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Discovering Plymouth, Massachusetts, 400 years after the Mayflower landed



Bubbling up from underground, the spring bursts into life as it reaches the surface. Feeding crystalline water into a quick-moving thin stream, it joins a larger creek flowing towards the sea and into a protected cove. An osprey swoops down for a taste before disappearing towards a leaden, overcast sky.

At the same time, a light sailing boat, called a shallop, manoeuvres into the inlet. The cove is protected by two spits of dense forest protruding from either side. These slivers of land on the claw-shaped Gurnet Point shield the small body of water from an enormous bay beyond.

Pale men in dark clothing row their small wooden boat across to the golden shore. The sandy beach changes to hardier soil that morphs into a substantial hill. Just beyond, thick pine and oak forests are full of wild cherry, chestnut and Sassafras trees. Even further inland lie fields of wild cranberries.

Eerily, the land is cleared, as if ready for sowing crops – yet there is no one in sight. Surely, the men muse, it is providence that such an optimum location has appeared after being 66 days at sea. What they don’t know is that, four years ago, a European disease wiped out nearly all the coastal natives, including the inhabitants of this village, Patuxet.

From a “hide” of beachplum and bayberry bushes, someone peers onto the scene below. A man wearing clothing of animal skin observes the position of a wooden galleon out in the larger bay and sees the foreigners descend into the shallop. He watches as they cautiously manoeuvre towards shore.

The man, a spy, will report back to Massasoit, leader of the Wômpanôak. Could these foreigners be the advance party of an armed invasion? The tribe must be ready for any outcome.

However, the men aboard the Mayflower are different from the soldiers, trappers and explorers who came before. The 102 passengers on board are Separatists who have fled England with their families.