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North America, Bermuda

Bermuda College, chief port, Bermuda Islands, chief town, narrow channels

Bermuda or Bermuda Islands, island group, self-governing dependency of United Kingdom, in the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The group consists of approximately 150 small islands, islets, and rocks, of which about 20 are inhabited. Only six islands are of importance: Bermuda, also called Great Bermuda and Main Island, which is the largest (23 km/14 mi in length); Somerset; Ireland; Saint George's; Saint Davids; and Boaz. Hamilton is the capital, chief port, and largest city (1990 population estimate, 1,000) in Bermuda. The total area of the Bermuda Islands is 53 sq km (20 sq mi).

Geologically the islands have a base of volcanic rock and are capped by coral formations. They are enclosed on the north, west, and south by reefs, which are mostly underwater. The islands are separated from one another by narrow channels, but include several coral lagoons, or sounds, of which the most important are Harrington Sound and Castle Harbor. The islands are low-lying but hilly, being 80 m (260 ft) above sea level.

Lacking surface water and freshwater wells, the islands must depend on rainwater, which is collected from rooftops and stored in tanks, for water supply. The average rainfall is 1,500 mm (58 in) a year. The climate is mild, the temperature averaging 17 C (63 F) in winter and 26 C (79 F) in summer. The ocean winds are tempered by the warm Gulf Stream, but when south winds prevail, the humidity rises and severe thunderstorms are frequent. Vegetation is luxuriant and includes Bermuda cedar, bamboo, palm, papaw, and numerous flowering plants. Hedges of oleander and thickets of mangrove are characteristic features of the islands.

Hamilton, on Bermuda Island, is the capital and the chief town and port. Next in importance is Saint George, on St. George's Island. The estimated population of the Bermuda Islands in 2002 was 63,960. Some 60 percent of the population is black. Anglicanism is the principal religion. Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16; about 5,900 students attended Bermuda's primary schools in 1996. Bermuda College (1974) provides postsecondary education.

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