April 5 - Anniversary of the Mayflower's Return Trip

Posted on April 5, 2017

The Mayflower famously brought the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620. 

But - what happened to the ship, after that? Have you ever wondered about that?

Shipmaster and Captain Christopher Jones had intended to return with his ship to England as soon as the Pilgrims found a settlement site. Actually, he had intended to land south of Plymouth / Cape Cod, somewhere in what is now Virginia - but when he and the Pilgrims realized how harsh the winter weather of their actual landing site was, the winter seas were already harsh and rough, too, so they had to stay put, safe and sound, in Plymouth.

Looking at this map, it looks like the Mayflower was making
a beeline for what is now Virginia - but got swung up in a
current or storm or something like... And ended farther north!

It turned out, not so safe! Both the Pilgrims and the ship's crew fell ill. They were still sheltering in the ship when an outbreak of contagious diseases, including pneumonia and tuberculosis, combined with scurvy to make many of them very, very sick. Under the circumstances, Jones decided that he must winter in Plymouth Harbor. 

That first awful, disease-ridden winter killed off almost half of the passengers - and close to half of the crew as well!

On March 21, 1621 (the first day of spring!), the remaining passengers finally disembarked from the Mayflower. And on this date in 1621, Christopher Jones finally set sail with the ship's emptied cargo hold supplied with rocks from Plymouth Harbor in order to provide ballast and keep the boat upright - and with a decimated crew.

The Mayflower made good time on the return trip - it took less than half of the time it had taken to reach America. What a difference it makes when you travel with the westerlies, rather than trying to sail against them! The Mayflower arrived at her home port in London on May 6.

What happened after that is nothing very grand or noteworthy. Shipmaster Jones continue to use his ship for another chunk of months, but coming home from France in March, 1622, he died. For the next two years, the Mayflower just floated in her berth in London. At that point, she had become useless as a ship. She was probably broken up and her parts reused or discarded, but there isn't an actual record of her "death."  

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