 2013, at the Royal Palms Hotel  (the hotel just voted by TripAdvisor as the best in the Bermuda and best in Caribbean – though Bermuda isn’t actually a Caribbean island). It was a Sunday evening, quite late as our plane had been delayed, and officially they had finished serving food – but kindly they made us two large bowls of fish chowder, so far still the best I have tasted on the island. (As an aside, this degree of hospitality was shown throughout our stay and we used the hotel as our first base on island while we were finding a home – they will store your luggage, order taxis, advise on anything, offer laundry service and at 5:30 every evening open a bottle or two of wine for happy hour)

Anyhow, back to fish chowder. This is nothing like the clam chowder served in New England or the Irish seafood chowder with prawns, though I am sure they taste very nice,  – expect more a thick dark red-brown spicy meal enhanced by a large dash of sherry peppers and rum.  I suppose it is the fish version of Brown Windsor Soup, but that particular soup lost any popularity from being the staple starter offered by Fawlty Towers, the 70’s British sit-com with John Cleese as incompetent proprietor of a hotel where you’d only stay once.

Bermuda fish chowder is delicious!

First I will give you the recipe:

Outerbridge’s Bermuda Fish Chowder

Ingredients (makes lots – probably enough for 10)

4 Quarts water
1 ½ Pounds white fish fillets
Salt
Spices: thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, ground cloves
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons oil
3 Large onions, chopped
8 Stalks celery, chopped
1 Garlic clove, minced
2 Green peppers, chopped
1 Can (28 oz, 794g) whole tomatoes, chopped
1 Can (10 oz, 285g) beef consomme
1 Cup catsup (ketchup)
½ Cup chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Teaspoons lemon juice
2 Pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
6 Carrots, diced
1 Jigger (2 ounces) Gosling’s Black Seal Rum 
4 Tablespoons Outerbridge’s Original Sherry Peppers Sauce
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions
1. In a large pot, put water, fish fillets, salt and spices. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer for 30 – 45 minutes.
2. In a frying pan, melt butter and oil and briefly sauté onions, celery, garlic and green peppers. Then add tomatoes and consommé and simmer covered for 30 minutes.
3. Transfer this mixture to the fish stock and add remaining ingredients. Simmer partially covered for 2 hours. Adjust seasoning.

Serve soup piping hot and pass around Outerbridge’s Original Sherry Peppers Sauce and Gosling’s Black Seal rum   

wahoo_2
onion_bermuda_2Tomato_2

 

 

 

Gosling’s Rum Bermuda Fish Chowder

Ingredients ( makes enough for a large family)

4 qts water
2 lbs fish fillets (Rockfish, Sea Bass) or 5 lbs Grouper heads
1 tbs fresh thyme
6 bay leaves
20 peppercorns
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
3 large Bermuda onions, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers
28 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1½ cup good chicken broth
1 cup catsup (ketchup)
½ cup parsley, chopped
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 lbs potatoes peeled, small dice
6 large carrots peeled, small dice
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
4 tbs sherry peppers

Directions
1. In a large pot bring the water to a boil and put in the fish fillets, salt and spices. Lower flame and simmer for 45 minutes.

2. In an another cauldron large enough to contain all of the ingredients melt the butter and oil together and sauté the onions and garlic until just golden. Add the celery and green peppers and sauté another few minutes. Add the tomatoes and broth and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Strain the fish stock into the cauldron. Pick out the fish and add it to the pot as well, discard the spices. Add the remaining vegetables to the pot and simmer partially covered for two hours.

The soup should be thickened, but not thick and be a dark reddish-brown and very aromatic.  At the end of the cooking time add the sherry peppers sauce and Black Seal Rum. 

You will probably notice the two important ingredients :  Sherry Peppers and Rum

Sherry peppers are pimentos marinated in sherry for several months.  They appear to have originated from sailing ships who used them to mask the taste of dubious food and since nineteenth century Bermuda was a mix of maritime and agriculture it was a small step to start producing this on island.  Outerbridge’s is, I believe, the only commercial producer on the island and possibly the only anywhere.  Their website gives a detailed history and tells you there are 17 extra herbs and spices in the mix.

51158-outerbridges-sherry-rum-pepper-sauce-original_2

If you don’t want to pay $7 for a 5oz bottle then you could try making your own – I found one recipe using sherry, grated ginger and Scotch bonnet peppers that you marinate for 2 weeks, then add 1 cinnamon stick and 10 peppercorns for another 2 weeks before finally adding 25 cloves and 1 whole crushed nutmeg for the final 2 weeks.  For me it seems easiest to buy the bottle. It can be used for other things, in bloody mary’s I am told.

The other local ingredient is Gosling’s rum. The Gosling family have been in Bermuda since 1806, so not as long as the Outerbridge family who arrived in 1620, shortly after the colony started.  But long enough to establish a most profitable business in wines and liquors.  Black Seal Rum gets its name from the black sealing wax (when I was a child I thought his was ceiling wax and wondered how candle wax got onto the ceiling in the first place) that they used to stopper the bottles.  Incidentally, mix Black Seal Rum with ginger beer (also made by Goslings) and you have a Dark’n’Stormy – a very good rum cocktail, so my daughter informs me.

goslings-black-seal-rum_2

Obviously the other main ingredient is fish – wahoo is recommended but I don’t know how easy it is to get that in England if thats where you are  (Update: it is available, from frozenfishdirect.co.uk but its not cheap).   I watched a cookery demonstration and she recommended any meaty fish. One of the above recipes calls for grouper heads – not exactly something I have to hand.  (extra note – the demonstrator cook’s advice was to add the bay leaves towards the end and fish them out before serving)

You will also see above they call for Bermuda onions – thats a whole other post so you will have to wait for the rundown on those.

I looked up the origin of the word chowder, expecting perhaps an Indian origin and was surprised to read that it probably comes from the French term chaudier for stewpot. The word cauldron is linked.  The OED suggests caldaria, Latin for a place for warming things.  Another site informed me that a chowder is differentiated from a bisque by potato rather than cream as it’s thickening agent.

The oldest documented chowder recipe seems to have been in 1751 from the Boston Evening Post, but I expect that was a New England clam chowder – Bermuda fish chowder never has clams or shellfish in it.  In the nineteenth century recipes began to appear in cookery books:

  • 1828 The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph
  • 1832 The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Child
  • 1841 The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Hale

Aren’t they brilliant names – reminds me of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook that my Mother gave me when I got married.  Might have been used more if given to my husband.

You might be asking where you should go to get Bermuda fish chowder, but I have to say I have not tried all possible sources so it would be wrong of me to claim I know the answer. I am still enjoying researching this and to date have not had a bad experience anywhere. Most restaurants on the island will serve it, for around $8-$10.  Do say yes when offered Sherry Peppers and Rum.  Or of you plan on trying out the above recipes then please feel free to ask me round to taste the result, I will be honest!

1257178290bermuda-fish-chowder-cutting-board

Coral Reef

This post was triggered by two events – one was a talk about coral reefs at a recent International Womens Club lunch (yes, I have become a woman who does lunch) and the other a wander along the coastal section of a nature reserve to the east of the island that was littered with huge chunks of old and rusted metal, possibly from metal barrels or vehicles.  So yesterday I listened to two lectures on iTunesU about coral reefs (iBioSeminars, Dr Knowlton from the Smithsonian Institute).

Bermuda is the northernmost coral reef at 32 degrees north, sitting on top of a very very old volcano.  The sea mountain itself is basalt but it is topped with limestone made by organisms that fix calcium carbonate from the water such as corals.

 

 

What exactly are corals? 

Definitely animal, and the individual in the colony is called a polyp.

Image

One I prepared earlier!

 

The polyp is effectively a column with a mouth at the top, it is radially symmetrical.

They all have nematocysts – harpoons of sting cells to catch prey.

Inside the coral is a community of algae, bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses, which are essential for the health of the coral.

 

Zooxanthellae are algae that live in corals  – under the microscope they look like small green balls. They use sunlight to make sugars that the corals can use to grow.

 

 

Image

Coral animals are hard to classify – even for the experts.

They all belong to the Phylum Cnidaria

Not all of them will make rock, some serve as anchors or to attract fish.

There are different kinds and four groups make stony skeletons:

True corals, Blue corals, Organ pipe corals, Fire corals (this one hurts lots)

Fire Coral: Millepora alcicornis

Then there are sea fans and soft corals which don’t build rocky skeletons.

They grow in complex shapes and one family can make several different shape colonies.

Corals do actually reproduce sexually, releasing eggs and sperm in a mass spawning event that occurs a set time after the full moon – the timing is down to a specific hour after sunset and studies have shown for example that one species will spawn at two hours after sunset and then another species on the same night but four hours after sunset.  Such tightly controlled reproductive life would be something of a bind for humans.

This next bit is important: 

Coral reefs face risks as great as that for the rain forests  

The risks come from:

  • Pollution
  • Overfishing
  • Rising sea temperatures
  • Coral diseases 

All of these lead to a process called coral bleaching.

Coral bleaching is destroying the coral reefs around the world.

It is named “bleaching” because the corals lose their colors.

It occurs when the algae get stressed and stop photo synthesizing.

They are stressed when it is too hot, too sunny, or the water is too acidic.

So the algae die and the coral spits them out – so instead of seeing the algae inside you can see through the polyps to the stony skeleton which is white.

Without the algae the coral cannot build skeletons so cannot grow.

 

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Bleaching of coral. Photo from The Royal Gazette

The coral in the right side is bleached.

One cause of bleaching I had not fully appreciated is sun tan lotion where the ultraviolet filtering chemicals dissolve in the water in as short a time as fifteen minutes.  Biodegradable sunscreens are apparently available (Badger; Caribbean Solutions) so will be on my shopping list for next summer.

Corals also suffer from diseases, with unimaginative names such as “white band disease” and “black band disease”.  But as yet it isn’t known which bacteria or viruses might cause the diseases because they don’t yet know the normal microbiological life in coral. There are over 6000 identified species of coral bacteria!

One of the theories of coral disease is linked to seaweeds producing sugars that get absorbed into the coral which cannot handle them – diabetic coral if you like.  It is a problem because of seaweed overgrowth where weed-eating fish have been decimated by overfishing.  They have documented coral reef destruction with increasing density of seaweeds in the reef area.  Seaweed grows much faster than coral and so tends to take over pretty quickly.

 

Coral reefs are being lost at a rate of 1-2% per year.

Why does it matter? 

For Bermuda,

  • The reef protects the island from the force of tropical storms – without it each hurricane could be as damaging as Fabian was in 2005.  
  • The reef provides a habitat for commercially important fish 
  • Recently there has been pharmaceutical interest – some species of cone snails that live on the reefs can produce analgesics. 
  • Being the most northerly coral reef, thousands come to the island to see the reefs and fish. So loss of the reef would seriously damage  Bermudian economy. 
  • The reef is a natural boundary that protects the shoreline from the power of the waves – inside the reef the waves will be typically several feet lower and so less coastal erosion occurs.

For other places such as the Phillipines some areas are highly dependent on the reef for food and employment, so their economies would be seriously affected by loss of the reefs.

What can I do?

  • Take only pictures, leave only bubbles.
  • Choose my seafood wisely – only sustainable fish
  • Don’t buy coral jewellery
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle
  • Plant a tree – trees reduce run off into the oceans
  • Take away my own rubbish, but also pick up a piece of other rubbish each time I visit a beach
  • Stay informed and spread the word …

 

Spittal Pond

Saturday saw us walking around Spittal Pond, a nature reserve on the South Shore in Smith’s Parish.

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As you can see from the map, it is a Ramsar site, which means it is a wetland of international importance.  The Ramsar convention, named after the place in Iran where the first meeting was held, was agreed by 18 countries in 1971 to conserve and sustain wetland areas across the globe.  Now there are 168 country members and a over 2000 designated sites. Bermuda has 7 Ramsar sites of which Spittal Pond is the largest. 

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Why “Spittal”? 

Variations of the English word have been used since the Middle Ages and seems to be a diminutive form of hospital – these were referred to in Middle English as Spitals or Spittles.  For example, Spitalfields, in London, was an area around St Mary’s Spital, a priory hospital (not the exclusive group that run psychiatric resorts).  There are several places in England and Scotland with a form of Spittal in the name.  Someone has tentatively linked the name of this pond with a nearby farm they held sick cattle – seems a bit far fetched, though we did see the farm and some very healthy looking cows. 

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It has not always had this name – in the earliest maps it was labelled as Brackish Pond and in some Peniston’s Pond after a one-time owner. 

Brackish is an apt description – the mud-flat-lagoon is frequently inundated with seawater during storms and so although it doesn’t have a permanent connection to the sea it has a variable salinity, becoming almost freshwater after rain.  There is a wealth of information on the plants to be found around the pond on the Bermuda Conservation website: 

http://www.conservation.Bermuda

A long time ago, when I did biology at school, I recall disliking plants and botany – animal biology and eventually human biology seemed so much more interesting.  Maybe it is a sign of getting old, but I quite enjoy identifying and photographing plants now. 

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Ok, so maybe not the best specimen or the best photo, but it is one of my own! 

The rocks and the sea

This is my favourite part of the reserve, where the waves pound upon the slopes of rock, foaming across the flat limestone.  Image

 

Then as you climb up the hill along a barely marked track you reach Portugese Rock (aka Spanish Rock).  Here, in 1539, a Portugese sailor carved initials RP into a rock, with a cross depicting the Portugese Order of Christ.  The actual rock has been removed and replaced with a bronze copy – now with additional initials carved by unknowns on and around the plaque.  That was 70 years before Bermuda was settled by the English, how do we know it was a sailor and what he was doing here? We do know the Spanish arrived first, in 1505 Juan de Bermudez is reported to have discovered the islands.  That ubiquitous reference Wiki…… claims he never landed, but someone must have done at some point – witness the rock and also the vast numbers of pigs found here when the English did eventually arrive (hogs left by Spanish ships in earlier years, clearly they found the land plentiful for pig production). 

March is said to be the best time to visit Spittal Pond as migrating birds stop over, sometimes flamingos – I would love to see them in the wild (They have some very noisy ones at the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo).  Whales can also be spotted from the shore during Spring. 

We did see a green heron, coots, ducks on the pond and in the sea crabs and large bright blue fish that are possibly Blue Tang or Parrotfish.  There are some large West Indian Topshell Snails and hundreds of West Indian Chitons – you can find all of these on the Bermuda Conservation pages. 

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It isn’t a long walk, the area is just over 60 acres. You do need sensible shoes and be prepared to clamber over rocks and wade through long grass.  It is a Bermuda National Trust property, entry is free and it is open from dawn to dusk. 

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