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Mayflower, Day by Day - Wednesday, 9 September 1620

8 Sep 2020 3:49 PM | Russell Francis (Administrator)

Mayflower Conspiracy Theories

It is certain that the Speedwell sprung a leak in the Atlantic, causing it to return to Plymouth along with the Mayflower.  What caused the leak?  The most frequently mentioned possibility is that it was “over-rigged” and had on too much sail which caused a strain on the masts, and which then caused holes and leaks to develop.  Prior to the voyage, the Speedwell had been refitted in Delfshaven in Holland and had two masts.  Nathaniel Philbrick suggests that the crew used a mast that was too big for the ship, and that the added stress caused holes to form in the hull.  William Bradford wrote that “the leakiness of this ship was partly by her being overmasted and too much pressed with sails,” but attributes the main cause of her leaking to actions on the part of the crew.  Robert Cushman wrote from Dartmouth in August 1620 (as soon as the Speedwell returned) that the leaking was caused by a loose board or plank approximately two feet long.  There is a persistent rumour of sabotage, either by the captain or the crew, but there is no proof.  We shall revisit the question about sabotage in a few months when we look at the decision to drop everyone off in Massachusetts.


  • 9 Sep 2020 8:15 AM | Soule (Administrator)
    Bradford's suspicions at greater length: "But more espetially, by the cuning and deceite of the m[aster]r [i.e., Captain Reynolds] and his company, who were hired to stay a whole year in the cuntrie, and now fancying dislike and fearing wante of victeles [victuals], they ploted this strategem to free them selves; as afterwards was knowne, and by some of them confessed. For they apprehended that the greater ship, being of force, and in whom most of the provissions were stowed, she would retayne enough for her selfe, what soever became of them or the passengers; and indeed shuch speeches had bene cast out by some of them; and yet, besids other incouragments, the cheefe of them that came from Leyden wente in this shipe to give the m[aste]r contente. But so strong was self love and his fears, as he forgott all duty and former kindnesses, and delt thus falsly with them, though he pretended otherwise."
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