Mythical Isle of the Devils

The mariners that discovered Bermuda were pretty hardy souls, but there was something about the island that chilled the blood of the most salty seadog – the mysterious wails and moans that could be heard emanating from the shore as darkness fell. Combined with famously stormy seas and a ring of reef waiting to shipwreck passing traders, these baby-like screechings gave the island a voodoo reputation.

These superstitions inspired poet John Donne in The Storm – ‘the Bermudas’ became a by-word for danger in Elizabethan times. This volcanic outcrop also likely provided the basis of Shakespeare’s The Tempest – even though the play  was set in the Mediterranean, there are several references in the text to the pigs, seabirds and trees found on Bermuda .

Those shipwreck survivors that made it to land on the benighted island quickly discovered that the cries were not devilish at all. In fact, they came from the native Cahow (Bermuda petrel)  – seabirds which return at night to feed their chicks. These same birds provided protein for the new arrivals, signalling the beginning of a catastrophic population decline which has only been reversed in recent years.

Now Bermuda is famous for its pink sand beaches, colonial architecture and amazing ocean environment; but of course, there’s still the Bermuda Triangle and its devilish reputation.


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