At anchor, Cape Cod harbour
Weather open. Master Jones, Governor Carver, and many of the company went ashore in the afternoon, and met the exploring party there. Hearing their signal-guns before they arrived at the shore, they sent the long-boat to fetch them.
While back on the mainland …
When the exploration party had awakened, they moved further south and found the remains of what appeared to be a cornfield. A small path led them to what appeared to be a grave site: mounds of sand covered with decayed reed mats. In one of the mounds was a bow and several badly decayed arrows. They decided that “it would be odious unto [the Indians] to ransack their sepulchres,” and so they buried the contents and replaced the covering on the mound. They continued south and found an iron kettle, probably from a French shipwreck of 1615. Near the mouth of a small saltwater creek (the Pamet River in modern Truro) they found the remains of Martin Pring’s 1603 fort.
Nearby, they discovered an area in which the sand had been recently smoothed out. This was clearly different from the grave mounds seen earlier in the day. Philbrick elaborates (Mayflower, pp. 61-62): “As three of them dug, the others gathered around in a defensive ring with their muskets ready. Not far down they found a basket made of woven reeds filled with approximately four bushels of dried Indian corn -- so much corn, in fact, that two men could barely lift it. Nearby they found a basket containing corn that was still on the cob, ‘some yellow and some red, and others mixed with blue.’ One of the more remarkable characteristics of Indian corn or maize is that, if kept dry, the kernels can be stored indefinitely. … Due to the woeful state of their provisions, as well as the lateness of the season, they knew they were in a survival situation. … Without a plan they were willing to try just about anything if it meant they might survive. They decided that they had no choice but to take the corn. The place where they found the buried seed is still called Corn Hill. The decision to [take] the corn was not without considerable risks. They were, after all, taking something of obvious value from a people who had done their best, so far, to avoid them. The Pilgrims might have opted to wait until they had the chance to speak with the Indians before they took the corn, but the last thing they possessed was time.” While the Pilgrims had brought wheat, barley, and peas with them aboard the Mayflower to plant in the spring, they were running dangerously low on provisions and might be forced to eat some of these over the winter. Few, if any, of them were farmers by trade, and they were not sure whether their European seeds would grow in American soil. They decided to compensate the Indians for the corn -- as soon as they could find any Indians -- and put it into the kettle (which they suspended from a staff carried between two men), and started back to the Mayflower.
By dusk it was raining, and they became lost in the woods. Stephen Hopkins discovered an Indian deer trap (a young sapling bent to the ground where a rope noose encircled some acorns). Not paying attention to where he was going, William Bradford stepped into the trap and was ensnared. He marvelled that this was a “very pretty device, made with a rope of their own making, and having a noose as artificially made as any roper in England can make.” They took the noose, and continued to the shore line, where they set off their guns and waited to be ferried back to the ship, “and thus we came both weary and welcome home.”