Spittal Pond has hosted its fair share of surprises over the years. Bermudians have been shocked by ecological, historical, and even visual events that keep Spittal Pond always in the hearts and minds of locals.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Monster (@ashh.monster)


1. Freshwater Eels Lived There
The American and European river eels begin their life cycles in the Sargasso Sea. The larvae are tiny and transparent, and look a bit like a leaf with an eel’s face. Over time, the body elongates into a transparent fish looking more like a miniature eel. After spending some months growing in the ocean, the eels migrate inshore and upstream.

It’s unclear exactly how the eels wound up in Spittal Pond (ocean surge or by way of their own determination) but members of the public are encouraged to report eel sightings.


2. Whaling
The checkerboard formation that interests so many geologists at Spittal Pond was used historically as a whaling station. Whales were hunted in Bermuda for their oil, from about the time the settlers landed until as late as 1940. The area was perfectly suited for the task of flensing the whales, which could be brought to the location by sea and processed on the flat rocky expanse.

What made the rocks so flat? It’s a phenomenon geologists call “tessellated pavement.” The rocks crack into polygons with right angles, which resemble tiles, when they are exposed to stress generated in the Earth’s crust. Over time, the “joins” between the formations are subjected to erosion by wind and waves, accentuating their furrows. Because of the precision of these formations, they may look man-made, but they are actually completely natural.



3. The Pond Turned Pink
Spittal Pond often turns pink in the summertime because of the hot weather. The increased temperatures lead to algal blooms, and the algae is pink, so it makes the water look like cotton candy.

Though the neighbouring cow farm is a bit unpleasant and smelly, it supplies the pond with a lot of nutrients through farm runoff. The algae likely thrives on a combination of cow runoff and sunlight.


4. It Got its Name in a Straight-Forward Way
Ever wonder why it’s called ‘spital pond? One explanation might be because the grounds used to be the site of a hospital in Bermuda. Before that it was also used as a grazing ground for cattle – today, a dairy farmer still uses some of the property for his cows.

The pond itself also used to be called Brackish Pond, due to its brackish water quality, and Peniston’s Pond, named after the family that owned some of the land where Spittal Pond nature reserve now sprawls.


5. Rock Sculptures Threatened Bermuda Skink Habitat
In 2016, you might have started to notice little piles of flat rocks stacked on top of each other popping up in nature reserves around the island. In Bermuda, these were usually limestone rocks, which commonly break off in flat sheets from the cliff face.

Though these natural sculptures are often thought to be artful by the constructor in an Andy Goldsworthy vein, they are damaging to the environment and to people’s enjoyment of it.

In an article in the Royal Gazette, the Audubon Society and the National Trust urged walkers to leave the stones alone. In prising chunks of rock from the cliffs, people contribute to erosion of the cliff side, as well as disturbing delicate plants. Most importantly, moving lose rocks destroys potential habitat for the endemic Bermuda skink.

What’s more, these rock piles counteract the peace and solitude that being in a natural space brings. Instead of being immersed in a natural environment, seeing the piles of stones transforms natural materials into something manmade and unnatural.



6. Blue Dragon Nudibranchs Blew In
Another windblown visitor, Spittal Pond was home to a few colourful little nudibranchs in the winter of 2016. Weldon Wade, a diver and lionfish spearfisher, discovered the little critters and was amazed to find something he’d only seen in books until then.

The organisms are only a few centimetres in size, and look like bright blue, mini-dragons, with their wing-like projections. Despite their small size, they can produce a very powerful sting. They use the stinging cells, procured from the Portuguese Man O’ War which they eat, as their own defense mechanism.

The animals are pelagic, floating on the open sea their whole lives. In stormy weather, the nudibranchs must have been washed into a rock pool in Spittal Pond from the Sargasso Sea.


7. Jeffrey’s Hole Helped an Enslaved Person Escape 
On a more serious note, Spittal Pond is an important part of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail. In events more desperate than crazy, a cave within the park was part of an elaborate plan for a slave to escape his master. The cave is now named after the slave who sheltered there.

Jeffrey spent over a month in hiding, enlisting the help of a younger female slave from the same household to bring him food. Jeffrey survived for so long in this way that searches for his recovery were abandoned – it was thought he had boarded a ship and fled Bermuda. However, his master noticed the younger female slave would leave each night, and decided to follow her. Retracing her steps the next day, he found Jeffrey and ended his escape.


8. We Misnamed Portuguese Rock
There is an inscription on the limestone cliff facing the sea in Spittal Pond that bears the script “1543 AD,” some indistinct other writings, and the letters “RP.” These letters were first interpreted to be the initials of some unknown Spanish sailors that had shipwrecked on the island. Later, they were interpreted as a Latin abbreviation, “Rex Portugaline,” meaning King of Portugal. It is known that a Portuguese ship did wreck in Bermuda in that year, and the inscription also includes a cross, denoting the Portuguese order of Christ. Therefore, the feature was renamed Portuguese Rock.


7. A Reef Shark Was Caught Off the Coast
In 2014, a Bermudian fisherman caught a 5-foot reef shark while fishing off of Spittal Pond at night. After losing smaller fishing lines to the powerful catches off shore, he decided to use something stronger. The indication that sharks are still coming in to our reefs at night time is a welcome one – it means the reef ecosystem is healthy.

The fisherman felt something big pull on the line and needed the help of a friend to pull it up – and that’s when he was surprised with the sight of a shark. However, he decided to let it go back in to the water, where it swam away quickly. He said that he did not eat shark hash, and so saw no need to kill such a large animal.

In Bermuda, there are no laws against catching and killing sharks, despite many species being endangered. Shark decline is due to human interference, with overfishing for the shark-finning trade, and accidental entanglement in fishing gear being the major threats to these marine predators.