Henry Hudson

View of the Hudson River from Midtown
Manhattan - Javitts Convention Center in the
foreground - New Jersey Shore and Palasades
in the background
 
HENRY HUDSON
Little is know of Henry Hudson’s Early Life. An English Captain, he made some voyages for the English crown.
 
In 1609 the Dutch East India Company, which had a monopoly on trade with the Orient and which wanted to shorten the lengthy and expensive voyage around the Cape of Good Hope, hired Hudson to renew the attempt on its behalf. They provided him with an 80-ton ship, the "Half Moon," and a crew of 20 -- a combination of Dutch and English sailors.
 
The "Half Moon" sailed out of Amsterdam on April 4 or 6, and after a difficult journey along the coast of Norway and as far east as the bleak coast of Novaya Zemlya, turned west and headed for warmer climes. Reports claim that Hudson had a trying time with the crew, which threatened to mutiny, but persuaded them to help seek the alternative route to the lucrative spices.
 
The quest for the North-West passage led first to the coast of Maine where members of the crew went ashore and cut timber to replace the mast of the "Half Moon." They fished and traded with the Native Americans but continued south to the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. After Hudson decided they weren't entrances to the passage he was seeking, the "Half Moon" sailed north to the mouth of the Hudson River in early September.
 
Drawing of the lower Hudson Bay
 
An Italian, Giovanni da Verranzano, (Verranzano Narrows and Bridge are named for him) was the first recorded European to discover the mouth of the river when he was sailing for the French in 1524. He wrote, "we found a very pleasant situation amongst some steep hills ... ," but did not continue exploring what he called, "The River of the Steep Hills" and the "Grand River."
 
On September 12, 1609, Hudson began his exploration of the river. The first night he anchored off the northern tip of Manhattan Island. The next night, after the crew traded for oysters with Native Americans, the ship was near Yonkers.
 
On September 14 Hudson thought he may have found the long-sought passage when he saw the wide Tappan Zee but he later became disappointed when he reached the shallower area near Albany and turned back.
 
The journal of one of the ship's officers, Robert Juet, was published in England in 1625. It notes, "the 14th, in the morning, being very fair weather, the wind southeast, we sailed up the river 12 leagues ... The river is full of fish."
 
Unfortunately, it is presumed that Hudson's relevant logs were amongst the property of the Dutch East and West India Companies which was sold at auction by the Dutch government in 1821. An attempt by the New York State Legislature to find them in 1841 led the state's agent, John Romeyn Brodhead, to declare, " ... the papers of the West India Company relating to New Netherland ... are now irrecoverably lost." One excerpt, also published in 1625, reports Hudson to have written about the area, "It is as pleasant a land as one can tread upon."
 
Hudson called the river the "River of Mountains" although the Native Americans, with whom the skipper and crew had considerable contact, called it "Muhheakunnuk" (great waters constantly in motion).
 
On October 2, as the "Half Moon" neared Manhattan, some Native Americans became hostile and Hudson ordered guns to be fired at them. Several were killed, and the event was remembered 15 years later when the Dutch came to settle in Manhattan in 1624.
 
The "Half Moon" left the river on October 4, sailed across the Atlantic and, according to Juet, "by the grace of God we safely arrived in the range of Dartmouth, in Devonshire," on Saturday, November 7.
 
Hudson and the English crew members were not permitted to leave England but eventually the "Half Moon" returned to Holland without them.
Hudson River - View from Riverside Park
George Washington Bridge
spanning the River Connecting the Bronx
and Upper Manhattan with New Jersey.
 
In the following year, Hudson made his final journey. A group of wealthy Londoners, who still believed there was a faster route to the east, sent Hudson off as captain of the "Discovery" to find a North-West passage.
 
He sailed north, via Iceland, into the Hudson Strait and from there into Hudson Bay, which also bears his name. The "Discovery" became trapped by ice in James Bay and was forced to winter over. During that time the crew quarreled and, finally, as the spring thaw began, they mutinied. The ring-leaders, Juet and Henry Greene, set Hudson, his son, and some other men adrift in a small open boat and they were never seen again.
 
Greene and three other mutineers were later killed by Eskimos and Juet died before the "Discovery," now captained by Robert Bylot, reached England.
 
The "Half Moon" did not fare much better. A few years later she was wrecked on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean while on a voyage to the Dutch East Indies.
 
The Hudson River in New York and New Jersey, explored by Hudson, is named for him, as are Hudson County, New Jersey, and Hudson, New York. In the Canadian Arctic, Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait, also discovered by Hudson, are named for him. He also appears as a mythic character in the famous story of Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving.
 
Henry Hudson, the English navigator, failed in his great quest to find an all-water route to the East, but was rewarded for his efforts by having a number of prominent North American geographic features named in his honor.
 
A few of the crew members eventually managed to return to Europe, but chose to go to England rather than Holland. They were never punished for their mutiny.
 
Henry Hudson established New World claims for the Dutch in what would become the New York area, and for the English in northern Canada.
 
 
 
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