Why were the first groups of settlers to the New World (the Pilgrims, not the Puritans) so woefully underprepared for their life there?
They did not bring much of what the needed to be successful there, like certain animals and tools, provisions, etc.
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As there are with any travels, there are many risks involved. Today, we have access to a lot of information about the places that we decide to go. Frommer’s travel guide will tell us everything from climate to the people, cultures and animal life. The people who were traveling to the New World were in fact traveling to a NEW world. No travel guides to really help them! In fact, the little they did know about the land (i.e. the information from the Roanoke colony, or travels of ancient explorers like St. Brendan or Leif Erikson) made their landing even more difficult as they did not match the environment that they encountered. In each of the new group’s landings, they were met with challenges of adjusting to the climate (Jamestown had to deal with a large number of death due to malaria), indigenous peoples (In Jamestown the Powhatan tribe were particularly difficult to deal with), and had to learn to deal with their own settlers and their greed for land, gold, or even just peace among themselves.
Before their journey to Massachusetts, the pilgrims had secured financing from the Merchant Adventures, a group of Puritan businessmen interested in both making a profit and spreading their religion. They bought what they thought would be enough provisions and obtained passage on two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. The Pilgrims had planned to to leave early in 1620 and arrive in the New World in early spring, enough time to plant crops for surviving the winter. However, difficulties dealing with the Merchant Adventurers, including several changes for the voyage and financing, resulted in a delay for several months. The Mayflower then had to rendezvous with the Speedwell. The two ships finally left from the the Netherlands in August, 1620. Unfortunately, the Speedwell proved unseaworthy, and headed back to port. Many passengers from it crowded on the already overburdened Mayflower. They intended to land near the Hudson River, but a storm pushed them south to Massachuetts. By then, it was already early winter and their provisions were dangerously low. Since they couldn't plant crops or build decent shelters in winter, as many as 50 percent of the people died that first winter.
It is because traveling by the sea is a very unpredictable and risky endeavor to do due to unforeseeable climatic conditions. They were also unprepared to face the hellish conditions on board the ship, thus many of the pilgrims became sick and died due to a range of illnesses. Lack of food makes it hard for the ship dwellers to survive through the winter, and many died from starvation or from malnutrition. Furthermore, there was overcrowding in one of the ships, which make it uncomfortable and difficult to travel by sea. In all, it was the first time traveling by sea, and so they were inadequately prepared in naval travel, and thus they had to pay the consequences.
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