On 16 September 1620, a merchant ship called the Mayflower sailed from England and made its way to the New World. How much do you know about the journey and the lives of those on board? BBC History Revealed shares five facts you might not know…
The Mayflower had design flaws
The design of the Mayflower, with high, wall-like sides, made it difficult to sail in the strong winds of the Atlantic. The crossing, therefore, took two months, but it could be done in half the time.
The conditions on board were extremely cramped
The voyage was supposed to be done by two vessels. The second, the Speedwell, was deemed to be unseaworthy, however, so the passengers were crammed onto the Mayflower. As well as the 130-odd people squeezed on board, there were food stores, tools, weapons (including cannon) and live animals, such as sheep, goats, chickens and dogs.
There were births and deaths on the Mayflower
During the crossing, one passenger died and one woman, Elizabeth Hopkins, gave birth to a child. The boy was aptly named Oceanus.
It arrived at the beginning of a harsh winter
The Mayflower arrived at Cape Cod (in modern-day Massachusetts) on 9 November 1620 and if the voyage had been bad, that was nothing compared to the first winter that followed. Due to food shortages and outbreaks of disease, only half that had made the journey survived to see spring and the creation of their New World settlement, Plymouth.
The ‘Mayflower Compact’
While anchored at Cape Cod, 41 Pilgrims – worried that law and order would break down once ashore – signed an agreement on 11 November. The ‘Mayflower Compact’ created a “civil body politic” and was the United States’ first governing document