Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson was an Englishman and accomplished navigator and sailor. It is unknown where and when he was born, but his four ocean voyages put his name on several places on the global map. On May 1, 1607, Hudson set sail from England aboard the Hopewell with his son and 11 crewmembers. He and his crew sailed closer to the North Pole than any other explorers. He was looking for a Northwest Passage to the Orient and found there was no way through the North Pole. He eventually returned to England.

On April 22, 1608, he set sail once again aboard the Hopewell and discovered that as he rounded the northern tip of Norway, the sun shone 24 hours a day during the Arctic summer. He still failed to find a Northwest Passage.

In 1609, he moved to Holland and sailed for the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch provided him with a ship called the Half Moon and a crew. Hudson chose some Englishmen to join the Dutch for a total of 18 crewmembers. The Half Moon was a flat-bottomed ship only 60 feet long.

In April 1609, the Half Moon set sail from Amsterdam and headed north. As the weather worsened and grew colder, the crew started to grumble and talk of mutiny. Hudson turned the ship around and headed south. He ended up off the coast of present-day Maine and sighted the area today known as Cape Cod. The Half Moon headed further south and sailed to the Chesapeake Bay. Hudson then turned north off the coast of present-day New Jersey. In September 1609, the ship dropped anchor in the harbor of a great river known today as the Hudson. The crew traded with the Indians and explored the length of the river. The new lands in the Hudson River Valley were claimed for Holland. Eventually the Dutch settled in this area and founded New Amsterdam or present-day New York.

In November, Hudson returned to England instead of Holland. He set sail on his fourth journey from England on April 17, 1610, and headed northwest. The journey was fraught with hardships and threats of mutiny. The weather was foul and the seas icy. The ship, the Discovery, made its way through an icy passage known today as the Hudson Strait. (The strait is 450 miles of water separating northern Labrador from Baffin Island.) In August, he sighted a huge body of water that he mistakenly assumed was the Pacific Ocean. This body of water was in fact a large bay later named the Hudson Bay. While exploring, the bay became very icy (in fact it is ice nine months of the year). By November, the ship was frozen in. With dwindling food supplies, Hudson's crew grew increasingly angry, ill, and frozen. Mutiny was on every crewmember's mind. When the ship was freed by melting ice, Hudson opted to continue sailing westward. By June 1611, the crew did indeed mutiny. They forced Hudson, his son, and sick and loyal sailors in a small boat. They were never heard from again. Only a handful of sailors made it back to England aboard the Discovery. They were not punished for the mutiny.

See Henry Hudson's Voyages.