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On June 2 1609 five hundred colonists set out in nine ships from Plymouth in association with the imperial Virginia Company It was the aim of this expedition to fortify John Smiths colony in Virginia While eight of the partys vessels securely arrived at Jamestown the flagship aptly christened the Sea Adventure was conspicuously absent This ship--which carried the fleets most valuable cargo the admiral Sir John Somers and the future governor of Virginia Sir George Somers--was separated from the other eight during a fierce storm off the coast of Bermuda the legendary Isle of Devils dreaded by superstitious sixteenth-century sailors William Strachey describes the tempest which precipitated the ships wracke in a letter dated July 15 1610 a dreadful storm and hideous began to blow from out the North-east which swelling and roaring as it were by fits some hours with more violence than others at length did beat all light from heaven which like an hell of darkness turned black upon us so much the more fuller of horror1 The island upon whose coast the ship ran aground however did not appear as menacing as the tumultuous storm that so terrorized Strachey and the crew Rather it proved a haven like the isle of Calibans dream full of sounds and sweet airs that gave delight and hurt not III ii 134 and provided the colonists with shelter food and wood enough to repair the Sea Adventure s wounded pinnacles The flagships late arrival at Jamestown roughly a year after the Virginia Company fleet had originally set sail was regarded as a miracle and prompted several written accounts of which Stracheys letter circulated in manuscript form until its publication in 1625 was one Shakespearean scholars suggest that this nautical sensation and three of the pamphlets that detailed the adventure influenced Shakespeares final play written in 1613 It is this imperialist context in addition to Stracheys comments on the impossibility of reforming the
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