On the 6 September 1620, a sailing ship left England heading for the East coast of America. It was the start of a gruelling 66-day voyage for the 102 passengers and crew on board. The ship was to become one of the most famous vessels in both English and American history, the Mayflower. About half the passengers were a small party of religious separatists better known as the Pilgrims. The original intention was to sail to the mouth of the Hudson river, near present day New York City, at the northern edge of England's Virginia colony. It was an eventful journey marked by disease, which claimed two lives. As winter approached, bad weather forced the ship off course finally dropping anchor at Provincetown Harbour, inside the hook tip of Cape Cod, on 11 November. It was not until 21 March 1621, all surviving passengers, who had inhabited the ship during the winter, moved ashore. Whilst living on board the passengers suffered an outbreak of a contagious disease, described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. On 5 April, the Mayflower, a privately commissioned vessel, returned to England. Two years later, in 1623, a year after the death of captain Christopher Jones, the Mayflower was most likely dismantled for scrap in Rotherhithe, London.
The Mayflower has a famous place in American history as a symbol of early European colonization of the future United States. The Pilgrims left England at a time when their religion was being oppressed by both the English Church and the government and they went in search of a place where they could practice their religion freely. Americans whose roots are traceable back to New England often believe themselves to be descendants from Mayflower passengers.
The main record of the voyage of the Mayflower and the disposition of the Plymouth Colony comes from William Bradford who was a guiding force and later the governor of the colony. The settlers after initially setting anchor, explored the snow covered areas and discovered an empty Native American village. The curious settlers dug up some artificially-made mounds, some of which stored corn while others were burial sites. They stole the corn and looted the graves, sparking friction with the locals. They then moved down the coast looting and stealing native stores as they went, before finally relocating at Plymouth. These were the earliest permanent European settlers in New England