‘Desperate’ measures: History Channel reveals truth behind Pilgrims’ journey





Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower. Tomorrow at 8 p.m. on the History Channel. Grade: B

Thanksgiving is often marked by cute school plays that celebrate the relationship between the Pilgrims and American Indians. The History Channel’s new special “Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower” (tomorrow at 8 p.m.) goes beneath the veneer of the familiar story taught in elementary school.

Told through believable and meticulous re-enactments and interviews with historians, this is a story of struggle for religious freedom, unbearable hardship, heartbreaking losses and utter determination to start a new life in a new country. While the title of the documentary is certainly a play on the show that takes place on Wisteria Lane, this three-hour special defines desperate.

Unwilling to abide by the edicts of the Church of England, a devout group known as Pilgrims flee to the Netherlands in 1607. By 1620, they decide they must go to the New World. The ship they choose is the Mayflower.

“The Mayflower was a merchant vessel, a cargo ship. This was not designed to carry passengers,” says Nathan Philbrick, author of “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War.”

The trip takes nine torturous weeks and many do not survive. They are surrounded by disease, excrement and death. Since water is unsanitary, they can only drink beer. They eat meat that has been severely salted so it can be preserved. ...



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