Houghton Mifflin English

Research Report

Henry Hudson

By Angelica L.

Why do some people go on long, risky journeys just to discover something new? Some great explorers were inspired by the talk of riches. By contrast, others just loved adventure and seeing unfamiliar places. One such explorer is known for his great passion for sailing. This explorer is well known by people everywhere as Henry Hudson.

Hudson's early life is a little mysterious, but it is agreed that he was born in the 1570s, possibly in Hodderson, Hertfordshire, England. As a young man, he may have worked in London at the Muscovy Company, a trading firm in which his family had shares. He married a woman named Katherine and had three sons, John, Richard, and Oliver.

It is possible that Hudson fought with the English against the Spanish Armada in 1588. Some historians believe that he had sailed to the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and Africa in order to get gold, ivory, and spices in exchange for steel axes. Whatever the case, he was an experienced sailor by the time he went on the first of his four important voyages of discovery.

The first of these trips was organized by the Muscovy Company in 1607. Hudson's job was to find a northwest passage that would allow Europeans to travel to China and India by way of the North Pole. At the time it was not known that this area is blocked by ice. Many explorers were interested in finding such a route by sailing northwest, northeast, or just north. Hudson was chosen as captain of the ship Hopewell, and with a crew of ten and his son John, he set out from England. The ship got as far as Greenland and then the Spitzbergen Islands, which lie about 700 miles from the North Pole. This was the farthest north that any European had ever traveled. Hudson wanted to keep going, but there was too much ice. He had to turn around and go back to England.

Later, in 1608, Hudson sailed again. This time he tried for a northeast passage to Asia, sailing past Norway and getting as far as Novaya Zemlya, a group of islands north of Russia. Huge chunks of ice kept the crew from going farther, so they returned to England. These failed voyages caused Hudson's English sponsors to lose interest in finding a northern passage to Asia.

Hudson's third voyage was backed by the Dutch. Starting in Holland in 1609, he first sailed north toward Norway, still looking for a northeast passage. Then he changed course and crossed the Atlantic Ocean. His ship was called the Half Moon. With his crew of twenty, he arrived in North America. There he explored the east coast, including the places now called Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the Hudson River. He noted that the harbor now called New York Harbor was excellent.

After his third voyage, Hudson had a falling out with the Dutch sponsors. In 1610, he began another trip for English sponsors, on the ship Discovery. This was another attempt to find a northwest passage. Hudson and his crew sailed to Labrador and then into the bodies of water now called Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay. Henry Hudson hoped that the bay would prove to be a path to the Far East. However, months of difficult exploration, rough weather, and no end in sight caused Hudson's crew to turn against him. In June 1611, some of them mutinied. They put Hudson, Hudson's son John, and seven loyal crew members into a boat and set them adrift. The men were never seen again, and the mutineers returned to England.

Henry Hudson's voyages had many interesting results. On his first voyage, his crew had spotted many whales. This led to the beginning of the whaling industry, which continued for hundreds of years. The English based their claim to the lands of the Hudson Bay region on Hudson's voyage there. Similarly, many Dutch people came to what is now the New York area because they believed Hudson claimed it for them during his third voyage. The Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay were all named for Henry Hudson. This strong, courageous captain loved sailing, and though he never fulfilled his dream of finding a northern passage to Asia, he is still recognized and appreciated for his great effort.


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