Henry Hudson was a navigator and an explorer, born in England in the mid-16th century, he led four explorations hoping to find a Northern passage to the extremely profitable islands of the Pacific. Sailing via the South Hemisphere took too long and could be dangerous, if an alternative route was found it could be controlled by whatever nation discovered it, making the possibility very desirable to the English and the Dutch.
In May 1607 with backing from The Muscovy Company, Hudson departed London on board the Hopewell, he and his crew set out to reach their destination via the North Pole. Hudson was the first explorer to test the Northern route, he returned disappointed after encountering frozen sea.
Hudson convinced The Muscovy Company to finance another voyage, he believed if he sailed above Scandinavia and along the top of Russia an opening would present itself that would lead him to the Pacific. In April 1608 Hudson his crew on board the Hopewell left London, however upon reaching Nova Zembla it soon became clear they would experience the same problem Hudson did in the first voyage, ice! Hudson decided to head west, originally to North America to seek a Western passage, but after a near mutiny the Hopewell returned to London. Hudson requested sponsorship for a new venture but due to rumours of the near mutiny on board his ship and his detour to the West nobody would sponsor him.
Hudson soon became an interest of the Dutch East India Company, they knew of his past voyages and needed a man of his experience, if anyone could find a new route to the Pacific they believed it was him. Much to Hudson’s annoyance the Dutch insisted on heading east, Hudson agreed and set sail in April 1609 with a new crew and a new ship the Half Moon. They reached Murmansk Russia by May, however Hudson soon found himself surrounded by ice so he decided to try the Western passage again. The Half Moon arrived in present day Maine July 1609, Hudson sailed south and entered both present day Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay, after some exploring he decided neither were the passage to the Pacific. On September 11th he sailed the Half Moon into what we today call the Hudson River,
In 1609 what was Manhattan like? Well according to Dr Eric Sanderson, The harbour was blue, filled with an abundance of fish, porpoises and maybe even whales, Streams flowed down the green island into the Hudson river, American chestnuts filled half of the island, wildlife such as mountain lions, black bears and wolves roamed freely and of course the Native American Lenape people lived on Manhattan Island.
By the time Hudson reached present day Albany he came to the conclusion that he had not found the passage to the Pacific, Hudson turned his ship around and returned 150 miles to the mouth of the river. Hudson and his men traded with local Native Americans, there were also skirmishes which resulted in unnecessarily deaths. Instead of returning to Amsterdam Hudson sailed to Dartmouth, England arriving in November 1609. In England rumours begun to surface about the new world discoveries Hudson had encountered such as beaver furs, his maps and logbooks were consequently seized by the English. In secret Hudson handed over copies to the Dutch who were the rightful owners of this information, soon a passage to the Pacific was all but forgotten, Dutch merchants were now interested in the lucrative fur trade this new land offered. Read more here in my New Netherland post.
Hudson was funded by an English consortium and set sail in April 1610 on board The Discovery, after five months of sailing they arrived in present day Hudson Bay Canada. Hudson believed he had finally found the passage to the Pacific (this is understandable Hudson Bay Canada is huge) however instead of sailing west he sailed south (I know it doesn’t make sense right!) By September Hudson had led his crew 610 miles into the southern tip of the Bay (present day) James Bay, it was so cold the water froze over. Finally in May 1611 the ice broke and by June there was a mutiny. Henry Hudson his son and those who were too ill to travel back to Europe were cast adrift, what happened to him is unknown. Few of the mutineers made it back to England, but once they did they faced charges as Mutiny was illegal. They claimed to have found the passage to the Pacific and their lives were spared. But in 1612 a new expedition exposed the truth, there was no passage.
Henry Hudson died unaware of the new world he helped discover and create.
(Source, History Channel – Conquest of America & PBS – Dutch New York) (I made the maps myself from a world map template)
I visited the USA recently and we stayed in New York for a few days, I tried to read and watch as much as I could about the history of the city before we arrived. I read about how New York was once a Dutch colony and was then called New Amsterdam. Recently I wrote up a post about the subject, after investigating the topic deeper I discovered Henry Hudson and his voyages, I discovered the Anglo-Dutch wars, and I rediscovered Oliver Cromwell, Charles I & II and the English Civil war.
I am enjoying learning about this period and I will hopefully soon put that post up about what happened when those Dutch merchants set up a colony on Manhattan.