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Henry Hudson

English Adventurer & Navigator

Born: c. 1565

Died: 1611

In his first two voyages, under the patronage of the Muscovy Company of London, Hudson tried to find a northeast passage to China. He first set sail in 1607 from England, reaching the east coast of Greenland and following the north coast to Spitzbergen (Svalbard). From there, he extended the earlier expeditions of William Barents. In his second voyage made in the following year, Hudson sailed northeast via the Islands of Novaya Zemla in the Barents Sea. His lack of success in finding a Northeast Passage led the Muscovy Company to discontinue their support and subsequently end their funding for his expeditions.

Hudson’s third voyage in 1609, under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company, began similarly to his previous expedition; Sailing though the icy seas of Novaya Zemla. As mutiny brewed amongst the crew (due largely to the extremely harsh weather/sailing conditions) he changed course and began to search for a Northwest passage, instead of the original goal of a northeast one. Using a map made by his friend John Smith of the Virginia colony, he sailed southwest across the Atlantic to explore the North American coast. He stopped in New Foundland, Maine and New York Bay, where he found a broad river that he followed to the present-day site of Albany, NY. This river had been discovered previously by Giovanni de Verrazano in 1524, but because of Hudson’s exploration, it became known as the “Hudson River.” Eventually, Hudson concluded that the river did not lead to the Pacific, and that he had failed to find the fabled northwestern sea route to China and Japan.

In his last voyage, made in 1610, Hudson spent three months exploring the Hudson Bay and James Bay regions, north of Canada, again looking for the northwest route to the orient. This third trip, like his second voyage, was being finance by English Sponsorship. Underway, however, the food shortages, harsh weather, and fears of becoming ice-locked as they sailed further and further west, all combined together and resulted in the crew’s eventual mutiny. They cast Hudson, his son, and a few crewmen adrift in Hudson Bay and returned to England. Hudson and his companions were never heard from again.

In the annals of History, Henry Hudson is remembered for his bravery in undertaking four dangerous voyages and withstanding horrific Arctic winters on unknown shores. He explored the previous explorations of Verrazano, Davis, and Barents, and his discoveries and explorations of the Hudson Bay and Hudson River were great contributions to the general geographical knowledge of the area. His discoveries were the basis for the Dutch colonization of the Hudson River and the English claims to a large part of Canada.

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