Bermuda’s Geography – a tiny island formed by volcanoes, limestone and coral

As you drive around Bermuda you will notice the hilly terrain, the abundance of natural stone walls and houses, the intriguing rock cuts facing the street with their layers and crumbling pockets of sand, and the tough short trees and plants the closer you get to the seashore.
A brief review of the geography of the island reveals amazing natural history.

Bermuda from space – courtesy of NASA

Bermuda emerges from the mists of time as a very ancient place with few native plants or animals, and glorious in its isolation. The current collection of islands that make up Bermuda are all that remains of 4 massive volcanic peaks, worn down by time, repeated ice ages and the rising and falling of sea levels. Bathed by the warming Gulf Stream,  the vestiges of these volcanoes were either the product of the the mid Atlantic ridge, or formed over a crustal hot spot millions of years ago.

The collapse of the volcano cones has left two calderas, also known as the Great Sound and Castle Harbour. Coral reefs started to grow in the shallow waters, creating a thin limestone layer over the volcanic rock. Stone accumulated in layers as oceans rose and sank, leaving the characteristic undulating striations you see on rock faces all around the island. The resulting stone is hard enough for quarrying and has provided a wonderful building material for old Bermuda homes.

The Carter House built in the 1600s from limestone. Photo thanks to BBC.

Bermuda has only a thin layer of soil, no rivers or streams, and a great deal of drainage through the rock into the subsurface. Because limestone dissolves over time due to weather, it also produces fascinating land forms: ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes and caves where millions of years of geologic time can be admired in the form of stalagmites and stalactites.

On the surface, you will now appreciate the hilliness of the island: ancient sand dunes became stone, and now the handsome veneer of pastel houses and luxuriant flowers and trees carpet the island. The highest point is only 249 ft from sea level at Town Hill, in Smiths Parish – a long way from the historical height of the volcano which has been estimated at 3500 feet!

Ancient coral reefs reduced to a fine powder by relentless wave action give us our pink and white beaches. The coral sand provides the contrast of  pale turquoise  and emerald green waters in the shallow sea between the reefs and the beach, from the deep indigo ocean where floor drops off and the whales congregate.

At only 21 miles long Bermuda has a coastline of 64 miles, filled with tiny coves and silvery beaches.
Your vacation, full of fresh clean air, warm sun, clear waters and gorgeous plants and flowers has been millions of years in the making. Enjoy every moment!

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