As part of our studies into the early explorers we looked at the great pioneers such as Christopher Columbus and Magellan and gained an understanding of the difficulties they would have faced to realise their dreams of discovery. Some explorers were imprisoned for believing the world was not flat, some were called mad and those that were lucky enough to garner support for their adventures would face many hardships. When early European explorers boarded ships to explore the world, they were using inaccurate maps, undependable navigation techniques and leaky ships to sail into uncharted lands. They understood well that the voyage could cost them their lives. While they did not run into sea monsters or sail off the edge of the world as some expected, they nevertheless endured these terrible hardships so that new lands could be discovered, trade could be established and wonderful things could be bought back home to share with the people.
Even in good weather, life on a ship during the age of exploration was difficult. Even with regular use of pumps, ships leaked and most of the ships interior was wet. Cockroaches and rats were constantly present and sailors slept whenever they could find time and wherever they could find room. The unsanitary conditions could lead to a rapid spread of disease. Provisions were also a concern, without any clear idea of where they were going provisions could run short and the poor diet could lead to malnutrition or scurvy, which is caused by a lack of vitamin C.
With poor maps and navigation techniques ships could easily become lost. Even in the best of conditions, hurricanes and tropical storms were always a concern. Ships could become marooned and have to wait until they could make repairs or replenish supplies
When explorers encountered new people they exchanged diseases as well as goods. Diseases such as influenza and small pox caused untold deaths among local people . Diseases such as malaria, dysentery and yellow fever caused many deaths among ships crews. Some of these, especially yellow fever, were spread to other ports the sailors visited.
The word quarantine comes from early shipping. In 1377, in an effort to prevent plague, ships approaching Venice were held at a distance for 40 days or "quaranta giorni."
Not all pioneering exploits ended badly. The Pilgrim Fathers who set sail from Plymouth in September 1620 established a colony in Massachusetts, (they were headed for Virginia, but lost their way.) Despite losing nearly half of their people over the harsh winter, the Pilgrims went on to establish a stable colony and secured relations with the native American people who lived there. In Foxes class we like sharing our own stories of daring do and many of the children have had adventures of their own with visits to countries, (continents), such as Iceland, South Africa, the USA, Canada and Egypt.
The children have really engaged with this topic and their models of the Mayflower are exceptional. We are left wondering who is going to travel where next and when.
by Mr Keightley (Foxes)