Geography Lesson – Cape Cod Bay

Geography lesson of Cape Cod Bay where the first pilgrims from England landed in 1620.

Watercolor map of Cape Cod Bay

Watercolor map of Cape Cod Bay

Cape Cod Blank Map

Cape Cod Blank Map

Black and white copy of the map:

These writings are from William Bradford‘s firsthand account of life with the pilgrims in 1620 and their landing in Cape Cod and then Plymouth. 

November 11, 1620: “After long beating at sea they fell with that land which is called Cape Cod. Checking the landfall and making sure of what it was, they were not a little joyful. After a meeting among themselves and with the master of the ship, they tacked about, resolved to stand for the southward, the wind and weather being fair, to find some place near Hudson’s river for their settlement.”

“…Cape Cod was likely to be a place of good fishing. They saw daily great whales, of the best kind for oil and bone. The whales came close to the ship, and in fair weather, swam and played about. Once when the sun shone warm, one came and lay above water within half a musket shot of the ship.”

“Before the people came ashore they made a compact, the first foundation of their government in New England.”

“In the name of God, Amen.
We whose names are underwritten, loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord, King James, by Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland king, Defender of Faith, and so forth, having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by this document solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue of this document enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought right for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the eighteenth year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James. 1620 A.D.”

Finding a more hospitable plot across the bay:

“It was finally decided to explore the bay, but in no case so far as Agawam. Robert Coppin, the pilot, told of a great navigable river and good harbor in the other headland of the bay, almost opposite Cape Cod, not more than eight leagues in a straight line.”

“From the place of the first encounter they continued along the coast in the shallop, but found no likely harbor. They hurried to a place that their pilot (Mr. Coppin, who had been in the country before) assured them was a good harbor. He said he had been in it and they could reach it before night. They were glad, for the weather turned foul. After some hours sailing, it began to snow and rain. About the middle of the afternoon the wind increased and the sea grew rough. Their rudder broke and it was all two men could do to steer her with a couple of oars.
Their pilot bid them of good cheer, for he saw the harbor. The storm increasing and night drawing on, they put up what sail they could to get in while they could see.”

December 15th, 1620:
“On Monday they sounded the harbor and found it deep enough for shipping. They marched also into the land and found several cornfields and a little running brook. A very good place to settle, they supposed. They returned to the ship with good news, which much comforted their hearts. On the 15th of December, they weighed anchor to go to the place they had discovered. On the 16th the wind came fair and the Mayflower sailed safe into the harbor…The bay seemed a most hopeful place, with innumerable store of fowl, and fish in season, such as skate, cod, flounder, and herring. Abundance of mussels, crabs, and lobsters was found there. The harbor was fashioned like a sickle or a fishhook.

Quick Quiz:

Find the following locations:

  1. Cape Cod Bay
  2. Location of the first Mayflower landing
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Rhode Island
  5. Providence
  6. Vineyard Sound
  7. Martha’s Vineyard
  8. Nantucket
  9. Buzzard Bay
  10. Newport
  11. Boston
  12. Plymouth
  13. North Atlantic Ocean

Download the lesson plan

Further Reading:

The story of the Pilgrim fathers, 
1606 – 1623 A.D. as told by themselves
Edward Arber
Original documents from the time
period of the first Plymouth colony.
William Bradford of Plymouth Plantation
William Bradford
The most important and influential source
of information about the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony, this landmark account was written
between 1630 and 1647. It vividly documents the Pilgrims’ adventures.
Brooklyn Museum - Embarkation of the Pilgrims - Robert Walter Weir

Brooklyn Museum – Embarkation of the Pilgrims – Robert Walter Weir


Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899

The front page of the Bradford journal

The front page of the Bradford journal

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