Bermuda is surrounded by coral reefs formed from a now dormant volcano. The reefs were deadly to ships that ventured too close, and the wreckage of ships line the outer reefs as a result. Early seamen called Bermuda "Isle of Devils" for that reason. The island takes its name from a Spaniard, Juan de Bermudez, who paid a call in 1503. But the island remained uninhabited, despite visits by Spanish and English ships, until more than a century later.

It wasn’t until a hurricane blew a British ship called the Sea Venture onto the reefs in 1609 that a settlement was begun. The Sea Venture, which was commanded by Admiral Sir George Somers, was on its way to the New World settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, with settlers and supplies. Although most of the settlers continued on their way in a vessel they built while they were stranded on Bermuda, there have been people living here since that visit, and Bermuda’s character as a British colony was established.

In the early days of the settlement, Bermudians were traders, and built swift ships of native Bermuda cedar to carry them and their goods south to the West Indies and west to the United States.