Discover what life was like on board the Mayflower ship that took the Pilgrim Fathers to America!
The Mayflower is one of the most famous ships associated with English maritime history. After transporting the Pilgrim Fathers to a new life in America during 1620, the Mayflower was often regarded as a symbol of religious freedom in the United States.
Originally, however, the Mayflower ship was a simple cargo ship that was used for the transportation of mundane goods – namely timber, clothing and wine. While statistical details of the ship have been lost, when scholars look at other merchant ships of this period they estimate that it may have weighed up to 182,000 kilograms. It is suggested that the ship would have been around seven metres wide and 30 metres in length.
The ship’s crew lived on the upper decks. All in all, 26 men are believed to have manned the Mayflower on her legendary journey. The Master or Commander was a man called Christopher Jones: he occupied the quarters situated at the stern of the ship. The regular crew lived in a room called the forecastle, which was found in the bow – accommodation was cramped, un hygienic and highly uncomfortable. It was constantly drenched by sea water and the officers on board were fortunate in that they had their accommodation in the middle of the ship.
During the historic voyage, the Mayflower ship carried 102 men, women and children – these Pilgrims were boarded in the cargo area of the ship, which was deep below deck where the living conditions led to seasickness and disease. The Mayflower set sail from England in the July of 1620, but the ship was forced to turn back twice because a vessel that accompanied it began to leak water. Many problems affected the Mayflower and her crew during the voyage. There were serious threats from pirates, but it was storm damage that was to prove problematic on this journey. In the middle part o fthe expedition, severe weather caused damage to the wooden beam that supported the ship’s frame. Fortunately, however, it was repairable.
Several accidents also occurred, including the near drowning of John Howland who was swept overboard but then rescued. Less fortunate was a crew member who died unexpectedly – considered by all as ‘mean spirited’ – his demise was viewed as a punishment from God. A child was also born during the voyage: Elizabeth Hopkins called her son Oceanus.
The ship reached Cape Cod safely on 11 November 1620. The religious community, who were hoping to start a spiritual life in the New World, thanked God for their survival.
Pilgrim Fathers with Mayflower Ship
In 1620 a group of puritans arrived on the Mayflower destined for the New World. They were known as the Pilgrim Fathers. The Pilgrim Fathers were disillusioned with the ungodly and hedonistic behaviour of their native Englishmen and believed that America was a land of opportunity where they could start a new religious community.
They landed in New Plymouth, and began to build houses, but it is believed that half their population died during the first year of occupation. The New World was seen as a dazzling land and a second Garden of Eden, but in reality the environment was harsh and unforgiving. Some natives were helpful and taught the settlers how to survive this wilderness, and in 1621 they produced their first successful harvest. This was celebrated with the first Thanksgiving – in turn, this became a traditional feast day – and it is still observed as an American national holiday.