Bermuda is a group of about 300 coral islands and islets which form a chain in the western Atlantic Ocean. Bermuda is a British Crown Colony, about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) southeast of New York City and 1,046 kilometers (650 miles) east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The island chain stretches 35 kilometers (22 miles) from northeast to southwest in the form of a fishhook.
The islands are quite flat, with a rocky surface. There are no freshwater streams, lakes, or wells. A large distillation plant provides water for drinking and washing. The Bermuda Islands are bathed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream as they move north from the Gulf of Mexico. This makes them ideal for swimming, snorkeling, fishing and yachting. The climate is just like that of Miami in southern Florida–sunny all the year round but never oppressively hot. This climate and its location near the United States attracts over 500,000 tourists every year.
The chief islands, long and narrow in shape, are linked by bridges and raised roads called causeways. In the center of the biggest island called Main Island or Great Bermuda, is the capital, Hamilton, which has an excellent natural harbor and a population of 1,565. This island accounts for two-thirds of the area of all the islands, which is only 53 square kilometers (20.5 square miles). The other large islands are Somerset, Boaz, Ireland, St. George and St. David.
People often think of Bermuda as being in the West Indies but in fact the nearest West Indian island is 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) away and Bermudans do not think of themselves as West Indians at all. Well over half the total population of the islands consists of Negroes, descendants of slaves brought from Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The people earn their living chiefly from the tourist trade. Some employment is provided also by the United States naval and air bases, which were built early in World War II on land leased, or rented out, to the United States government for 99 years. Land has also been reclaimed from the sea for bases. Vegetable growing and fishing (especially for lobsters, a growing and popular local dish) are other important occupations and there is a valuable lily-growing industry. Lily bulbs and blooms from Bermuda find a good market in the United States. At Easter, the lily fields are a lovely sight. Pharmaceutical products (drugs and medicines), and perfume essences are made in several small factories and are among the country’s main exports.