Britain’s Queen skipped yesterday’s celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Britain’s oldest colony after a row with the island’s pro-independence leader. Bermudacommemorated the shipwreck on July 28, 1609, of the Sea Venture, the flagship of a fleet sent to resupply the Jamestown colony in Virginia. Sailors, including the crew of the visiting Royal Navy destroyer HMS Manchester, re-enacted the 150 settlers rowing ashore on what is now St Catherine’s Beach to start four centuries of continuous settlement of the mid-Atlantic island.
Neither Queen Elizabeth II, still the island’s sovereign, nor Ewart Brown, the elected pro-independence Premier, however, was present for the celebrations. The Queen decided to skip the festivities after Britain clashed with the island’s elected Government in June over its decision to resettle four former Guantánamo Bay prisoners without asking Britain’s permission. In his turn, Dr Brown, a nationalist, left Bermuda at the weekend to go on holiday, a government spokesman said, insisting that the timing was just a coincidence. Instead, the celebrations were attended by the British Governor, Sir Richard Gozney, and the acting premier, Derrick Burgess, the Minister of Works.
Bermuda, a 21 sq mile archipelago of about 138 islands, was discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez in 1503. The islands were not inhabited, however, until the Sea Venture grounded on a reef more than a century later during an epic voyage that effectively saved the British presence in America. The Sea Venture set sailed from Plymouth on June 2, 1609, at the head of a seven-ship fleet sent to resupply the Virginia Company’s Jamestown colony, established two years earlier. A “dreadful and hideous” Atlantic storm scattered the ships and left the 300-ton Sea Venture, making her maiden transatlantic trip, leaking badly. When all seemed lost the captain deliberately ran the ship aground on a reef at the eastern tip of Bermuda, rescuing all aboard, including the ship’s dog. Shakespeare’s The Tempest is believed to have been inspired by an account of the shipwreck by a survivor, William Strachey. The Sea Venture’s crew spent ten months in Bermuda building two vessels — Deliverance and Patience — before continuing their voyage to Jamestown. They arrived with a cargo of pork from wild pigs on Bermuda to find the Jamestown settlers starving, and ready to abandon the fledgling colony. The Sea Venture left two crew members behind on Bermuda — Christopher Carter, a religious zealot who had been temporarily banished to one of the islands, and Robert Waters, who had been pardoned after killing a crewmate with a shovel in a brawl.
For a complete report go to http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6729666.ece