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Making History

Samuel North esquire on the tragedy that destroys England's dreams of American Empire.
THE TIMES - 15th of November 1620
News reaches Falmouth by way of the Spanish vessel La Pinez
Town stunned by loss - Rescued Mayflower ship’s log delivered to Town’s Mayor.
Tragedy of the drowned Scrooby congregation - Lincolnshire mourns its loss- 102 pilgrims dead- a setback to the colonisation of the Americas?

Hereby follows extracts from the ship’s log:

‘The day began like any other’, the ship’s master Christopher Jones recorded in his log. The going was ‘favourable’.... 'Though the presence of an unknown species of seabird situated in the rigging is considered good luck by many. Elizabeth Hopkins, who is only a week away from labour predicts storms ahead. She is from a Yorkshire seafaring family and says the presence of a sea bird, low cloud and a stiff breeze is not a good combination. She is concerned for her unborn child and had hoped they would reach landfall before her ‘bairn’ would be born.'

'We are 46 days out from Southampton and all are in goodish health save William Butten who has developed a ‘pain in the stomach’ which Samuel Fuller believs to be the ‘apendicts’

‘Complaints about my crew have yet again been received for being surly, offhand and downright bullying towards the ‘pilgrims’. I know that more than once they have demonstrated mutinous behaviour, demanding that I, Master Jones turn the ship back towards England. But this far out from England they now knew that they were closer to the Americas than Europe and were resigned to landing somewhere in the region of Cape Cod, their intended destination.’

Mr Miles Standish also completed a diary, recovered from the wreckage.
October, the 46th day out from England
‘By noon , as the sky darkened and the sea began to swell, throwing up immense waves, no one was in doubt that there was a major storm on its way. Messrs Bradford and Brewster called a prayer meeting with the aide of the Scrooby men. At the start of the voyage we had all been Non-conformists, Separatists, Brownists and assorted others, but now they were all pilgrims and equal under the eyes of God Almighty. They gathered on deck and began to pray for his mercy in this coming tempest.’

Miles Standish, Master Jones noted in his log was ‘an adventurer and not a religious man. He doth understand that this storm will be a particularly hard blow. Standish is concerned at the state of the ship. He reminds me of the swollen timbers, and the leaks, he knows that this vessel could not stand a battering.’ I infomed him that ‘This will be a hard night, Mr Standish. I hope they pray loud enough for God to hear them.’ He replied in kind.
‘Aye sir, and I hope he is of a mind to be listening. We must secure as much as we can. We cannot afford to lose as much as a nail or rope.’

‘I instructed the crew to take their ration of beef and beer, mustard and vinegar. Who knew when the galley would be able to muster up vittles again. The ship’s cook was making a list of ingredients he knew would be needed for those afflicted with sea-sickness that night. Wormwood, prunes, white bisket, rice, pipkins, porranges, cinnamon, spirits. He reported that we have no lemons left.’
‘When the passengers had prayed for three hours, or more, it was clear that with each hour the storm was gathering with force. Night fell early as the clouds closed in. The sea swell overwhelmed the gunwales and many passengers were breaking off from praying to spew where they prayed, the deck being too unsteady to walk to the sides.’

‘I gave orders to trim the sails, but it was a useless gesture, the main beam was already cracked below decks, the upper works were already flooding and everyone knew that at the first major blow, the mast would let go.’

‘The first officer reported that Mr. Standish could be seen with a few crew members he had persuaded to help him stash and stow, even so, now and then a barrel or some other vital item would suddenly break loose and plunge into the sea. Some were glad it was dark for our ship wallows dreadfully in the troughs. The towering sea seems to almost overwhelm us, waves taller than the mast itself roll under us, then plunge us down once again with a sickening lurch.’

‘By midnight the passengers are gathered just below decks, hanging on to whatever is fixed. Woman and children whimper, prayers can be heard, but everyone knows that they are not being heeded. Someone, somewhere began to sing an old hymn and soon many joined in, though it was considered a sin to do so. Minute by minute the waves and wind lashed our ship ship and though we could see little, the fact that the passengers were soaked was evidence enough that the leaks were getting worse.’

‘The ship’s master knew now that this was more than a storm, by his judgment it was a hurricane. This was the season for such things. This was the worst tempest he had ever experienced and he knew, though didn’t say, that his vessel could not last the night.’

He lit his lamp and wrote in his log:
‘Midnight, the sixteenth of October in the year of our lord 1620. The Lord’s ship, the Mayflower, will founder this night. We have lost the mizzen mast, most of our sail and I have no control over our destiny. We are lost, yet put our trust and faith in the Lord to deliver us up and keep us safe in the next life.’

He blotted his entry, closed the log and slipped it into a canvas sack, wrapping the same in oilskin, five times, trying it tight with twine. He knew that the log would never be found, but he made the effort all the same, so that in his heart he knew there would be a record of this fated journey.

On deck there was a yell, Mr Standish, holding a child in his arms, was suddenly swamped and swept overboard into the freezing ocean. Moments later, a wave almost a hundred feet high rolled over the Mayflower, flipping it as if a leaf, tossing all those aboard under. It happened in a moment. The screams were brief, there was no time to save oneself and besides, there was not a soul aboard who could swim.

As the eye of the storm passed overhead, the air began to still, the sea grow calm.
The Mayflower floated still, the hull’s rotting timbers exposed to the stars that suddenly had reappeared. But no voice could be heard.

A day later, the 180 ton Mayflower wreck was found, by the storm striken Spanish vessel La Pinez returning from the Indies. The Mayflower was found still afloat, not a soul surviving. A good swimmer retrieved the ship’s log and Mr Standish’s water-logged diary. (As well as few personal items)
Weeks later Captain Vasquez put into Falmouth to make urgent repairs to his sails. He told of seeing bodies floating in the water half eaten by sea beasts.

The Times now asks: Is this the end of the adventure and exploration of the Americas? Will the Virginia Colony survive? Who now will brave the wild and dangerous ocean?

The City prohibits future investments in New World patents and licences. The Virginia Company stock plummets. Court gossip hints that America best left to Spanish adventurers.

In related subjects in todays TIMES:
‘Mayflower Master Christopher Jones in the pay of the Dutch’, claims City financier.
Wimslow fortune to go to the Crown?
The Times asks: Who can build a safe ship? What now of England’s empire dreams?

© Samuel North esquire
1620 The Times

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