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Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson (active 1607-1611) was an English navigator who explored areas of America for England and the Netherlands.

Henry Hudson's life is undocumented prior to his famous voyages. He is first recorded in 1607 as commander of an English Muscovy Company ship that attempted to reach the Orient by sailing northward and southward across the polar sea. This hopeless quest led Hudson to explore the eastern coast of Greenland, gain more accurate information about Spitsbergen, and discover Hudson's "Tutches" (Jan Mayen Island).

The next year Hudson sailed to the Arctic again, hoping to find the passage to Asia via Novaya Zemlya. Failing, as the Dutch navigator Willem Barents had earlier failed, Hudson returned to England. There he was approached by agents of the Dutch East India Company, which had not abandoned hopes of a Northeast Passage. In 1609 the Dutch company gave the explorer command of the Half Moon and perhaps another ship called Good Hope, with crews largely recruited from Dutch seamen.

The search for a Northeast Passage took Hudson again to Novaya Zemlya, where his passage was blocked by ice and his crews grew increasingly mutinous. He then changed plans, disregarding orders, and decided to seek a passage through North America. In doing this Hudson was clearly influenced by Capt. John Smith, who had corresponded with him and lent him maps. Hudson's expeditionary fleet, now reduced to the Half Moon, crossed the Atlantic and explored a stretch of North American coast extending southward to New York Bay.

Although nearly a century earlier the Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazano, sailing in the service of France, had entered New York Bay, Hudson in the Half Moon ascended the river nearly to present-day Albany. The ascent of the river, later named in Hudson's honor, gave the Dutch claim to the area, but it failed to satisfy Hudson, for it still offered no water route to Asia. He returned to England in November 1609, and the English authorities ordered him not to return to the Netherlands but to resume exploration for his own country.

English explorers had already carried the search for a Northwest Passage to the strait (ultimately named for Hudson) between Baffin Island and Labrador. A number of English merchants now sent Hudson, in command of the Discovery, to find a way through to the "South Sea" (Pacific Ocean). Crew discontent plagued him from the start. (The ringleader, Robert Juet, had sailed on the previous voyage with Hudson and had written a first hand account of it.) Hudson and his crew entered Hudson Strait on June 24-25, 1610, then followed the narrower passage into Hudson's Bay, whose eastern coast they explored to the southern extremity of James Bay. After a vain search for a western way out of this bay, their ship became icebound on November 10, and they passed a miserable winter, nearly starving. When warmer weather came, mutineers, led by Juet, placed Hudson and a few loyal crew members in an open boat and set it adrift; the mutineers sailed for England. Many died on the way, including Juet; and the survivors, when the truth leaked out, received prison sentences. Nothing more is known of Hudson, but as the weather was still very cold, he and his friends must have died of exposure.

Further Reading

Robert Juet's and other accounts of Hudson's career may be consulted in G. M. Asher, ed., Henry Hudson the Navigator: The Original Documents (1860). Thomas A. Janvier, Henry Hudson (1909), was written to commemorate the third centennial of Hudson's voyage up the Hudson River. See also Llewelyn Powys, Henry Hudson (1928). Edward Heawood, A History of Geographical Discovery in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1912), devotes substantial space to Hudson. □

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Hudson, Henry

Henry Hudson, fl. 1607–11, English navigator and explorer. He was hired (1607) by the English Muscovy Company to find the Northeast Passage to Asia. He failed, and another attempt (1608) to find a new route was also fruitless. Engaged (1609) for the same purpose by the Dutch East India Company, he sailed in the Half Moon to Spitsbergen, where extreme ice and cold brought his crew near mutiny. Hudson, determined not to lose his reputation as an explorer, disregarded his instructions and sailed westward hoping to find the Northwest Passage. He entered Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and later New York Bay. He was the first European to ascend (1609) the Hudson River (named for him), nearly to present-day Albany. His voyage gave the Dutch their claim to the region. His fourth expedition (1610), financed by English adventurers, started from England. Again he sailed westward, hoping to find the Northwest Passage. Between Greenland and Labrador he entered Hudson Strait and by it reached Hudson Bay. After weeks of exploration, he was forced by ice to winter there. By the next summer (1611) his starved and diseased crew mutinied and set Hudson, with his son and seven men, adrift in a small boat, without food or water. He was never seen again. His discoveries, however, gave England its claim to the Hudson Bay region.

See R. O'Connell, Hudson's Fourth Voyage (1978); D. Hunter, Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World (2009); P. C. Marshall, Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson (2009).

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Hudson, Henry

Hudson, Henry (d. 1611). Though clearly a very accomplished navigator, Hudson's life is obscure. However, by 1607 he was employed by the Muscovy Company in whose service he reached Svalbad (Spitsbergen). After another northern expedition, he was recruited by the Dutch, for whom he explored Chesapeake and Delaware bays before entering New York harbour and following the Hudson river as far inland as Albany in a vain search for the North-West Passage. Hence the Dutch empire in North America until the 1660s. Meanwhile, Hudson returned to English service in 1610, again to search for the passage to India, entered the bay now bearing his name, and sailed to its southern end. But he and his son were cast adrift by a mutinous crew, who returned home without them.

Roy C. Bridges

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Hudson, Henry

Hudson, Henry (d.1611) English maritime explorer. He made several efforts to find a Northeast Passage. Employed by the Dutch East India Company (1609), ice blocked Hudson's progress and he crossed the Atlantic to search for a Northwest Passage. He was the first European to sail up the Hudson River, reaching as far as Albany. In 1610, he embarked on another voyage to discover the Northwest Passage and reached Hudson Bay. Forced by ice to winter in the Bay, his mutinous crew set him adrift to die in an open boat.

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