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Replica of Settlers' Ship Sails to New York for July 4th Celebration

  • Amanda Cassandra
  • Maha Saad

A replica of one of the first ships to sail to America is in New York for the United States' independence day celebration on July 4th. Amanda Cassandra and Maha Saad visited the ship and spoke with crew members.

A working model of one of the ships that brought the first settlers to Jamestown, Virginia, is touring the East Coast to commemorate the 400th anniversary of its voyage, next year. The Godspeed was one of three vessels that brought 144 men from England to the shores of Virginia in 1607, who established the first permanent English settlement in what would later become the United States.

New York, which is one of six cities welcoming the vessel, is holding a landing party festival, which includes interactive exhibits recreating the early days of America.

Captain Eric Speth says the ship's design was researched thoroughly to ensure its historical accuracy.

"We conducted about nine months of research," he explained. "The research showed us the size of the vessel, and we were able to find information on how vessels like this were designed, how they were built, how they were rigged, and where the sails were set. It took about a year-and-a-half to build it. It is built in the same manner as the original would have been, all out of solid wood."

Unlike the original, the new model is made from tropical hardwoods, which are more durable, and an engine was added.

Almost 80 civic and historic groups are sponsoring the tour, as part of a campaign called America's 400th Anniversary. Jeanne Zeidler is the director of one of the group, Jamestown 2007. She hopes the tour will teach people about the nation's history.

"We cannot tell the whole story of Jamestown. What we want to do is inspire people to learn more," she said. "We want to intrigue them to learn more about the history of our country, and to understand the importance of being engaged in not only your history, but in your contemporary life, your community, your state and your nation."

The Godspeed's journey is one of the highlights of an 18-month celebration aimed at remembering the founding of the Jamestown settlement and looking to the future.

Former astronaut and seven-time space explorer, Franklin Chang-Diaz, says the event is about rekindling the natural human desire to explore.

"We are here to celebrate the spirit of exploration. Exploration is very much alive," he said. " It was alive 400 years ago, when these settlers first settled down in this new world. But, today, as we speak, there is another ship flying in space, the International Space Station, with human beings also engaged in exploration. The spirit of exploration will continue. The question is: where will we be 400 years from now?"

Organizers say one of the most important legacies settlers left is democratic government. The first representative assembly met at Jamestown in 1619, a precursor to today's Virginia General Assembly. President of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Colin Campbell, says other legacies continue.

"The traditions of representative government, of free enterprise, and of cultural diversity, established on that small outcropping of land in present day Virginia, laid the foundation, which is our nation today," he said.

Visitors can go aboard the Godspeed to experience life on the ship from a knowledgeable crew dressed in colonial clothing. Crew member Terry Robertson says the original journey was difficult, and those who come aboard the Godspeed have a better understanding of the conditions the settlers experienced.

"In one way, it was an adventure, but it was a hardship. It was tough for them to come aboard and sail across the Atlantic," he said. "It took four-and-a-half months to get here. When people come aboard, they get a real sense for what it was like."

After the Godspeed completes its tour, it will return to Jamestown to be a floating museum.

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