Take a Virtual Tour of the Mayflower

September 14, 2020  - by 
mayflower ship painting

A critical delay, cramped quarters, stormy seas, and an arrival 500 miles off course—such were the twists and turns that defined the Mayflower ship’s voyage to America in 1620.  

Despite its less-than-perfect journey, the Mayflower is historically significant in part because of the voyage’s unexpected setbacks. The passengers’ response and resiliency to each obstacle left an indelible mark on American history.

Virtually explore the interior of the Mayflower and learn more about the fateful voyage.

Explore the Mayflower

The Mayflower was built shortly before its purchase in 1608. Experts estimate that the length of the deck was between 80 and 90 feet and that the ship was 24 feet at its widest point.

Click the arrows to explore the inside of the Mayflower, and learn more about life on the merchant ship!

  • mayflower ship interior tour. Text: In 1620, the sailing vessel Mayflower set sail from England carrying farmers, merchants, and English Puritan Separatists searching for a new land where they could worship as they wished. The voyage to the new world took 66 days and ended when the ship anchored near what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts. The citizens of Plymouth Colony, now known as Pilgrims, faced many struggles as they settled the land. With hard work, determination, and much suffering, these brave individuals set a foundation for what is now the United States of America.
  • mayflower ship cabin. Text: The cabin was the general sleeping quarters for the crew of the Mayflower. The crew members took shifts working the ship and sleeping in this small space.
  • mayflower ship cargo hold. Text:The cargo hold is where the Pilgrims stored their cargo, which consisted of biscuits, salt, dried beef, salted pork, oats, peas, beer, wheat, clothing, canvas sheets filled with straw for bedding, pots, pans, utensils, and tools for building and farming.
  • Mayflower ship gun deck. Text: The gun deck is where the cannons were located. On merchant ships, this deck was also used to hold additional cargo, which often included human cargo, meaning that the ship’s passengers lived here day in and day out. All 102 passengers on the Mayflower’s journey to the new world lived in this cramped 58-foot by 24-foot space, with very little privacy and only occasional opportunities to venture to the top deck to enjoy the sunshine and fair weather.
  • Mayflower ship poop house. Text: We know what you’re thinking, but the poop house actually served as living quarters for the ship’s captain and officers.
  • Mayflower ship steerage room. Text: From this room, the ship’s pilot steered the Mayflower. Unlike more modern vessels with a helm wheel, the Mayflower was steered by moving a stick known as the whipstaff back and forth to change the rudder’s direction.

Mayflower Voyage

It’s hard to imagine the pilgrims aboard any other ship but the Mayflower. However, the pilgrims and other Mayflower passengers originally planned to sail to America on the Speedwell. The plan was for the Mayflower—a merchant ship—to accompany the Speedwell and carrying cargo, crew, and passengers who had been recruited in England but who were not part of the Separatist congregation.

speedwell and mayflower

The two ships departed on August 5, 1620, but almost immediately the Speedwell began to leak. Both ships rerouted to Dartmouth, where the Speedwell was repaired. On its second attempt, the Speedwell made it 300 miles out to sea before taking on water. Both ships returned to Plymouth, England, where the Speedwell was deemed unseaworthy.

Boarding the Mayflower

By the time both ships arrived back in England, the passengers had spent nearly a month and half aboard the ships. Understandably, a few frustrated travelers abandoned the trip altogether.

pilgrims aboard mayflower

However, 102 of the passengers—including three pregnant women—chose to continue. The passengers packed themselves into the Mayflower and once again set sail for North America. The group on the Mayflower included both Separatist members as well as many of those who had been recruited in England.

A Fateful Delay and Stormy Conditions

The Mayflower ship left England in September 1620, nearly a month after its original departure date. The delay meant that the Mayflower, with its 102 passengers and 30 crewmen, would cross the Atlantic at the height of the storm season.

Although the first month of the voyage saw clear skies and fair weather, October brought storms and rough seas. At times, the winds were so strong that the crew was forced to pull down the sails and let the ship drift.

mayflower on rough seas

Below deck, passengers became seasick and had to steady themselves from crashing into the walls as the boat rocked. During one particularly eventful storm, passenger John Howland fell overboard, only to catch hold of a trailing rope just in time to be rescued by the crew.

Though the passengers were often cramped, soaking, and sick during these bouts of bad weather, they kept up their morale by singing, praying, and playing games—even in the dim light below deck.

Despite rough seas and cramped conditions, only one passenger, William Butten, died at sea before reaching America. Two babies were born aboard the Mayflower—one before landing at Cape Cod and the other while docked at Cape Cod. 

Arrival at Cape Cod

In total, the Mayflower took 66 days to reach North America (not counting the earlier travel time with the Speedwell). The ship landed in November at Cape Cod, more than 500 miles from its intended destination.

pilgrims land in cape cod

The Mayflower attempted to continue south, where the passengers had legally obtained permission to settle. However, the rough seas and shoals forced the Mayflower to stay at Cape Cod.

Tension and the Mayflower Compact

Tension arose between the passengers, especially between the Separatists and the other passengers. Because the ship had landed outside the bounds of English law, some passengers threatened to strike out on their own, voiding the contracts that paid for their passage.

The potential mutiny and lawlessness concerned many of the passengers. To quell rebellion and create unity, the Mayflower Compact was created to establish a form of self-governance and maintain order in the colony. Learn more about theMayflower Compact.

Taking Shelter in the Mayflower

The passengers continued to live on the Mayflower as they explored Cape Cod. Many resided in the ship for as long as four months while they built homes and waited out the winter.

pilgrims in plymouth

In April, the Mayflower set sail for England. All the surviving original passengers chose to stay in the new colony.

Where Is the Mayflower Now?

Despite its historical significance, we don’t know exactly what happened to the Mayflower, although a 1624 probate record gives some clues. The record labels the Mayflower as being “in ruins,” which likely means that the ship was scrapped for its timber.

mayflower II

A replica of the Mayflower, dubbed Mayflower II, was built in 1955. In 1957, Mayflower II replicated the journey of the original Mayflower. In commemoration of the 400-year anniversary of the departure and arrival of the Mayflower, the Mayflower II will yet again journey across the Atlantic.

Were Your Ancestors on the Mayflower?

Some estimate that as many as 35 million people worldwide descend from the Mayflower passengers. Search this extensive FamilySearch genealogical collection of descendants to find out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

  1. I am a decendant of edward doty a signer of the compact and indentured servant of steven Hopkins on the mayflower .I am a 12th generation of doty on this continent.

    1. My first husband and daughters are also descended of Edward Doty…I went to MA and reviewed books about Doty descendants. I am missing a couple of generations which leaves a gap. My X mother in law was a daughter of Wm Dagg who married Doty. Detroit MI ..She always liked to say her name as Lillian Doty-Dagg-Johns. Can we talk about what we each know. I am sure being a Doty , you would know a lot. Gramma is Margaret “Evelyn” Doty-Dagg 1888-1979 married to William G.S. Dagg 1885-1968. Susan Hubel-JOHNS – Overly

    2. We are very distant cousins, I’m also a descendant of Edward Doty. My grandfather documented the lineage a long time ago, nice to meet you.

  2. I am greatgrandaughter of Henry Kirk White from St. Joseph Missouri.
    His daughter, my grandmother Ann White Blanchard always said to me I was descendant of Peregrine White, first baby born in US soil.
    Do you have information that can help me verify this?
    I did some Google research on descendants of Peregrine White and it does seem to be true.
    Do you have advice as to how to proceed to be more certain?
    Thank you!
    Mary Lou Giles Montalvo WHITE Torres

  3. I am eager to share this with my sister-in-law who was adopted, but connected with members of her biological family and learned that she is a descendant of John Howland who fell overboard. You might enjoy reading Michael Medved’s account of the Mayflower and its passengers in his book The American Miracle.

  4. About a dozen years ago I attended a Detroit area meeting of those who were Mayflower “descendants”. One of the things I remember from that meeting is that the requirements for joining the Society had just been tightened. Apparently enough information and technology had become available that perhaps half of the current “members” would find that their descendants could expect that their applications for membership would not be able to be “proven”.
    Are the records which have been digitized also been cleaned up so that this computer driven system will be automatically be accepted by each state’s membership committee?

  5. Floyd is my father, i often sit and wonder how bad they had it back then, serious survival skills, i believe that to be inheritable, the generation before him, and long after me.

    Floyd Thompson
    your father

    Jacob Elroy Thompson
    his father

    Harmon Vedder Thompson
    his father

    George W Thompson
    his father

    David Thompson, Jr.
    his father

    Rev. David Thompson
    his father

    Hannah Thompson
    his mother

    Olive Ford
    her sister

    Waterman Ford
    her husband

    Michael Ford
    his father

    James Ford, I
    his father

    Abigail Ford
    his mother

    Abigail Snow
    her mother

    Richard Warren, “Mayflower” Passenger

    1. ie; “Francis” James Cooke
      and some of the decendents later dropped the “e” as my family did but original spelling was with an
      “e” on the end.