Trailing the Mayflower

May 29, 2016

One of the most famous voyages of people who traveled from England to Virginia was on the Mayflower. This ship became the symbol of the search for a new life and pilgrimage to the New World in the 17th century.

The origins of the Mayflower are uncertain, however it is known that the ship was bought around 1607 by Christopher Jones and his business partners. The first well-documented voyage of the ship happened in 1609.

The destination was Trondheim in Norway. It was hired by Andrew Pawling to take cargo from London to Norway. The crew was also instructed to buy tar, fish, and lumber and bring it back to England. Unfortunately, during the storm the crew lost most of the goods. After this situation, the Mayflower traveled for the same purposes to France, Spain, and Germany.

The Mayflower was a classical merchant ship built in the 17th century. It was square-rigged, beak-bowed, and could travel with 180 tons of cargo. It measured about 100 feet (30.5 m) in length and 25 feet (7.5 m) at its widest point. The Mayflower wasn’t created to sail on the ocean and it didn’t sail well against the wind. But when Jones and his crew returned from Bordeaux, France, in May 1620, they were hired for a special voyage…

A Voyage into the Unknown

The Mayflower started its legendary voyage from Plymouth to the New World in September 1620. Apart from a crew of around 30 people, there were 102 passengers on the ship. The pilgrims paid Jones to take them to northern Virginia. At the time, Jones was a 50-year-old man from Essex, England. He was a sea veteran who valued money and freedom. He appreciated his lifestyle as a sailor, and did not treat the travel to Virginia as anything more than another job.

The men, women, children, and animals on the Mayflower faced the same difficulties as others who made the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean during the times of the colonization of North America. Jones had never been in the New World before, but some of his co-workers, like Robert Coppin or John Clarke (the master mates), were there before. The passengers were not ready for the cold and other weather conditions and they suffered from tuberculosis, pneumonia, and scurvy. Only 53 of them survived the journey.

The Mayflower arrived in the New World a few weeks after it left England. The crew reported on November 9, 1620, that they sighted land in the area which is currently known as Cape Cod. The ship went back to England in April 1621. It left a group of people behind who created a few iconic symbols for the future United States of America.

A New Home in Virginia

The pilgrims created Plymouth Colony, supported with the agreement signed in 1620. It was the main legal instrument to confirm the arrival and creation of new settlements in New England.  The text of the Mayflower Compact was published on November 11, 1620, but it received its name in 1793. The document, written by the new inhabitants of New Virginia, became the basis for the future Declaration of Independence and constitution of the USA.

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