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High-tech UK-US ship launched on 400th Mayflower anniversary

PLYMOUTH, England (AP) — With a splash of Plymouth gin, the U.S. ambassador to Britain officially launched a ship named Mayflower on Wednesday, 400 years to the day after a wooden vessel with that name sailed from an English port and changed the history of two continents.

Unlike the merchant ship that carried a group of European Puritan settlers to a new life across the Atlantic Ocean in 1620, the Mayflower christened by U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson has no crew or passengers. It will cross the sea powered by sun and wind, and steered by artificial intelligence.

Johnson said the high-tech ship, developed jointly by U.K.-based marine research organization ProMare and U.S. tech giant IBM, showed that “the pioneering spirit of the Mayflower really lives on” in the trans-Atlantic partnership.

“We’re heading out with the same spirit of adventure and determination and vision for the future” as the original colonists, the American diplomat said at a ceremony also attended by the head of the Royal Navy, Adm. Tony Radakin, and Dutch Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.

Like the Mayflower in 1620, the new vessel will travel from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, but on a marine research trip rather than a colony-founding journey. The coronavirus pandemic has delayed its trip until the spring of 2021.

The ship’s launch in Plymouth, 200 miles (320 kilometers) southwest of London, is part of Mayflower commemorations disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. They involve British, Americans and Dutch institutions -- many of the 17th-century Pilgrims had fled England for Holland in the years before the voyage — and the Wampanoag people, who had lived for millennia in what is now New England.

In 1620, the Wampanoag helped the exhausted Mayflower settlers survive their first winter. But soon colonial...



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