Henry Hudson

(d. 1611) explorer

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(b. c.1565, d. after June 1611),

English navigator and explorer, first heard of in 1607 when he made the first of two voyages for the English Muscovy Company seeking a route to China initially by way of the North Pole. When that proved impossible, he tried by way of a North-East Passage (see exploration by sea). Following the east coast of Greenland northwards, he was met by the ice barrier, which he sailed along as far as Spitsbergen before turning for home. On his homeward passage he discovered the island later called Jan Mayen.

On his second voyage he followed the track of the Dutch navigator Willem Barents, again seeking a North-East Passage, but failed to find any way through the ice in the Barents Sea. At the end of 1608 he was invited to undertake a similar search on behalf of the Dutch East India Company for a passage to China either by the north-west or north-east; and in April 1609 he sailed from the Texel in the Half Moon, reaching the Barents Sea again by 5 May. Frustrated once more by impenetrable ice, Hudson persuaded his crew to follow an alternative proposal to cross the Atlantic to North Virginia and seek a North-West Passage, believed by some to exist in latitude 40° N.

Reaching Virginia on 28 August, he coasted north, entered New York Bay, and sailed 240 kilometres (150 mls.) up the river that now bears his name and, from his observations, proved that it was not a strait as some had believed. Returning to Europe, the Half Moon put in at Dartmouth where Hudson was forbidden to give his services again to the Dutch.

Still confident in the existence of a North-West Passage, Hudson sailed again on 17 April 1610 in the 55-ton Discovery, reaching the strait since known by his name and sailing on entered Hudson Bay on 3 August. After three months spent examining the eastern shore of the Bay, the Discovery went into winter quarters in the south-west corner of James Bay, remaining frozen in until the spring. Hardship and privation led to discontent among the crew and finally to a mutiny. It was led by Hudson's worthless protégé Henry Green, who had Hudson and others, some of them sick, set adrift in a boat before sailing for England on 22 June 1611.

On the way Green and several others were killed in a fight with the Inuit; others died before the ship reached England in September, and the survivors were imprisoned. No evidence of Hudson's fate has ever been discovered.

Asher, G. M., Henry Hudson the Navigator (1860).Powys, L., Henry Hudson (1927).

Subjects: Maritime History.

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