Henry Hudson

Henry HudsonA headstrong adventurer and explorer, Henry Hudson undertook four major expeditions in his lifetime that would guide his followers through the New World. In his search for a passage from Europe to the Orient, Hudson inadvertently drew European attention to the vast resources of North America and helped set the stage for a century of exploration.

In his youth, Hudson studied navigation and spent time with fishermen and others whose livelihoods came from the sea. His navigational skills became so well recognized that, in 1607, the English Muscovy Company took him at his word that there was an ice-free sea that would lead from Europe to China and financed an expedition. Hudson sailed north until he reached icy seas and the Svalbard archipelago. A year later, a voyage to the islands of Novaya Zemlya, located in the Arctic Ocean north of Russia, was also set back by ice fields.

Hudson undertook a third northeast voyage in 1609 for the Dutch East India Company. While he received orders and supplies in Amsterdam, he heard rumors of a northwest route to the Pacific through North America. When his northeast path was again blocked by ice, Hudson ignored his agreement to return to Holland and sailed west toward the New World. Months later, Hudson found a large waterway in what is now New York — the modern-day Hudson River — that he thought could be his ticket west, but he concluded near present-day Albany that the river would not take him to the Pacific.

Hudson was intercepted at a British port on his way back to Amsterdam and told to cease his work for the Dutch. He was commissioned by the British East India Company to sail further north than his last voyage, in an area earlier explorers said could hold the key to the fabled Northwest passage. In 1610, Hudson sailed through the strait that now bears his name and into the giant Hudson Bay. Hugging the bay's eastern coast, Hudson sailed deep into its southernmost extremities, spending months sailing aimlessly through its vast expanse. With winter setting in and no passage to the Pacific in sight, Hudson's crew grew restless. They grew weary of prodding the North American coast, and suspected their captain of hoarding rations. Finally, fed up with Hudson's leadership, the crew mutinied in 1611, forcing the explorer, his son, and those sick with scurvy onto a small lifeboat and setting them adrift in the bay. Hudson's crew returned to England, but Hudson was never heard from again.

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