Henry Hudson (c. 1560/70s – 1611?) was an English sea explorer and navigator in the early 17th century. After several voyages on behalf of English merchants to explore a prospective Northeast Passage to India, Hudson explored the region around modern New York City while looking for a western route to Asia under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company. He explored the river which eventually was named for him, and laid thereby the foundation for Dutch colonization of the region.
Hudson discovered a strait and immense bay on his final expedition while searching for the Northwest Passage. In 1611, after wintering on the shore of James Bay, Hudson wanted to press on to the west, but most of his crew mutinied. The mutineers cast Hudson, his son and others adrift, and the Hudsons, and those cast off at their side, were never seen again.
Life and CareerEdit
Details of Hudson’s birth and early life are mostly unknown. Some sources have identified Hudson as having been born circa 1565, while others place it around 1570. Other historians assert even less certainty; Mancall, for instance, states that '[Hudson] was probably born in the 1560s,”while Pennington gives no date at all. Hudson is thought to have spent many years at sea, beginning as a cabin boy and gradually working his way up to ship's captain.
Hudson's alleged discovery of Jan MayenEdit
ording to Thomas Edge, "William Hudson" in 1608 discovered an island at 71° N and named it "Hudson's Tutches" (Touches). However, he only could have come across it in 1607 (if he had made an illogical detour) and made no mention of it in his journal.] There is also no cartographical proof of this supposed discovery. Jonas Poole in 1611 and Robert Fotherby in 1615 both had possession of Hudson's journal while searching for his elusive Hold-with-Hope (on the east coast of Greenland), but neither had any knowledge of his (later) alleged discovery of Jan Mayen. The latter actually found Jan Mayen, thinking it a new discovery and naming it "Sir Thomas Smith's Island".
When the ice cleared in the spring of 1611, Hudson planned to use his Discovery to further explore Hudson Bay with the continuing goal of discovering the Passage; however, most of the members of his crew ardently desired to return home. Matters came to a head and much of the crew mutinied in June.
Descriptions of the successful mutiny are one-sided, because the only survivors who could tell their story were the mutineers and those who went along with the mutiny. Allegedly in the latter class was ship's navigator Abacuk Pricket, a survivor who kept a journal that was to become a key source for the narrative of the mutiny. According to Pricket, the leaders of the mutiny were Henry Greene and Robert Juet. Pricket's narrative tells how the mutineers set Hudson, his teenage son John, and six crewmen— men who were either sick and infirm or loyal to Hudson—adrift from the Discovery in a smallshallop, an open boat, effectively marooning them in Hudson Bay. The Pricket journal reports that the mutineers provided the castaways with clothing, powder and shot, some pikes, an iron pot, some meal, and other miscellaneous items.
After the mutiny, Captain Hudson's shallop broke out oars and tried to keep pace with the Discovery for some time. Pricket recalled that the mutineers finally tired of the David-Goliath pursuit and unfurled additional sails aboard the Discovery, enabling the larger vessel to leave the tiny open boat behind. Hudson and the other seven aboard the shallop were never seen again, and their fate is not known.
Pricket's journal and testimony have been severely criticized for bias, on two grounds. Firstly, prior to the mutiny the alleged leaders of the uprising, Greene and Juet, had been friends and loyal seamen of Captain Hudson. Secondly, Greene and Juet did not survive the return voyage to England. Pricket knew he and the other survivors of the mutiny would be tried in England for piracy, and it would have been in his interest, and the interest of the other survivors, to put together a narrative that would place the blame for the mutiny upon men who were no longer alive to defend themselves.
In any case, the Pricket narrative became the controlling story of the expedition's disastrous end. Only 8 of the 13 mutinous crewmen survived to return to Europe. They were arrested in England, and some were indeed put on trial, but no punishment was ever imposed for the mutiny. One theory holds that the survivors were considered too valuable as sources of information for it to be wise to execute them, as they had traveled to the New World and could describe sailing routes and conditions. Perhaps for this reason, they were charged withmurder—of which they were acquitted—rather than mutiny, of which they most certainly would have been convicted and executed.
The gulf or bay discovered by Hudson is twice the size of the Baltic Sea, and its many large estuaries afford access to otherwise landlocked parts of Western Canada and the Arctic. This allowed the Hudson's Bay Company to exploit a lucrative fur trade along its shores for more than two centuries, growing powerful enough to influence the history and presentinternational boundaries of Western North America. Hudson Strait became the entrance to the Arctic for all ships engaged in the search for the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic side.
The Hudson River in New York and New Jersey, explored earlier by Hudson, is named after him, as are Hudson County, New Jersey, the Henry Hudson Bridge, and the town of Hudson, New York. He, along with his marooned crewmates, also appear as mythic characters in the famous story of Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving.