This letter describes Matkin's first impression of Bermuda,
and provides a bit of history. In it he also discusses the now strange-sounding
possibility of another English war with America.
2pm on the 3rd of April the Bermuda islands hove in sight, the land
being wonderfully low for islands in the middle of the ocean, and
looks very bleak and bare from the distance, but when we arrived
in close it had a better appearance. ...The Bermuda islands all
belong to Great Britain and are about 300 in number, but the whole
lot are no larger than S. Thomas. Bermuda itself is the largest,
and Hamilton the chief town is bult on it, the whole population
is about 12,000 and the greater portion are colored people. The
islands were discovered in 1527 by Bermudez a Spaniard, who named
them after himself. In 1609, Admiral Sir George Somersw was wrecked
on the islands and founded the Colony; and they have belonged to
the British ever since. There is a fine fortified Dockyard, on one
of the islands and an immsense iron floating dock, for the convenience
of re-fitting the fleet stationed in North American waters, without
sending them home. This immense dock was built at Woolwich, and
towed across the Atlantic a few years ago, by four of our larges
Ironclads. This place would be of great importance as a rendezvous
for the Fleet &c, in case of a war with America; it is 5 days sail
from New York, and 800 miles from the nearest land, Cape Hatteras
(North Carolina, MP) in North America.
Matkin continues from Bermuda, describing the military presence
on the islands, and revealing that Challenger herself is sometimes called
upon to deliver the English mail.
The Governor of the
island is Major General Lefroy, and there are plenty of soldiers
here for its protection. The climate is not nearly so warm as at
S. Thomas, but we are able to bathe every evening. The greater portion
of our North American Fleet is here, including the "Royal Alfred"
flag ship of Admiral Fanshawe, for whom we brought a heavy mail
from S. Thomas.
The Bermuda Government
House at Hamilton
station is Halifax, but they generally winter here. The Governor with
a party of Ladies & Officers are at present on board, lunching.
While in Bermuda, another strange tragedy would befall Challenger,
one that would have even stranger repercussions later in the trip.