31.08.2010 - 31.08.2010 30 °C
I woke up super early this morning because I had a snorkeling trip planned with Sonny's snorkeling! I woke up at 7 and caught the 8:30 ferry to Dockyard where I met Sonny, Audrey (pet dog/first mate), and the group of 6 I was joining. We headed out at 9am on a small boat that allowed us to go faster than the boats with 40+ snorkelers, and Sonny schedules his trips so that we aren't out there when anyone else is. It's awesome, I'm so glad I found a review of his company! It was only $45/person too, which is waaaaay less than most companies and it only took 2hrs (not 3) with the same time in the water due to how much faster his boat can go and how much easier it is to coordinate 7 people instead of 40.
I couldn't take any pictures of the shipwrecks we went to, so I stole these from online -- but I was there! I saw exactly that and it was fantastic. There are very few ways that ships can get through the reef to Bermuda, and now they are marked with posts, but they weren't back then. Ships waiting to dock had to wait outside the reef until a local boat went out to show them the way.
"The Montana was a 236 foot long iron paddle steamer. She was en route from London, England to Wilmington, North Carolina carrying a cargo for the Confederate effort, which qualified her as a blockade runner. After a long voyage across the Atlantic, Captain Pittman decided to refuel in Bermuda before attempting to run blockades in the height of the American Civil War. On December 30, 1863 while trying to navigate the Western Blue Cut channel, the Montana hit the shallow reefs off of Bermuda and sank in 30 feet of water, where she now sits. After nearly 150 years on the shallow bottom on our barrier reef, much of the wreck of the Montana has collapsed on itself. The bow or front of the ship remains intact, as do her steam engines and paddle wheels which have become home to many different species of fish."
Sonny joked that the crew must have been all busy playing poker and not paying attention. Since Bermuda doesn't get many supplies, and ships are always made with the best materials, the locals stripped down the ship after rescuing all on board. The bow is literally only 5ft below the surface! It was amazing. I was able to dive down and swim into the bow and the boilers. They're covered with coral and stuff now, but are still easily recognizable.
"The Constellation, a 192 foot wooden four-masted schooner was on its way from New York to Venezuela carrying a cargo of bags of cement, several hundred cases of whisky and several different types of drugs. After leaving New York, the ship encountered stormy seas, causing the 24 year old vessel to leak at the seams. After several days of manual pumping, the crew could no longer keep up with the incoming water so Captain Howard Neaves decided to stop in Bermuda for repairs. On July 30, 1942, while waiting for a local pilot to come out to guide them through the unmarked channel, the ship was pushed onto the shallow barrier reef, sinking her. All hands were saved and the U.S. Navy, undoubtedly following Bermuda protocol, salvaged all 700 cases of whisky and a few other peices of cargo. Because wood is biodegradable, most of the hull of the Constellation has long rotted away in Bermuda's warm sub-tropical waters, leaving exposed thousands of bags of hardened cement, her main cargo, panels of glass, slate and iron fittings that were once part of the actual ship. The shipwreck of the Constellation now sits in 15-25 feet of water easily visible in every detail from the surface while snorkeling."
I don't think the pictures I found do the Constellation wreck any justice at all. The "bags" of cement, which no longer have any fabric on them, stretch for what seems like forever and the neatly stacked pile is separated down the middle where the middle of the ship would be. I dove down and swam in between there until I ran out of breath and it was amazing. I found old barrels and medicine bottles. It's very ghostly and cool all at the same time. Like the Montana, everything has stuff growing on it now. It's really cool.
I took too long walking around Dockyard after snorkeling was done so I had to wait 2 hrs for the next ferry to go to St. George's (other end of the island). So I ate lunch and read my book in one of the more famous restaurants in Bermuda called the Bone Fish and ordered a large pina-colada and they let me keep the glass! (lol, so touristy.) When I arrived I was greeted by the town-crier and his bagpipes welcoming people to the historic town of St. George's with a large smile, Bermuda-style. It was kinda cool, lots of old buildings, mostly stuff I've seen before.
First stop was St. Peter's Anglican Church which is believed to be the oldest continually used Anglican church in the Western hemisphere. "The original church was built from Bermuda cedar with a palmetto-thatch roof in 1612. Most of the present structure dates from 1713 but some features, such as the steeple, were later additions. The first Bermuda Parliament met here in 1620, making it the 3rd oldest parliament in the world." It was pretty neat! I found an old chair in the back and took a picture for mommy. The walls were covered in stone plaques that were tributes to various people. There was a designated balcony for the black slaves and a box specifically for royalty.
Next I found Somers garden and one of the many Moongates in Bermuda. These archways are in a circle to represent unity and good fortune. The moongate originated in China but the idea was brought over to Bermuda by a sea captain in 1860. Since then, they've been built everywhere as ornamental garden entrances in Bermuda and have become a national symbol. Bermuda moongates are typically built out of Bermuda stone instead of wood like in China. They say if you pause for a moment under the moongate then you will get good luck. I hope it works.
Next I left St. George's and walked to Gates Fort then on to Alexandra Battery. Directly to the left of the Battery was a beach that is not very well known, but I found a review online. This little beach is a sea glass beach. For some reason, millions of pieces of glass that are washed away from the shipwrecks end up here and are tossed and turned in the waves until they are completely smooth. Some pieces were still partially recognizable, but most were just green or amber or white glass stones. It was really really beautiful. I mean, the beach was pretty grimy because it's not very well taken care of, but the glass was awesome. Each time the wave came it carried glass up the beach and then as it fell out again all the glass would be sucked back and made the water look like it was alive. The glass reflected light made a tinkling sound, like glass wind-chimes almost, as it moved with the ocean. I spent a good hour there collecting sea glass and searching for blue or red, which are the hardest to find.
I walked from the glass beach to Gates Bay, St. Catherine's Fort, Achilles Bay and Tobacco Bay. The walk was pretty long, but I found all sorts of cool places and thing along the way. There were all sorts of paths out to the ocean, most of which led to cool spots among the rocks. I found a wooden man, another private moongate, parts of a shipwreck that probably no one knows about, and a farm -- complete with cows, goats living on the rocks, and wild chickens of course.
By the time I got to St. Catherine's Fort and the surrounding beaches it was sunset, so no beach time for me today. Plus I was sooooo exhausted I thought that if I stopped at the beach I wouldn't get back up again. So I just walked them and took some photos and then headed back to St. George's for the evening market.
The market was pretty barren. I expected more considering it's so well advertised. There were very few vendors, and a drunkard making a fool of himself to the music. I explored a little more around King's Square in front of Town Hall and the harbor area. At 8pm they did a historical reenactment of the "punishing of a gossip" where a woman was accused of gossiping and therefore was sat on a chair and dunked into the water. It was actually pretty fun. There was a kids Gombey at the market (Gombey's are a traditional dancer of Bermuda), but I want to see the real thing! I think on Saturdays there is a demonstration in Hamilton, so I'll make sure I get to that. I relaxed in the square for a little longer then hopped on the bus back to Hamilton and to bed. It had been a very busy day.