On 25 July 1609, an emigrant ship called the Sea Venture found itself in dire straits after battling a hurricane for three days. Battered and taking on water, she was deliberately beached on the reefs of what would later turn out to be Bermuda, allowing all 150 people aboard, plus one dog, to land safely.
Sea Venture, England’s first purpose-designed emigrant ship, set out from Plymouth on 2 June as the flagship of a seven-ship fleet heading for Jamestown, Virginia. In July, the ships ran into a serious storm and were separated. Sea Venture found herself alone and very far from Virginia.
The passengers and crew managed to strip the ship and construct two smaller vessels, Deliverance and Patience, both of which set sail in May 1610, finally reaching Jamestown on 23 May. A few of the members of the expedition died before Deliverance and Patience departed, including the wife and child of John Rolfe. Rolfe would go on to marry Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas.
Deliverance and Patience found the Jamestown colony in serious trouble when they arrived. Of the 500 settlers who were part of the original expedition only 60 remained, and many of them were dying. They all took one look around, got back on their ships and set a course for England. Only the timely arrival of a relief fleet, which met them on the James River, saved the colony. The settlers returned, though a few of the seamen were sent back to Bermuda to secure provisions. One of them died there, another headed back to England, and three stayed, becoming the island’s only permanent inhabitants until the arrival of another ship in 1612.
Meanwhile, back in England, the story of the ship that was beached off of Bermuda reached Shakespeare’s ears and is said to have inspired The Tempest, which is said to have been written in 1610-11.