Many explorers crossed the expansive Atlantic Ocean to look for the elusive Northwest Passage to Asia. There had to be a way to get to the East quicker than going around the tip of Africa or across the Middle East where traders were exposed to attacks and taxes. European countries sent explorer after explorer looking for it. Someone was bound to find it. One of the most determined was Henry Hudson.
Little Do We Really Know
Most things written about a famous person would give a little of their background so that the reader understood where the subject really came from. To be honest, it cannot be done for Hudson. There is virtually nothing known about his life before he was hired by England to look for the Northwest Passage. Since he was such a great sailor and navigator, more than likely he spent many years on ships and even could have started out as a cabin boy as many sailors did. But we can only assume.
It was in 1607 that Henry Hudson enters the public eye and begins his journey in making history. Under the English flag, Hudson sailed around Greenland looking for a way to Asia. They discovered many bays, islands, and land that we now call Greenland, but no passage. His way was blocked by ice which prompted him to return home with no news of discovery.
The very next year, Hudson was sent out again to see what he could find.Maybe if he varied his path just a little, he would find the much sought after path. What he found was more ice.
The routes that the English company directed him to take were going north hoping to bypass the New World. What they did not understand was how the world was laid out and the amount of ice that was immovable. Everyone thought that it was a small amount land that stood between them. They had no idea that it nearly reached from pole to pole.
The English got frustrated and did not send Hudson out the next year. They moved on to others who they hoped would be successful. Instead, the Dutch picked him up and sent him north again. Not surprisingly he found ice. Taking matters into his own hands, he decided to take a more logical approach and headed west toward the New World. This time he found no ice.
What he did find was current day Nova Scotia. From the natives living in the area, he learned that there was a route west through the vast land mass. What Hudson did not realize was that the natives just knew that the bodies of water went on for a long distance. They did not travel the entire way to the west coast to realize that the Great Lakes was not the much sought after Northwest Passage.
He continued on and began exploring a river that we now call the Hudson River. It was large and moved deep inland, giving him the hope that he had found the passage across the ‘small’ landmass. He proceeded up as far as present day Albany, New York. Not finding the passage, he did take advantage of what he did find and laid claim to the land for the Dutch. Now the English didn’t have as much rights as they thought.
Back to the English and Square One
The next time Hudson went out he was back under the English flag. While, he had not found the passage, he had found land and resources that he gave to the Dutch. The English wanted it all. He went back to the areas where he did not find any ice and took to further exploring the area. Finding the Hudson Bay, he just knew that he found what he was looking for. Taking time to explore the area and make maps showed him that he had missed the mark again. Before he could leave and head home, winter set in, and ice embraced the boat.
Throughout the winter the crew lived off the land and prepared for the spring thaw. Once it arrived, Hudson was ready to continue exploring. Most of the crew thought differently. They took Hudson, his son, a few other sailors and put them off in a boat with a few supplies. Upon returning home, they were arrested for murder. The last of Henry Hudson ever seen was sitting in a small boat in the wake of his ship and crew. Whether he died that year or managed to live a few decades in the new land is unknown.
Though Hudson was never seen again, his discoveries were extremely important for the English and the Dutch. Land was discovered and claimed. Resources were made available to the Europeans. We still remember him with our Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay. His name lives on in the land he literally died for.