September 12, 1575
English navigator and explorer
"[The chiefs] concluded it [the Half Moon] to be a large canoe or house, in which the great Mannitto (great or Supreme Being) himself was, and that he was probably coming to visit them."
Translation of traditional Delaware story by John Heckewelder.
Henry Hudson was an English explorer whose career was marked by both success and failure. Although he never managed to find either the Northeast Passage or the Northwest Passage to China, he did explore what came to be known as the Hudson River and the Hudson Bay (in present-day New York). His exploration of the Hudson River in 1609 led to the formation of the Dutch West India Company, a group which founded the colony of New Netherland (later New York) in 1624. During a second attempt to find the Northwest Passage in 1610, Hudson became the first explorer to sail through the Hudson Strait. During the following summer of 1611, Hudson's crew mutinied (staged a revolt) and he was set adrift in a small boat and never seen again.
Attempts to find passage to China
Nothing is known about the early life and career of Henry Hudson. He undertook his first recorded voyage in 1607, when he was hired by the Muscovy Company of England to search for the Northeast Passage, a sea route that led around the northern coast of Siberia to China. Hudson explored the coast of the Svalbard Islands in the Arctic Ocean and sighted Jan Mayen Island east of Greenland, but he did not find a sea passage to China. In 1608 he departed on another expedition to find the Northeast Passage. When his ship encountered heavy ice, however, he was forced to turn back without making any new discoveries.
In 1609 Hudson was hired by the Dutch East India Company to look for the Northeast Passage once again. He set out from the Netherlands on the ship Half Moon with a mixed crew of English and Dutch sailors. Beyond the North Cape, located off the northern coast of Norway in the Arctic Ocean, the ship ran into heavy ice, and Hudson's crew refused to go any farther. Instead of giving up again and returning to the Netherlands, however, Hudson decided to try to find the Northwest Passage, a water route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He turned the Half Moon west, heading for the coast of North America. His friend John Smith (see entry), the English explorer who had colonized Virginia, may have given Hudson this idea when he reportedly mentioned a large bay that might lead to a Northwest Passage.
Explores Hudson River
Hudson and his crew reached the coast of Nova Scotia (a province on the east coast of Canada) in July 1609, traveling as far as Chesapeake Bay before turning north to explore Delaware Bay. Continuing north, Hudson and his crew reached Sandy Hook, a peninsula at the entrance to New York Harbor, on September 12, 1609. The Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (see entry) had already discovered the entrance to the harbor in 1524 but had not been able to explore farther inland. Hudson sailed up the wide river that now bears his name to the site of present-day Albany, New York. Some of his crew members then rowed a boat even farther north.
During his voyage up and down the river, Hudson noted the richness of the land and recognized the opportunity for a prosperous fur trade. His favorable report inspired the Dutch to form a new company, the Dutch West India Company, which founded the colony of New Netherland along the Hudson and Delaware Rivers in 1614. Hudson and his party did have a few unfriendly encounters with Native Americans along the way. During a particularly violent skirmish, one of his crew members was killed by an arrow through the throat. Relations improved, however, when Hudson traded European goods for food. Before heading back across the Atlantic, the Half Moon stayed for several days in New York Harbor on what Hudson described as "that side of the river that is called Manna-hatta"—a Native American word for the island now called Manhattan.
Voyage to Hudson Bay
On the return voyage to Europe, the Half Moon stopped in the English port of Dartmouth on November 7, 1609. Because the Dutch had financed Hudson's expedition, the British authorities took him and other English crew members off the ship, forbidding them to work for a foreign country again. Hudson would not be discouraged, however, and he soon convinced a group of English investors to support a journey to renew the search for the Northwest Passage. This time
Hudson encounters Delaware
While exploring the Hudson and Delaware Rivers in present-day New York, Henry Hudson and his party encountered a Native American group, the Delawares. This was the first time the Delawares had seen Europeans, so the experience was quite unsettling for them. Following are excerpts from a Delaware tribe account of sighting Hudson's ship, the Half Moon, which was anchored off the coast of Manhattan Island. The story was written down in the eighteenth century by John Heckewelder, an English missionary who interviewed descendants of the Delawares.
A long time ago, when there was no such thing known to the Indians as people with white skin [their expression], some Indians who had been out fishing, and where the sea widens, espied [caught sight of] at a great distance something remarkably large swimming, or floating on the water, and such as they had never seen before. They immediately returning to the shore, appraised their countrymen of what they had seen, and pressed them to go out with them and discover what it might be . . . . [Some concluded] it either to be an uncommon large fish, or other animal, while others were of the opinion it must be some very large house. . . . [Finally] they sent runners and watermen off to carry the news to their scattered chiefs . . . . [The chiefs] arriving in numbers, and themselves viewing the strange appearance . . . concluded it to be a large canoe or house, in which the great Mannitto (great or Supreme Being) himself was, and that he was probably coming to visit them. By this time the chiefs of the different tribes were assembled on York island, and were counselling (or deliberating) on the manner they should receive their Mannitto on his arrival. Every step had been taken to be well provided with plenty of meat for a sacrifice; the women were required to prepare the best victuals [food]; idols or images were examined and put in order; and a grand dance was supposed not only to be an agreeable entertainment for the Mannitto, but it might, with the addition of sacrifice, contribute toward appeasing him, in case he was angry with them. . . . Between hope and fear, and in confusion a dance commenced. While in this situation fresh runners arrive declaring it a house of various colours, crowded with living creatures . . . ; but other runners soon after arriving, declare it a large house of various colours, full of people of a different colour than they [the Native Americans] are of; that they are also dressed in a different manner from them, and one in particular appeared altogether red, which must be the Mannitto himself. . . . Many are for running off into the woods, but are pressed to stay, in order not to give offense to their visitors.
Reprinted in: Middleton, Richard. Colonial America: A History, 1585–1776, second edition. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996, pp. 30–31.
he planned to explore farther north than on his previous voyage. Hudson set sail for North America on April 17, 1610, on the ship Discovery. Almost immediately there were signs of trouble among his crew, whom Hudson apparently could not control. Nonetheless, they reached North America, and in June they sighted Resolution Island, which separates Davis Strait from what is now called Hudson Strait in northeastern Canada. The strait had already been discovered by the English navigator Martin Frobisher, in 1578, but Hudson was the first to sail through it. The voyage took six weeks.
Hudson and his crew then rounded Cape Wolstenholme, named after one of the financial backers of the voyage, and entered Hudson Bay. At this point Hudson believed he had sailed from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He soon recognized, however, that he was mistaken. When the Discovery turned south into what is now known as James Bay, the southern extension of Hudson Bay, he found that they were landlocked (almost completely surrounded by land). By this time it was October and the bay was beginning to freeze, so the Englishmen were forced to spend the entire winter stuck in the ice. Because of Hudson's lack of foresight, he and his crew did not have enough food and other necessities for the winter. Although they had made contact with nearby Native Americans, efforts at trading with them had failed. Everyone aboard the Discovery suffered from the extremely harsh weather and lack of supplies, and there was frequent fighting among the crew members.
Set adrift on Atlantic
On June 12, 1611, the ice had melted enough for the Discovery to begin its voyage home to England. When the ship reached Charlton Island in the southern part of James Bay on June 23, the crew mutinied against Hudson. The following morning they put Hudson, his nineteen-year-old son, and six of the weaker crew members on a small boat and set them adrift. Hudson and his party were never seen or heard from again.
Now captained by Robert Bylot, the Discovery continued north through Hudson Bay and anchored at Digges Island at the entrance to Hudson Bay. During a battle with a party of Inuit (Eskimo), the ringleader of the mutiny, Henry Greene, and several other crewmen were killed. The survivors escaped and finally landed in southern Ireland, where the crew was rescued and taken to London, England. Only eight men survived the voyage back across the Atlantic. No one was ever convicted of any charges connected with the mutiny or with the banishment of Hudson, his son, and the other crew members.
For further research
Henry Hudson and the Half Moon.http://www.ulster.net/_hrmm/halfmoon/halfmoon.htm Available July 13, 1999.
The Life and Times of Henry Hudson, explorer and adventurer.http://www.georgian.net/rally/hudson/ Available July 13, 1999.
Middleton, Richard. Colonial America: A History, 1585–1776, second edition. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996, pp. 30–31.
Rachlis, Eugene. The Voyages of Henry Hudson. New York: Random House, 1962.
Syme, Ronald. Henry Hudson. New York: Morrow, 1955. (Fiction)
Weiner, Eric. The Story of Henry Hudson, Master Explorer. New York: Dell, 1991.
Henry Hudson was an English navigator and explorer. North America has a bay, a strait, and a river named for him. In his short life, he sailed at least three times for English companies and at least once for a Dutch company. His goal, which eluded him, was to find a navigable passage from Europe to Asia through the Arctic region. Instead, he made discoveries that eventually opened European trading with the natives in North America.
Very little is known about Hudson's birth and early life. The earliest record from his life concerns a voyage he took in 1607. The Muscovy Company of England hired him to search for a navigable passage around the north coast of Siberia to China. He was unable to find the so-called Northeast Passage, either on that voyage or on another he took in 1608.
In 1609, the Dutch East India Company hired Hudson to search for the Northeast Passage aboard the ship called Half Moon. The Dutch East India Company was a company from Netherlands and one of the first modern corporations. It financed voyages to the East Indies (present day Indonesia) to make money trading European goods for Asian spices and other goods.
The Half Moon hit heavy ice off the northern coast of Norway. Hudson's crew refused to go further, but Hudson did not want to return to the Netherlands. A fellow explorer, John Smith (c. 1580–1631), who colonized Virginia , had corresponded with Hudson, passing along maps concerning the New World. Hudson turned the ship around and headed est to look for a Northwest Passage to Asia.
Sailed through New York's harbor
The voyagers reached the coast of Nova Scotia in July 1609, then sailed down to the Chesapeake Bay and up to Delaware Bay. In September, they reached the entrance to what would be called New York Harbor. Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (c. 1485–c. 1528) had been there in 1524, but Hudson was the first European to sail through the harbor up the river that would eventually bear his name. By coincidence, French explorer Samuel de Champlain (c. 1567–1635) was in the region of Lake Champlain around this time.
The Half Moon made it as far as present-day Albany, New York . Hudson's crew had occasional problems with Native Americans and also learned that the area was rich with natural resources, including animals with valuable furs. Heading back down the river, Hudson and company stayed in New York Harbor for a few days at a place that Hudson wrote was called “Manna-hata” by the natives. It would eventually be called Manhattan in New York City.
Caught between British and Dutch interests
Hudson's discovery of valuable resources in the New World encouraged investors in the Netherlands to form the Dutch West India Company . English authorities, however, told Hudson not to sail anymore for Dutch companies. Hudson found English investors to finance another search for the Northwest Passage.
Hudson left for North America in April 1610 aboard the ship Discovery. He planned to sail north of where his last voyage had gone. By June, he sighted Resolution Island, which separates Davis Strait from Hudson Strait in northeastern Canada. The Discovery took six weeks to navigate the Hudson Strait before reaching the large Canadian bay that would be called Hudson Bay. Hudson thought he had reached the Pacific Ocean.
The Discovery turned south, eventually entering James Bay, where Hudson and his crew learned that they were landlocked. They had not found the Northwest Passage. Unprepared for this October setback and with the bay freezing in November, they had to spend the winter in the region with few supplies.
Left to die
In June 1611, the ice had melted enough for the Discovery to sail for home. When the ship reached Charlton Island in the southern part of James Bay, the crew mutinied. A leader of the mutiny, Robert Juet, had sailed with Hudson on his previous voyage. The mutineers stranded Hudson, his nineteen-year-old son John, and some weaker crewmembers in a small vessel on the bay. Historians presume that Hudson and his stranded companions died in the region that year. History has no record of Hudson afterward.
Both a small but significant river in New York and an immense bay—by far the world's largest—in Canada are named after Henry Hudson. The great sea distance between these two bodies of water is a tribute to his wide-ranging explorations, and to his bold but ultimately tragic attempts toward finding the elusive Northwest Passage.
Ironically, Hudson spent the early part of his career searching for the Northeast Passage, the sea route via the northern coast of Russia and Siberia to China. In 1607, the Muscovy Company in his native England hired him for this purpose, but though he explored the forbidding regions of Jay Mayen Island and Svalbard between Scandinavia and Greenland, he did not find the passage. Another voyage the following year was cut short due to heavy ice.
In 1609, Hudson set sail yet again, this time under the aegis of the Dutch East India Company, aboard the Half Moon. The expedition had gotten no farther than the North Cape of Norway before running into heavy ice, and the crew refused to venture any further. Instead of returning to Holland, however, Hudson set his sights on finding the Northwest Passage, the sea route to Asia via the northern coast of North America.
By July 1609, the expedition had reached Nova Scotia, then turned south to Chesapeake Bay. They then explored Delaware Bay before entering New York harbor—none of these places bore these names at the time, of course—on September 12. They followed the harbor to the mouth of what is now known as the Hudson River, then sailed up the Hudson to the site of present-day Albany. They then sailed back down, stopping at the island called "Manna-hata" by the Indians. At first the latter threatened them, even killing one of the crew members, but when the sailors offered them European goods, relations improved.
On his return trip to Europe, Hudson docked at Dartmouth, England, where he was seized by the authorities and forbidden to sail for any foreign powers. Nonetheless, he was able to pass on to his Dutch employers what he had observed on his trip: that the land around the harbor and river he had explored were rich and promising. This would influence the Dutch founding of New Netherland, a colony comprising what is now New York and New Jersey, in 1614.
Back in England, Hudson raised support for another voyage to find the Northwest Passage, and set sail aboard the Discovery on April 17, 1610. It appears that Hudson was never a very good manager of men, and long before they caught sight of land—Resolution Island, to the southeast of Baffin Island—discord had arisen among the crew members. Nonetheless, Hudson sailed onward.
The Discovery plied what is now called Hudson Strait, between Baffin Island and the northern coast of Quebec. It seemed to Hudson that he was on the verge of finding the Northwest Passage, and he proceeded with optimism. In fact they were sailing into Hudson Bay, which would be more properly identified as a sea—a sea half as large as the Mediterranean, but not a tenth as inviting to mariners.
By October, the expedition had reached a dead-end, a shallow inlet called James Bay at the southeastern corner of Hudson Bay. Cold weather was beginning to set in, and with it ice, so that the crew was forced to spend the winter there. Lacking adequate provisions—another mistake on Hudson's part—they suffered terribly during the cold months, and tensions grew.
Only on June 12, 1611 were they finally able to set sail again, but after just 12 days the crew mutinied against Hudson. On June 22, they set the captain adrift in a small boat with his 19-year-old son John and six of the less physically fit crew members. The eight men were never heard from again.
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.
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. □
Roy C. Bridges