Henry Hudson - Explorer

Not much is known of Henry Hudson's life before he began his quest to find the northern trade route, but he accomplished more in four years than most do in a lifetime.

Much of English explorer Henry Hudson's life is a mystery, but the years 1607 - 1611 are certainly notable. During those four years, Hudson left his mark on North America and the world, with such importance that three waterways are now named for him. His tireless quest to forge new trade routes culminated in him losing his life, but gaining posterity for all time.

In 1607, Henry Hudson (whose age at that time is unknown) was hired by English traders who called themselves the Muscovy Company. The Muscovy Company did extensive trading with Asia, and were hampered by the amount of time it took to travel between these distant countries. Convinced that there was indeed a route that could save them both time and money, they hired the explorer, Henry Hudson.

Hudson's job then was to find a northern waterway route from England to Asia. It was widely assumed at that time that Asia could actually be reached by sailing north, although geographers were not sure of the exact route, and whether Hudson should veer northeast, northwest, or due north.

It was believed that once he found and reported back the correct route, trade would be greatly eased between England and the Orient. (Unbeknownst to the explorer was the fact that the North Pole would forever hamper all of their best thought out plans.)

Hudson brought a crew of ten men (which included his son John) and set out on the voyage, traveling northeast and hugging the coast of Greenland. Landing at the islands known as Spitsbergen, they were amazed at the huge quantity of whales they observed in the area. Unfortunately for the exploration, Hudson and his crew were very close to the North Pole and quickly realized that they could travel no further as huge chunks of ice in this area hindered further travel. They decided to return to England feeling quite victorious in their quest. Indeed, they had traveled farther than any explorer had ventured before, and their reports of whales piqued the interest of both English and Dutch whalers. These whalers wasted no time returning to Spitsbergen and it quickly became a successful whaling area.

The following year, Hudson attempted once again to find the northern route to the Orient, but was again dogged by the cold and ice. The Muscovy Company ceased further funding for Hudson's explorations, basically losing faith that he would ever find what they were looking for.

It didn't take long for another trading company to sponsor the tireless Henry Hudson. The Dutch East India Company provided him with a ship and a crew the following year, and Hudson once again set off in search of an efficient trade route between the two areas. Frustrated once again, the explorer found very cold weather. With a disgruntled crew aboard, he wisely decided to change his course. This time Hudson traveled in a southeasterly direction, sailing along the eastern coast of North America and into what is now known as the Hudson River. He retreated from the river and returned to Holland, where the excited Dutch East India Company provided him with yet another ship and crew.

Hudson decided to take a different sailing route this time: passing the southern tip of Greenland and then turning into what is now the Hudson Bay. This particular part of North America has no exit: the Hudson Bay funnels into the James Bay and then pushes into land except at the narrow northern entrance. Hudson and his crew found themselves basically stuck, and beached themselves rather than continue to search for an outlet that Hudson insisted must be there. The explorer and his crew were forced to stay in this area throughout the extremely cold winter which is still typical of the upstate New York-area of the United States. The men suffered enormously from the cold and lack of food, and became very sick and angry, blaming Hudson for their misery and lack of success with the mission. At the end of the winter, all but seven of the crew decided to mutiny. Hudson urged them to reconsider, telling them that he was still sure that there was a western outlet at the lower tip of the James Bay. Extremely upset with Hudson and the failed mission the majority of the crew would hear none of it. They placed Hudson, his son, and the seven loyal crew members on a small boat and pushed it into the Bay, challenging them to find the elusive exit. Hudson and the other eight men were never seen or heard from again.

Henry Hudson's legacy is his unwavering desire to find the trade route. Where did he get this tenacity, and it is indeed unfortunate that more is not known of his early life. The Hudson River, Hudson Bay, and Hudson Strait are all named for the brave and selfless explorer, Henry Hudson.

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