On December 20, 1606 three English ships, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery, set sail from London with a total of 144 men and boys to establish the settlement in Virginia. Information from previous explorations indicated that this journey would normally take about two months. However, this first voyage took four and a half months due to poor trade wind conditions and ocean currents. In fact, for the first six weeks, they were stuck just off the coast of England and could see the shore from which they just left.
Lack of storage space and inadequate preservation limited the types of food that could be carried on the ships. Most food was preserved by salting, drying, or pickling in vinegar. On long voyages, much food became spoiled—the biscuits moldy, the meat full of maggots, the beer watery, and water fouled. If the ship passed by land it usually would stop for fresh provisions as they did during the this voyage. The ships stopped in the Canary Islands and several islands in the Caribbean where they were able to get fish, birds, sea tortoises, wild boars, fruits, and vegetables. Food could only be cooked at sea if the weather was calm. An unbalanced diet, poor nutrition and spoiled rations often lead to much sickness.
A replica of the Susan Constant in Jamestown, Virginia.
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Marks, Archibald Andrew. “Jamestown Questions and Answers.” Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
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