10. Captain Jones led the first exploratory expedition ashore
Mayflower carried two large ship’s boats, called shallops on its manifest, which were propelled by sail and oar. Each could carry up to three dozen men, with some equipment and supplies, in as much comfort as an open boat could offer given the weather conditions. With his own supplies dwindling, Jones’ wanted to find a suitable place for a settlement as soon as possible. For about a week the weather prevented a boat from going ashore. On December 7, it moderated sufficiently that the Captain led a party of 34 men, ten of them sailors to handle the boat, to explore the area. The weather worsened as the party reconnoitered, and they were forced to spend the night ashore, exposed to sleet and freezing temperatures.
Cold, wet, and hungry, the expedition, according to William Bradford, led to the first illnesses which ravaged the company that winter. “Some of our people that dead took the original of their death here”, he wrote. Winter was only beginning. The explorers found little in the way of food, other than stumbling on a cache of corn and seed buried by the Indians. In one of the first events marking the relationship between European settlers and Indians, the Pilgrims took “in all…about ten bushels”, setting it aside as seed for planting in the Spring. To survive the first winter, residence in the Mayflower offered the only hope. Almost immediately disease and hunger ravaged the Pilgrims and the crew of the ship. Captain Jones decided, reluctantly, to keep his ship at anchor until the weather abated.