This month is the 400-year anniversary of the Mayflower ship setting sail from Plymouth to cross the Ocean and “discover” America. While previous years told a one-dimensional story, this year it examines the history of four nations from multiple angles, exploring the experiences of those impacted and telling of the ruthless consequences of colonisation. Overall, it’s a celebration of different cultures and raises an awareness about better ways to live so that we can be more conscious of our actions to protect our planet, our people and our Ocean.

Read on to find out about how our Aquarium and charity, the Ocean Conservation Trust, are getting involved this year:

Listen to the Atlantic, It’s Speaking to You

Art Installation – NMA Plymouth Sound Zone

When you visit us, make sure to check out this art installation in our Plymouth Sound Zone. Created by Sarah Sense for the Mayflower 400 anniversary, she felt she had an obligation to make something that spoke to and about the Native North Experience at this time. Here’s what she had to say about it:

“History runs deep in the United Kingdom. History runs deep in North America. Between these two places is an ocean carrying stories of people moving between continents. While we enter Mayflower’s 400-year anniversary, communities in the United Kingdom and United States are questioning colonial settlerism. Before Europeans conquests, Native North America was rich with people, resources and culture. Through a process of settler colonization, the cultural and physical landscape of the Americas changed. When asked to create a Native North American perspective of Mayflower 400, I chose to make a memory of what was happing 400 years ago to Native North Americans in the United Kingdom and to bring that memory to the present so that we can heal and learn from the effects of colonization within Indigenous communities and environment. Listen to the Atlantic, It’s Speaking to You is a sound piece for participants to read aloud the names of Algonquin people of Native North America who died or went missing in London (1603-1630), around the time the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, United Kingdom. In looking at this space between America and the United Kingdom, imagine that words are carried with the waves back to Native North America.”

The text in the parabolic dish reads:

Does water have memory, like the trees?

Can it remember the roots that drank it

or the lungs that inhaled it?

Can water remember ancestors the way land holds us in shallow graves.

I can feel the presence when close to a

calm lake, rushing river or thunderous ocean.

Bring me the calm and the violent memories.

Remind me of the past.

Along with the names of algonquian visitors to London who never returned, 1603 – 1630

Credit: Wayne Perry

Speedwell Light Installation: ‘No New Worlds’

A new light installation situated on the Mountbatten Breakwater, explores questions around colonialism, climate change and the legacy of the Mayflower story. Here at the National Marine Aquarium, we have been supporting the project by giving some of our time to talk to the artists about what the world without the Ocean might look like. Here’s what our Head of Conservation Education and Communications, Nicola Bridge, had to say:

“There is only one Ocean, making up 71% of the surface of our planet. Every drop of saltwater is connected. As there is only one Ocean, all humans are connected by it. The moment that your toe is dipped under the surface, you are in the same realm as millions of other people, and where billions of others have once been. The ‘Speedwell’ installation will mean many things to many people, but to the Ocean Conservation Trust team it resonates deeply with our vision of a healthy Ocean to sustain all life. The Ocean is currently facing unprecedented challenges, but when we treat the Ocean well, all living things can thrive. We know that it is not too late, if we all work together to Think Ocean in our daily lives, understanding that the Ocean is calling for our help. There are No New Worlds. There is No New Ocean.

The CO2 that will inevitably be emitted by the structure will be offset by a future collaborative project with the Ocean Conservation Trust, where carbon offset will be achieved by the planting of seagrass.”

For more information about Speedwell, click here.

Mayflower Trails

Why not explore Plymouth by taking a walk in the Pilgrim’s footsteps? A brand new app featuring self-guided walking trails throughout Plymouth is now available to download, giving visitors and locals alike the chance to explore the city through new eyes and discover more about its complex history – and some of the trails will bring you directly to our door here at the National Marine Aquarium. The perfect outdoor activity to take part in on your way to see us, it’s a chance to see and experience Britain’s Ocean City as you have never done before.

The interactive Plymouth Trails app, which is free to download, includes three new tailored trails:

  • Mayflower Trail: Following a circular route around the Barbican, see the buildings and meet the people that shaped the city in 1620, when the Mayflower ship and its passengers set sail for America
  • City Centre Trail: Discover a different side to the imposing post-war architecture in the city centre and learn more about how the city was rebuilt following the Blitz during World War II
  • Plymouth Hoe Trail: Enjoy a walk along the coast as you delve into Plymouth’s maritime history, taking in key landmarks such as Tinside Lido and Smeaton’s Tower.

Click here for more information on our blog.

Image by Michael Mosimann from Pixabay

For more information about the Mayflower 400 Anniversary, visit the Mayflower400 website.

The National Marine Aquarium (NMA) is the UK’s largest aquarium, located in Britain’s Ocean City, Plymouth. It is run by the Ocean Conservation Trust, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the Ocean.

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