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Though this schooner never "privatized" a stray ship off the coast of Bermuda, ones like it surely did hundreds of years ago. (Photo: The PGA of America)

Bermuda Shorts -- A look at what makes the island unique

Print News Coordinating Producer John Kim is in Bermuda for the 2008 PGA Grand Slam of Golf, and each day he will file Bermuda Shorts, which will examine some of the things that make this such a unique and interesting island.

By John Kim, Coordinating Producer

TUCKER'S TOWN, Bermuda -- Bermuda Shorts is a series of quick looks at what makes Bermuda unique, vibrant and a perfect setting for The PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

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* Bermuda is named after Spanish navigator Juan de Bermudez, who discovered the islands after he was shipwrecked on local reefs in 1503. Bermuda had no permanent residents until 1609 when the flagship "Sea Venture" from Britain was caught in a tempest and shipwrecked off of St.George's.

* What's the difference between "Pirating" and "Privateteering?" Perhaps it depends on whether you're attacking or being attacked. Privateering was the "art" of commandeering ships from other countries as a government-sponsored source of revenue. At the peak of privateering activity, Bermuda had the "art" practically down to a science.

As locals tell the tale, a lone torch bearer would signal passing ships with assurances and instructions that all was safe to dock. As the ships approached, naturally they would get stuck on the shallow reefs that surround parts of the island. A number of privateering boats would be at the ready and then charge out to meet the disabled boat. Of course, the ship would then have no choice but to surrender whatever goods and bounty it had on board. The government sanction of the activity was the most distinguishing characteristic that compelled the use of a word other than piracy. Thus, the term privateering was established.

* Though Bermuda is a nation that boasts a good deal of diversity in its people, food, golf courses and even languages, one area that is very monolithic -- both figuratively and literally -- pertains to the roofs of the houses that dot the landscape. The all-white structures are a cross of cedar wood beams and laths that are covered in limestone and mortared together to create one smooth, solid covering.

These seven-to-10-ton behemoth rooftops server two purposes: To protect the residents from the high winds and rains that often descend on the island -- they are too heavy to lift by even the strongest hurricanes and they are water resistant as well so the strongest rains can not penetrate them -- and to collect water. Because many households and buildings must provide their own water supply, the roofs serve to collect rain water, which is channeled to a special container beneath each house. Also under the houses and buildings are the purification and water pressure systems that provide
clean watering needs.

* The large crowds following the players at this year's PGA Grand Slam of Golf caught a few spectators by surprise. One observer noted she expected a smaller turnout because of the global uncertainty in the financial markets. Few people realize how many well-know companies are based here in Bermuda -- taking advantage of the low taxation rates -- which include iconic companies such as Tyco, Accenture, Ingersoll-Rand and Nabors Industries, Ltd. The observation was echoed by a number of spectators, both worried about the stability of companies that employ a number of the island's guest workers and the idea that some bosses might find out that they were out on the course rather than the office.

* There are approximately 70,000 permanent residents in Bermuda, and more than 75 percent of the population is native Bermudan.

* Citizens are allowed to own only one car though certain exceptions are allowed for doctors and government officials. The most popular form of transportation though is the motor scooter (think moped for our U.S. based readers.) But tourists beware, we were cautioned about renting the motor scooters as traffic is congested and traffic laws can be less-than-rigidly enforced.

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