Choose Your Own Adventure: Would You Survive the First Thanksgiving?

Emelia Crump, Staff Writer

Image courtesy of Pixabay ©

You’re a Puritan living in the year 1620. Leading your ordinary life in Plymouth, England, you discover a small ship called the Mayflower that happens to be departing Plymouth soon. You and 101 other pilgrims are looking for the same thing: a fresh start where you can practice your religion and experience life in the “New World.” The opportunity for a new life isn’t just handed out to you, however. You’ll have to test your resilience and survival skills in order to experience Thanksgiving alive. You have two choices, and you better pick fast— the Mayflower doesn’t wait around for the indecisive. You can either choose to play it safe at Plymouth, or risk the unknown and board the Mayflower in hopes for a new life. If you decide to board the Mayflower, go to 1. If you choose to stay in Plymouth, England, choose 2. 


  1. Grabbing the few things you have, you impulsively scramble onto the ship along with just about 100 others, some willing to risk their lives, others seeking adventure and a break from religious judgement. You see some pilgrims chatting on one of the farther ends of the ship— you’ve seen them tending to their fields before, and wonder if you should talk to them about why they’re heading out of Plymouth. If you want to go over and introduce yourself, go to 3. If you would rather distance yourself from the others— after all, you don’t know how unclean these Puritans are, go to 4. 


  1. You never get your chance at freedom or risk-taking. As the winter months roll in, you starve to death because there are not as many Puritans around to help harvest your crops. 


  1. As you get closer to these pilgrims, the ship starts to move, creaking as the wood settles again. You chat for a while to try to get your mind off the bobbing boat. There are three pilgrims in total— a family, and you determine the female is expecting a child. She’s extremely worried about the baby’s wellbeing, but leaving was her only choice. She asks you if you can watch her belongings for the next couple weeks while she rests— a big task, since she’s easily the wealthiest on the boat. If you’re up for the task, go to 5. If not, go to 6. 


  1. After deciding to keep a distance from the other passengers, you decide you want to explore a little— it may pay off to know the layout of the ship. As soon as you make this decision, the ship starts to rumble and gain movement. You’re certainly stuck where you are for a bit, which is the orlop deck of the Mayflower. You decide it would be smart to claim your space in the ship while you have the most options, so you grab a spot in the corner and settle with your belongings, knowing the corners of the ship will give you the most support if something were to go haywire. If you would like to stay in this spot for the next couple weeks, go to 7. If you would like to go to the highest level of the Mayflower to try to find a better spot, go to 8.


  1. After agreeing to watch some of the woman’s things, she gives you something valuable: half of her food rations, which include dried fruit, cheese, biscuits and dried fish. You gratefully accept her offers, thank her, and leave in hopes of grabbing a spot on the ship. Go to 8. 


  1. After politely declining the favor, after all, you have your own belongings to worry about, you decide you would like to find a space tosleep at night. The ship itself only has a couple of compartments, and by the looks of them, are meant for storage. That’s when it hits you— this ship isn’t meant for passengers at all— it must have been originally some sort of cargo vessel. There’s not many spots left— the boat is crowded with pilgrims, but you manage to find a small spot on the main level of the Mayflower. As your first week passes by, conditions are miserable— freezing water splashes up from the sides of the boat and smacks you in the face with reality. You start to wish you took the women’s stuff, thinking maybe you could have sneaked some of her rations. As everyday goes by, you get even hungrier. You need to find food soon or you’ll run out. If you choose to watch over the women’s things after all, go to 5. If you decide you would rather wait it out in hopes to keep your spot, go to 9. 
Image Courtesy of Pixabay ©
  1. You decide to stay where you are, thinking the trip won’t be much more than a couple weeks. Unfortunately, you have almost no food, and the cloth blanket you brought doesn’t supply enough warmth to support you for the rest of the trip. You try to fight the rippling waves and the wind they bring with them. You won’t end up surviving the Mayflower voyage! 


  1. You choose to go to a higher level of the boat, where you can see the choppy waves and the pilgrims below you. There’s only one other pilgrim with you, and he’s getting sea sick. The good news is, the pilgrim sharing your spot gives you his food— he’s certainly not well and won’t be hungry for a while. You wish you had gotten another spot earlier, but you can’t risk losing the spot you have now. The great news is that because you have rations, you’re able to survive the remaining 44 days of the voyage, even despite the smell of vomit provided by the pilgrim next to you. Congratulations! You’ll make it to Cape Cod after the 66-day voyage and you have officially survived the first Thanksgiving! Go to 10.


  1. Your next 44 days go by experiencing hardship, starvation and unbearable temperatures. Even though you’ve chosen the best spot on the Mayflower and lived a comfortable life, you don’t have enough food to support you for the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, without a reliable source of food, you will slowly starve to your demise— you’re the only pilgrim who won’t survive out of all 102 that boarded the Mayflower. Sorry! You will not survive the first Thanksgiving. 


Image Courtesy of Pixabay ©
  1. The first Thanksgiving shares the concept of giving thanks and being grateful, but it went down a bit differently than our traditional Thanksgiving today. Most of the crowd sharing the feast were young, and some foods were similar to the traditional Thanksgiving foods eaten today. Foods that were eaten include: onions, carrots, beans, spinach and other vegetables, turkey, seafood, venison (meat from deer) and flint, which was a native corn provided by the Native Americans. Many people suffered miserable conditions on the Mayflower and the harsh winter and disease that followed.