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Henry Hudson

explorer and namesake of a river, a strait, and a bay

Henry Hudson

Little is known about Henry Hudson's life prior to his voyages of discovery.

First and Second Voyages

In 1607, the Muscovy Company, an English trading firm, hired Hudson to find a northern sea route to Asia (the so-called Northwest Passage). Hudson set out from England in a ship called the Hopewell with his young son John and a crew of 10 men. He sailed northeast along the coast of Greenland and reached Spitsbergen, about 700 miles from the North Pole, but huge ice floes forced him to return to England. His report of seeing many whales in the northern waters led to English and Dutch whaling near Spitsbergen.

In 1608, Hudson made another attempt to find a northern route, but ice again blocked the Hopewell.

Third Voyage

After Hudson's failure to find a Northwest Passage, the Muscovy Company lost interest in further attempts. But, in 1609, the Dutch East India Company hired Hudson to lead an expedition. The company gave him a ship, the Half Moon, and a crew of 18 men. After sailing down the east coast of North America to what is now Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, he turned back north and briefly explored Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay. He then traveled up what became known as the Hudson River to the site of present-day Albany, New York, before returning to the Netherlands. The Netherlands based its claims to what is now the Hudson River Valley (including New York City) on Hudson's exploration of the river.

Fourth Voyage

In 1610 a group of English merchants formed a company that provided Hudson with a ship called the Discovery. Hudson crossed the Atlantic and arrived just off the eastern coast of Labrador. From there the Discovery reached a body of rough water we now know as the Hudson Strait, which in turn led into what is now called Hudson Bay. Hudson thought he had finally reached the Pacific Ocean and sailed south into what is now James Bay, but failed to find an outlet at its southern end. Ice forced the men to spend the winter there, and Hudson and his crew suffered severely from cold, hunger, and disease.

In the spring of 1611, Hudson intended to search for a western outlet from James Bay. But the crew mutinied and set Hudson adrift in a small boat with his son and seven loyal crewmen. Hudson and his party were never seen again. The mutineers sailed back to England, and their report gave continued hope that a Northwest Passage existed. England based its claim to the vast Hudson Bay region on Hudson's voyage, and subsequent exploration of the region led to the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670. No record survives to suggest that the mutineers themselves were ever punished for their actions.

map of Henry Hudson's two voyages to North America


The World Book Encyclopedia Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International, Inc., 1979

See Also

Northwest Passage
Albany, New York
Hudson's Bay Company

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The Robinson Library >> Discovery of America and Early Explorations

This page was last updated on 08/28/2018.