Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Henry Hudson: Part 3

             Henry Hudson sailed on one final voyage sponsored once again by the British Muscovy Company who had decided it was acceptable to search for a northwest passage. This time Hudson sailed along the coast of Iceland, following George Weymouth’s maps. Hudson left London on the Discovery in April of 1611 with twenty-two crewmen, including his young son John. During this voyage, Hudson’s attempts to find the passage he so desperately sought were not forthcoming. He and his crew spent a dismal winter just south of Hudson Bay in James Bay with their ship trapped in the ice. Spirits slackened, the food ran low and Hudson’s crew began to complain about the length of the journey and Hudson’s seeming inability to command his ship. The crew became more discouraged and Hudson became more anxious to find a passage to Asia.  He continued to suggest that in the spring they resume their search so as not to return to England unsuccessful.
            Once the ice began to thaw in June 1611, the crew of the Discovery mutinied against Hudson. They tied him up and coerced him and several of his crew, including the sick to board a small, light sailboat – a shallop – that belonged to the Discovery, without giving them any food, drink, extra clothing, fire, or other necessities. The insubordinate crew pushed the shallop off into the large unexplored bay that would one day carry Hudson’s name. “The haunting image of Hudson, his son, and the other men, huddled together in the shallop condemned to a slow and agonizing death, ranks as one of the most tragic and despairing scenes in the annals of maritime history” (Dolin, 23).            
            Although Henry Hudson disappeared without fanfare, his explorations led to global success. The results of his exploration of the Hudson River established one of the early bridges between Europe and North America. Though deeply disappointed that the Hudson River was not a passage to eastern trade, Hudson’s discovery set into motion, major changes in the Hudson Valley that directly related to global trade.  The resulting establishment of the Dutch colony of New Netherland was a connection between the Dutch Republic and the New World.

Dolin, Eric Jay. Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.


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