The Pilgrims were obviously Marine Scientists

Right now, my stomach is rumbling as the delicious scent of my roasted nut loaf wafts in from the kitchen (yes, I’m one of THOSE–although ironically, as the only vegetarian in the family I am forced to concoct a creamy, meaty gravy from turkey drippings every year since I apparently “do it best”). Being from Massachusetts, Thanksgiving in in my blood. Well genetically, perhaps not, since I am descended from 20th century Ukranian immigrants. But dammit, did I learn a lot about the Pilgrims growing up in New England.

From the knowledge I’ve soaked up over the years, one thing is clear: the Pilgrims were obviously marine scientists. Think about it – a small group of settlers, thirsty for freedom and driven by their passions, set out on an intrepid journey across a treacherous ocean to build a life defined by their own set of rules. Marine scientists and Pilgrims are definitely badass like that. They had little money, meager possessions, and had to cunningly utilize available resources (deep-sea science is also notorious for functional equipment assembled from the most random assortment of pieces..). Most central, of course, is a shared predilection for beer:

[When the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts] The one thing they still missed, though, was beer. In England, beer was the preferred drink for the whole family, even children. Though it is possible that some families in Plymouth brewed a small amount of beer from barley, most families had to make do with drinking water. Oddly enough, water was considered downright unhealthy to drink! Some colonists were surprised that their children were so healthy when they drank water instead of beer. Milk was not considered very good to drink either. It was usually made into butter or cheese, or cooked with to make tasty grain porridges.

And then consider how the Pilgrims dressed:

I mean look at that scientist beard – from the shoulders up, this guy resembles a TON of people I know in marine science. Most importantly, the Pilgrims–just like marine scientists–knew how to throw a party to remember:

During the celebration, Massasoit, an important sachem (leader) of the Wampanoag People, along with 90 of his men, joined the English for three days of entertainment and feasting. We don­’t know for sure why the Wampanoag joined the gathering or exactly what activities went on during those three days. We do know, however, that the celebration occurred sometime between September 21 and November 9, 1621.

So to all my American friends and colleagues who are savoring their annual turkey feast: remember to give thanks to marine scientists past, present and future. Without them, we wouldn’t have Thanksgiving at all!

Holly Bik (140 Posts)

I am a computational biologist at the University of California, Davis. My research uses DNA sequencing and genomics to study microbial eukaryotes (yeah, nematodes!) in marine ecosystems, with an emphasis on evolution and biodiversity in the deep-sea. I can neither confirm nor deny that I like Unix more than I like going to sea.





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2 comments on “The Pilgrims were obviously Marine Scientists
  1. Not to be too much of a downer, but the story of Massasoit’s offspring, starting with his son’s demise just days after his own death, is less cheery; I don’t think the Wampanoag people were celebrating that much.

  2. Actually back then, water and milk were pretty unhealthy things to drink. The fermenting process killed germs, and the alchohol (lower than many of today’s beers), kept them away. Also, the Pilgrims didn’t plan to land in Plymouth, but they were running out of beer, so they had to stop. “We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer, and it being now the 19th of December.” They originally wanted to be much farther south.

    Remember all those stories about Johnny Appleseed? He was planting apple trees so that people could make cider (the hard kind).

    They just don’t tell you these things in elementary school.

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