History of Plymouth Plantation Questions and Answers
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What Difficulties Did The Pilgrims Face

What were some of the hardships the pilgrims faced during their trip across the Atlantic and the first winter at Plymouth?

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The Pilgrims faced many hardships during their journey to Plymouth and through the first winter in the New World. First, there was little space aboard the Mayflower for its 102 passengers and additional crew members. Areas below-decks were cramped and dark, and passengers had little personal space. Many passengers were seasick. All the passengers needed to use a chamber pot for a bathroom, and if the weather was rough, they were not allowed to go up on deck to dump it out. For 66 days, passengers endured these small, smelly spaces. Additionally, there was little food and water. Many passengers, including children, drank ale.

The troubles of the Pilgrims did not end when they reached America. Initially bound for Virginia, the Mayflower went off course and ended up landing on Cape Cod first, before finally settling in Plymouth (known then as Plimoth). The weather was much colder than what the Pilgrims had prepared for and the first winter was devastating. The Pilgrims struggled to build homes, and many families crowded into the few homes that were built. Food was scarce, and many Pilgrims starved to death that first winter.

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The first hardship that the Mayflower experienced was that her sister ship, the Speedwell, developed serious mechanical problems and had to turn back to England.  The Speedwell was the passenger ship, so the Mayflower, designed to carry freight, had to be hastily refitted for the passengers.  It was not comfortable; quarters were tight and some freight had to be left behind. Once underway, the Mayflower encountered rough seas and storms and began to leak; a main beam was also damaged. The anxiety and fear must have been very difficult for the crew and passengers.  Because the voyage had been delayed, the weather was quite cold, and ultimately,...

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