The Spirit of Bermuda
Bermuda was accidently settled in 1609, when a vessel bound for Jamestown, Virginia was shipwrecked on the coral reefs that surround Bermuda. The population has thrived in the centuries since, through a healthy combination of pragmatism, creativity and flexibility. Even with few natural resources, the Island is still known for its high standard of living.
Five major periods of economic activity have been identified during those four centuries, and each is marked by similarities of approach.
It began with agriculture, although it wasn’t long before Bermudians became sailing traders of salt. They quickly developed a roaring business selling salt from the Turks and Caicos Islands to the US and the West Indies. Bermuda claimed and settled the Turks and Caicos in the 1670s, and established the salt trade there. Bermudians lived well by making boats from cedar trees with which to fish and deliver their salt cargoes.
In the mid-1850s, agriculture again came to the fore, much of it this time intended for export. Lilies and Bermuda onions were shipped to the US in quantity, although the Civil War interrupted the trade. Adapting to their circumstances, Bermudians became arms dealers – supplying weapons to the North…and to the South.
The 20th century saw a golden age of tourism and Bermuda was at the forefront, with visitors arriving by steam ship first, and later by airliners. But other jurisdictions joined the tourism boom as Bermuda cultivated an additional business, involving the provision of international financial services.
Today, the island is an “insurance Mecca”, a powerful force in the global flow of insurance and reinsurance services. At each change of emphasis, Bermudians have exhibited a natural ability to adjust and adapt.
While it is one thing to talk about the entrepreneurial spirit of a people in times of economic opportunity, there are many other examples of Bermudians punching above their weight class.
It was hard for early settlers to deal with simple things required for the human condition. Bermuda was never blessed with an abundance of fresh water springs, so the management of the water supply was a critical issue.
Eventually, they settled on a unique water management system that still exists today. Every Bermudian home is equipped with its own underground water tank, which is supplied by rain water, collected and purified by the white lime-stone roofs of the Bermuda stone homes.
In addition, these islanders had to perfect a long term solution to combat the destructive nature of storms. Especially in earlier times, the isolated Island would have to fend for itself for some time, in the aftermath of any storm.
Out of necessity then, the building code produces hurricane-proof houses. Bermudians learned to simply batten down the hatches and wait out the storm. Many coastal residents in the US could learn a thing about surviving hurricanes from a Bermuda home.
Islanders everywhere may be fiercely independent, and Bermudians are definitely so. But by allying that sense of self-determination to the intuitive ability to create and provide for the needs of global markets, Bermuda has long stood out among small countries.
That spirit of Bermuda is alive and well in the 21st century and, along with the Island’s sterling reputation, is the most important commodity Bermudians have to offer a busy world.