Bermuda: A Misunderstood Location?

In one way or another, the Bermuda Triangle always makes its way back into contemporary culture. As a kid, it was a frequent troupe in cartoons, with a burly band of bad guys being sucked into a giant whirlpool or ships getting chomped up like dry Ryvita. It’s also a regular feature in comics, films, books and even music (thank you, in particular, Barry Manilow, for your inspired take on the urban legend).

Jewel of the Atlantic

Question is: why has it gained such notoriety and is Bermuda itself a viable tourist destination? I mean, I’ve never heard of anyone going there and it’s certainly not on the backpacker trail, so are people really put off by an old wives tales or… is the legend true… do brave Bermudan travellers face a fate worse than death? Well, not quite. Bermuda is a beautiful island, with pink Champaign beaches, azure blue oceans and the kind of picture-perfect views that inspired the concept of paradise. I’m not even kidding. Google “Bermuda Beaches” and you’ll be transported to the most luxurious of sights in the whole of the western hemisphere. Hence why it’s known as the “Jewel of the Atlantic.” As a British Overseas Territory, it takes up the eastern and northernmost point of the so-called Bermuda Triangle, with Florida and Puerto Rico completing the tripod. The British way of life continues to dominate Bermudan culture, with education and legal structures mimicking that of its “motherland.”

A Mixture of Influences

However, with a tumultuous history of slavery, Bermuda is defined by its Anglo-African influences.

British place names (the town of St. George was named after the legendary dragon slayer and patron saint of England) accompany distinctive African dance music (known as Gombey), creating a culture quite unlike any other.

Another interesting feature is that Bermuda straddles the Old and New World. It’s Britain’s oldest inhabited colony and yet less than a two hour flight from central New York (although a thrill-seeker’s natural transportation of choice is, of course, the humble ferry). As such, there’s a kind of cultural tug of war. On one hand, Bermudians seem British in their customs. They play cricket, drive on the left and have Queen Elizabeth II on their banknotes. Simultaneously, a strong North American influence is obvious: the currency is the dollar; Bermudians watch US television and American English is extremely prevalent. Overall, it’s an American-Anglo-African free-for-all, or a by-product of British colonialism.

Tales of the Triangle

First things first, the Bermuda Triangle doesn’t exist – according to the US Navy. Also, the name is not recognized by the US Board of Geographic Names. Secondly, the first known “suspicious” occurrence was reported in the 1950s. Until then, nothing noteworthy went down. Sure, Bermuda and its triangle were only discovered in 1505, meaning it wasn’t sullied by the human desire for territorialisation for thousands and thousands of years. But still, if it was cursed, someone would have said something about it before Elvis released his debut album. Regardless, there are a gaggle of conspiracists who will swear blind that the Bermuda Triangle is controlled by leftover technology from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis.

Or that UFOs abducted the missing Flight 19 and probed the pilots for US naval secrets. According to local lore, the last words of the doomed captain were, “We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don’t know where we are, the water is green, no white…”

And then the rest was silence. Even so, the number of ships and aircraft reported missing are not significantly greater than any other part of the ocean. So there. It all boils down to folklore. If you believed every fable that was ever told, you’d avoid gingerbread houses and Grandma’s house. However, perhaps in part due to the nature of this legend, Bermuda remains a perfectly preserved Eden of the highest quality, and long may it remain. Saying that, I guess I’d need to tell you all that the stories are true and that a trip to the subtropics will result in certain and agonising death. That way, Bermuda will remain the world’s best kept secret… the stories are true… 😉

(photo credit: 1 – all 3 photos)