The drawbridge you can cross in two seconds
It takes an average of two seconds to cross Bermuda’s Somerset Bridge by car C sneeze and you might miss it.
With an opening just 56cm wide, the world's smallest drawbridge is large enough to accommodate the mast of a sailboat. Yet the bridge, which links the southern tip of Somerset Island to Sandys Parish on the south-western shore of the main island, once saved Bermuda’s residents up to three hours in travel time.
“For small Bermuda sloops, the shortest route to the open sea from the central and western parishes of Bermuda was via Somerset Bridge, rather than taking the long channel around the north and east coast of Bermuda,” said Dr Edward Harris, former director of the National Museum of Bermuda.
百慕大国家博物馆的前馆长哈里斯博士（Dr Edward Harris）说："乘搭百慕大的小单桅帆船从百慕大的中西部地区到外海，从萨默塞特桥航行是最短的路线，不用绕过百慕大北部和东海岸的漫长水道。"
Today, 10 bridges connect eight islands and Bermuda’s mainland, but four centuries ago, the only way to get from one island to another was by boat. In 1620, The Bermuda General Assembly decided to construct the first three bridges, including Somerset Bridge, to allow residents to gather more easily. At that time, most people living in Bermuda relied on boats for fishing and general transport, but strong south-west winds made navigating Bermuda’s waters challenging. In the early 17th Century, a type of ship known as a sloop C equipped with high, raked masts and triangular sails C was developed to help islanders sail upwind. The sloop’s innovative design eventually evolved into the Bermuda rig, which was used by the British Navy in the 19th Century and for the America’s Cup in the 1930s. It remains a popular sailing vessel to this day.
今天，这里有10座桥将8座岛屿与百慕大主岛连起来，但在4个世纪以前，从一座岛到另一座岛的唯一办法就是坐船。1620年，百慕大大会（Bermuda General Assembly）决定建造首批三座桥梁以方便居民往来，其中就包括萨默塞特桥。当时，船对于生活在百慕大的大多数人来说，是用来捕鱼和一般出行的工具，但猛烈的西南风使百慕大水域很难航行。在17世纪初，有人发明了一种装备了高高的倾斜桅杆和三角帆的船，帮助岛民逆风而行。这种船的创新设计最终演变成了百慕大帆，19世纪的英国海军和1930年代的美洲杯帆船赛使用的都是这种帆。直至今日，仍然广受欢迎。
With towering palm trees and verdant ferns flanking its moss-covered stone walls, Somerset Bridge looks much as it did nearly 400 years ago, save for the four small yellow chains installed to prevent passers-by from falling into the water below. While it is called a drawbridge, Somerset Bridge did not open and close in the traditional way. Having the ability to raise and lower the two sides of the bridge would have required a more complex design, and the waterway was not wide enough for anything larger than a sloop to pass. Instead, builders left a 56cm gap across the centre of the bridge covered by a loose plank of wood.
As sloops approached the bridge, an overseer would raise the wooden plank from the bridge floor to allow the sail to pass through. The overseer would then assist the captain in navigating the sail through the narrow breach, and replace the plank once the sloop was safely past.
Sailing remained the primary form of transportation in Bermuda until the mid-20th Century. But as automobile traffic grew and boat traffic waned, the Bermuda government decided to retire the drawbridge. “The bridge is operational, but it doesn't open because it's an important part of the main road that links the largest and most eastern parish C Sandys Parish to Southampton,” explained Larry Rogers, owner of Rogers Transfers & Island Tours.
20世纪中叶以前，百慕大的主要交通工具都是帆船。但随着汽车流量增加，而船运流量减少，百慕大政府决定让这座吊桥退休。"这座桥还是可以使用，但之所以不开放，是因为它是连接英格兰最大的区域和最东边区域，即桑兹区与南安普敦的主干道的重要组成部分，"罗杰斯岛旅行社（Rogers Transfers & Island Tours）的老板罗杰斯解释。
But the bridge remains treasured by residents and visitors alike. As one of Bermuda’s top tourist attractions, it was featured on a 2009 series of Bermudian banknotes, and in 2015, was officially designated a historical monument.
Despite its small size, Somerset Bridge does require some upkeep. “I just finished completing the woodwork on the bridge’s two walkways: the north and south entrances,” said Curtis Charles, a construction and maintenance engineer for the Bermuda Ministry of Public Works, who has been working on the bridge for more than 25 years. “The previous wood was 16 years old, and we needed to replace it as moisture got in between the planks and rotted. This time we made sure to treat the wood, so it will last longer, hopefully around 20 years.”
Charles and his team inspect the bridge once a month; they change the pads underneath the portion of the bridge that cars pass over, and check the wooden planks in the walkway and asphalt. He believes that Somerset Bridge is worth protecting.
“It’s a point of pride,” he said.