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"The dangerous and dreaded Iland"; an excerpt from A true reportory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates Knight by William Strachey (1625)

In this excerpt from A true reportory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates Knight, William Strachey describes the islands of Bermuda, where the irreparably damaged ship Sea Venture, on its way to Jamestown in 1609, landed after a fierce storm. Virginia's new governor Sir Thomas Gates, Admiral Sir George Somers, and Captain Christopher Newport were all aboard. Addressed to an unknown "Lady," Strachey's account is believed to have been important source material for William Shakespeare's play The Tempest (ca. 1610–1611). Strachey's account was not published until 1625 but likely circulated years before that.

Transcription from Original

We found it to be the dangerous and dreaded Iland, or rather Ilands of the Bermuda: whereof let mee give your Ladyship a briefe description, before I proceed to my narration. And that the rather, because they be so terrible to all that ever touched on them, and such tempests, thunders, and other fearefull objects are seene and heard about them, that they be called commonly, The Devils Ilands, and are feared and avoyded of all sea travellers alive, above any other place in the world. Yet it pleased our mercifull God, to make even this hideous and hated place, both the place of our safetie, and meanes of our deliverance.

And hereby also, I hope to deliver the world from a foule and generall errour: it being counted of most, that they can be no habitation for Men, but rather given over to Devils and wicked

— page 1738 —

Spirits; whereas indeed wee find them now by experience, to bee as habitable and commodious as most Countries of the same climate and situation: insomuch as if the entrance into them were as easie as the place it selfe is contenting, it had long ere this beene inhabited, as well as other Ilands. Thus shall we make it appeare, That Truth is the daughter of Time, and that men ought not to deny every thing which is not subject to their owne sense.

The Bermudas bee broken Ilands, five hundred of them in manner of Archipelagus (at least if you may call them all Ilands that lie, how little soever into the Sea, and by themselves) of small compasse, some larger yet then other, as time and the Sea hath wonne from them, and eaten his passage through, and all now lying in the figure of a Croissant, within the circuit of sixe or seven leagues at the most, albeit at first it is said of them that they were thirteene or fourteene leagues; and more in longitude as I have heard. For no greater distance is it from the Northwest Point to Gates his Bay, as by this Map your Ladyship may see, in which Sir George Summers, who coasted in his Boate about them all, tooke great care to expresse the same exactly and full, and made his draught perfect for all good occasions, and the benefit of such, who either in distresse might be brought upon them, or make saile this way.