Saturday, February 19, 2011

Henry Hudson: Part 2

            As Henry Hudson sought support for a third sea voyage, he approached Holland’s Dutch East India Company and found them anxious to employ him to find a northeast passage to the Asia.  Being acquainted with other ocean explorers of the time, Hudson had a particular interested in the voyages of John Smith of the Virginia Company and George Weymouth who had both explored the coast of Maine. Their findings led Hudson to believe a passage to the Orient could actually lie somewhere along the eastern coast of the New World.
            The Dutch East India Company still supposed that a northeastern passage was the only way to get to the Orient, even though evidences were beginning to show otherwise. They may have sensed Hudson’s misgiving about the route he planned to take as they gave him orders “to think of discovering no other routes or passages” besides a northeastern one (Asher, 245). Henry Hudson set out from Amsterdam on April 4, 1609 and sailed under the Dutch flag in his new ship, the eighty-five foot Halve Maen along with a crew of sixteen members, part of them Dutch and the others English. Hudson accepted the assignment from the Dutch East India Company to find a northeast passage but had no confidence in its existence.            
            After a month on the sea, just off the northern coast of Russia, the Halve Maen ran into a sea of ice and could go no further. Hudson used the predicament to persuade his crew to seek out a northwestern passage instead. Hudson selected a westerly current and crossed the Atlantic literally thousands of miles in the opposite direction of his original orders. Before long he had reached the North American coast, near Newfoundland, a destination contemplated by him for sometime, and his first attempt at a northwest passage.
            On September 11, 1609 the Halve Maen sailed “between two headlands, and entered . . . into as fine a river as can be found, wide and deep, with good anchoring ground on both sides” (Van Meteren, 7). It took Hudson and his crew just over a week to sail the 150 miles up the Hudson River to present day Albany, New York. On the 19th of September, the Halve Maen halted where the river narrowed and the ship could go no further, a definite sign that Hudson had once again been unsuccessful at finding a passage to Asia. With this gloomy realization the Halve Maen turned around and sailed southward, back down the river and to the ocean. Hudson noted the possibilities for trade that existed with the natives of the Hudson Valley, and the wide river with a convenient harbor, but went home disappointed because he had not achieved his desired goal. A direct result of Hudson’s interactions with the Mohawk Indians and his exploration up the Hudson River ushered in a global economy in the Hudson River Valley which ultimately led to the alteration of the New York area into one of the world’s greatest trade and industrial capitals.
            Hudson and his crew returned to England’s Dartmouth Harbor from their voyage on November 7, 1609 where English authorities immediately apprehended him, for not serving his own country but exploring for England’s bitter enemy, the Dutch Republic. It was not until July 1610 that Hudson, his crew, logbooks, notes and charts returned to Amsterdam. At the examination of these items, the fact that Hudson did not find a northeast passage was obscured by the realization that he discovered and mapped a waterway for the Dutch in the New World. The interest of the Dutch East India Company was piqued at Hudson’s reports of the Natives who made promises of many skins, furs, and many other commodities. The Dutch Republic soon sent out ships to begin trading furs with the Mohawk tribes of the North River, thus beginning the Dutch’s involvement with global trade on the North American continent.


Asher, G.M.  Henry Hudson the Navigator: The Original Documents in Which His Career is Recorded. New York: Cosimo Inc., 2009.

Van Meteren, Emanuel. “On Hudson’s Voyage,” in Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1664, ed. J. Franklin Jameson. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909.