Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Henry Hudson: Part 1

            Henry Hudson made four voyages in search of a northern passage to the lucrative ports of Asia to increase the efficiency of global trade at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Though he studied, labored and prepared, Hudson never achieved this goal. However, as a result of Hudson’s exploration of the North River (present-day Hudson River) and the subsequent establishment of the Dutch colony of New Netherland (present-day New York) a unique avenue of intercontinental trade opened up between New Netherland, the Dutch Republic and the world.
            In 1569, the mapmaker Gerardus Mercator published an atlas of the Arctic and described three potential water routes from Europe to the East by traversing the Arctic regions of the globe. First, Mercator suggested one could “sail straight over the pole and down the other side into the Pacific.” His second option included “sailing northeast by Novaya Zemlya, over Russia, and into the Pacific.” The final speculation included sailing to the northwest and then follow one of two possible paths to the Pacific. A fourth option, not mentioned by Mercator but discussed by other explorers of the time, incorporated a “possible [water] route through the North American continent.”
            Mercator’s Arctic maps were the focus of discovery during Hudson’s life for finding a possible route to the East Indies. Hudson determined to explore Mercator’s three Arctic routes as well as a idea of a possible northwestern route, To accomplish this, he organized and carried out four radical voyages in only four years—an impressive accomplishment even by modern standards. This astounding feat required Hudson to raise the funds, recruit the crew, provision the ships, and plan the route for these voyages in a very short period.
            Henry Hudson gained his first sponsor for exploration from a Russian trading business, the Muscovy Company. On his first voyage in 1607, while sailing for the British with the financial support of the Muscovy Company, Hudson attempted to follow Mercator’s proposed routes of navigating over the top of the world to the East Indies. As Hudson and his crew sailed on their ship, the Hopewell, they soon discovered the carefully studied maps to be incorrect; there was no river running across the North Pole in the summer. Hudson was halted by ice and forced to end his voyage. He returned to England in September of that same year.
            Hudson’s second voyage, much the same as the first, found him sponsored once again by the Muscovy Company, sailing in the same ship and again looking for a northeastern passage to the Orient. Hudson, a capable sea captain could not sail through the waters around the islands of Novaya Zemlya because of ice, which blocked the ship’s path. Because of his failure to find any significant paths to successful global trade, the Muscovy Company lost interest in Hudson.
[1]  Corey Sandler, Henry Hudson: Dreams and Obsession, (New York: Citadel Press Books, 2007), xii-xiii.
[1] Russian Company, August 2007, in Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, http://www.history.ac.uk/gh/russia.htm  s.v. “Muscovy Company” (accessed 28 December 2010).


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