Henry Hudson was an early-seventeenth-century English explorer who captained four voyages in search of a shorter passage to the Far East. Very little
is known about Hudson’s early life. He was most likely born in the 1560s or 1570s to a London family that possibly owned shares in the Muscovy
From his youth to the command of his first voyage in 1607, Hudson probably worked aboard a variety of ships, where he gained important maritime
experience, which fueled his rise through the ranks to commander. From 1607 to 1611, Hudson commanded four voyages, three for England and one for
Hudson’s first command was for the ship Hopewell of the Muscovy Company. It appears that in this period, Hudson was an acquaintance of Richard
Hakluyt, who recommended his abilities to the company. The goal was to discover a Northwest Passage that could expedite the voyage from Europe to
the Far East, ensuring a constant, and quicker, flow of profitable spices, silks, and other commodities to Europe. Hudson believed, as did others in
Europe, that if they sailed far enough north, the temperature would increase and the icepack would disappear.
The Hopewell left England in April but had problems with the ship’s compass, which many of the crew perceived as a bad omen. By June, they had
reached the Greenland coast and then began their voyage back to England.
In April 1608, the Hopewell, again commanded by Hudson, sailed from England. Instead of resuming the search for a Northwest Passage, the Hopewell
sailed in search of a northeast route around the icepack. The Hopewell made it north of modern Norway, where the crew and captain believed they
spotted a mermaid. But by August, the crew was becoming restless. To avoid a mutiny, Hudson agreed to return to England. On his return, the Muscovy
Company was dissatisfied with the results of Hudson’s two voyages and decided not to give him command of another.
The Dutch East India Company had heard of Hudson’s voyages and his abilities, however, and its leaders started to negotiate with him to command one
of their vessels in the continued search for a shorter route to the Far East. Hudson accepted, and, in April 1609, the Half Moon(De Halve Maen, in
Dutch) sailed from the Netherlands.
When no northeast route was found, Hudson decided, and the crew concurred, to search for a Northwest Passage. In July, the Half Moon arrived at
Newfoundland, where Hudson set foot upon American soil for the first time. The members of this expedition then continued south and, by early August,
had arrived at Cape Cod. They continued on to Delaware Bay and, by September, had turned north again and were near Sandy Hook. The Half Moon
expedition then sailed up what came to be known as the Hudson River, still in hopes of discovering a Northwest Passage. After 150 miles, they decided
that it was a false lead and began their return voyage.
Hudson, as an employee of a Dutch company, claimed much of the land he encountered for the Netherlands. His voyage and land claims set the
foundations for the Dutch colony of New Netherland. In November, Hudson decided to land in England rather then continue to the Netherlands, but he
encountered problems in England because of his service to a foreign state. Hudson was able to avoid serious punishment for his Dutch voyage, and, in
1610, he sailed under the British flag on the Discovery.
On his final voyage, Hudson entered into what would become Hudson Bay and explored it, again in search of the elusive Northwest Passage. Because of
the extended time spent exploring, the Discovery wintered in the bay. It was a harsh winter for the crew; by spring, the men were ready to return to
England, but Hudson wanted to remain and continue his search. With this, the crew mutinied. Hudson, his son, and a few crewmen were placed in a boat
and set adrift. They were never seen again.
Hudson’s fame continues today mainly because of the importance of the bay and river that carry his name. While his voyages provided some land claims
for the English in the Americas, his one non-English voyage allowed the Dutch to create an important early settlement in North America.
Ty M. Reese
See also: Canada; Exploration; Hudson River.
Saffer, Barbara. Henry Hudson: Ill-Fated Explorer of North America’s Coast. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001.Henry Hudson – Explorer | Getty Images Ltf
Henry Hudson Stock Photos & Henry Hudson Stock Images – Alamy Ltf
Henry Hudson Ltf
Henry Hudson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Ltf
Henry Hudson | English navigator and explorer | Britannica.com Ltf
U.S. Timeline: 1609 – Henry Hudson explores New York Bay Ltf
Sources and Links to information about Henry Hudson Ltf
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