D I S C O V E R Y


Discoverie was a small 20-ton, 38 foot (12 m) long "fly-boat" pinnace of the British East India Company, launched before 1602.   Like the other two ships in the fleet, she was purchased by the Virginia Company of London for the 1606-1607 voyage.


Discovery is depicted in a stained-glass window in London's Church of the Holy Sepulchre.















The Discovery, captained on the voyage by John Ratcliffe, stayed behind in Virginia when the other two ships, Susan Constant and Godspeed, sailed for England on June 22, 1607.  

The first reference to her is dated 1602.  At that time, the East India Company sent out two small vessels, the Discovery under Captain George Waymouth and the Godspeed under Captain John Drew. Their orders were to find a northwest passage to China. It was a non-productive trip with Waymouth blaming the failure on a mutiny by the crew in the latter part of July. The ship returned to Dartmouth on August 5, 1602. 

There is also a reference in E. K. Chatterton's “English Seamen and the Colonization of America” to a Discovery of 26 tons with a crew of 13 men and boys. This ship, under the command of Master William Brown, sailed in company with the Speedwell in 1603 for an exploration voyage in the New World. Their course took them by the Azores. June found them in the islands south of Cape Cod working their way down to Long Island Sound. By September, they were back in Bristol with a load of sassafras.

Brown, in his “Genesis of the United States,” states that these two ships "were the same vessels which returned from Cherry Island, August 15, 1606.... It is possible that the Discovery was the Discovery of Pring's voyage to our northern coast in 1603."

Captain John Smith used her to trade with the Indians when he was not strong enough to raid them.  In a council held on June 13, 1610, "Sir George Summers proposed to lead a two ship expedition to the Bermuda's to obtain a six months provisions for Jamestown."  Six days later, Summers, in the Patience (a Bermuda built pinnace of thirty tons) and Captain Argall in the Discovery "fell with the tide" and left Cape Henry astern. Contrary winds separated them and Argall made for Cape Cod, where he fished for several days. With a fairly good catch, Argall made a landfall off the Virginia Capes on June 30, 1610, at 7:00 p.m.

Argall also traded on the Oquicho River in the same year, when he obtained nearly 400 bushels of grain from the King of Patawomeck. The winter of 1610-1611 found Argall, still in command of the Discovery but under the orders of Lord de La Warr, "on a trading voyage up the Potomac where he is said to have found some mines of antimony and lead, and a very profitable trade with the Indians." This seems to be the last definitive trace of her.

Robert G.C. Fee, the Naval Architect for the Newport News Shipbuilding Company, in his study for the construction of the full scale replicas of the three Jamestown ships, states that: “The Susan Constant and the Godspeed made several round-trip passages from England to Jamestown. Their services, after leaving the charter of the Virginia Company, is unknown. However, as they served as colliers before, it may be presumed they returned to this duty. The Discovery was purchased from the Muscovy Company and remained in Virginia waters after her arrival in 1607. It is confirmed in records that this small vessel sailed up many bays and rivers along the coast. It was from this vessel that the area of Cape Cod was charted in 1609. It is believed these charts, later obtained in England, assisted the Mayflower upon her arrival in the Cape Cod area in 1620. The ultimate disposal of the Discovery is unknown.


[Citation for much of this column is attributed to the online article of the National Park Service, "What Happened to the Three Ships?"]


G O D S P E E D


She is Thy Ruler of the seas, with her mightyfulle velocitie moure veloce than the wynd, and mightyer than the rocke, she is,

my Deare Godspeed.


So wrote Captain Bartholomew Gosnold in his diary, of the bark which carried 39 passengers and 13 sailors on the voyage, all male. The 40-ton vessel was a fully rigged ship estimated to have been 68 feet (21 m) in length.










All three ships were depicted on Virginia's quarter in the 50 State Quarters series and, in May 2007, the United States Postal Service depicted images of the three ships on its first 41 cent denomination first class stamp.





























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Captained by Sir Christopher Newport, commander of the fleet, the Susan Constant was the largest of the three ships.  With its construction completed in 1605 and rated at 120 tons, her keel length is estimated at 55.2 feet (16.8 meters), with an overall length from tip to stern estimated at 116 feet.


On the 1606–1607 voyage, she carried 71 colonists, all male, one of whom was John Smith.[2][3] She returned to England in May 1607 and served as a merchant ship through at least 1615. Her fate is not known.










In the decree of issuance of a new flag representing the "Union of Crowns," King James stipulated that all ships of both English and Scottish registry were to fly the Grand Union flag from atop their mainmasts.










The Cross of St. George was to be flown from the foremasts of the English ships, while the Cross of St. Andrew was to be flown from the foremasts of the Scottish ships.  As the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery were of English registry and did not embark upon their historic voyage until December 1606, it logically follows that their flags conformed to the royal decree of the preceding spring.  [3]









There is growing support for the alternative name Sarah Constant, [4] having been cited as the name in the earliest document, [5] leading to a belief that Samuel Purchase had the name wrong in his Pilgrims book.

























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