From Scientific American Article (25 September 2009) posted on the Hudson River Maritime Museum Web Site, retrieved 27 Feb 2008
September 25, 1909
From Saturday, September 25, to Monday, October 11, 1909, the State of New York commemorated the 300th anniversary of the discovery of the Hudson River by Henry Hudson in 1609 and the 100th anniversary of the first successful application of steam to navigation upon that River by Robert Fulton in 1807. Scientific American, a magazine of technology and progress, published a special edition to commemorate this celebration. The following article is taken from that edition of the Scientific American.
The name of Hudson has been given to the Hudson River, not by any means because he was its original discoverer, but because he was the first navigator to explore the river throughout its navigable length, and leave behind a detailed account of his voyage. It will therefore be fitting to preface the present record of Hudson’s voyage by a brief reference to the discoveries of earlier explorers.
Early Explorers of the Hudson River
After the return to Spain of the remnant of Magellan’s expedition in 1522, it began to be well understood in Europe that a vast ocean must separate the New World and Asia; and the early navigators forthwith began to search for some route by which they could avoid the long journey from Europe to Asia by way of the southern seas, and find a direct route in more northerly latitudes.
The explorers sought eagerly for a northwest passage, gradually laying their courses farther and farther up among the ice floes of the Arctic regions. The eastern coast of North America was carefully searched, and the tiny caravels of those days were sailed into the mouths of great rivers, in the hope that they would prove to be straits or channels opening through into the Western Ocean.
Among these early explorers was Lucas Vasquez d’Allyon, who tried for a passage by the James River and through Chesapeake Bay in 1524. In 1525 Estevan Gomez sailed down the coast from Labrador to Florida, making a record of Cape Cod, Narrangansett Bay, and successively of the mouths of the Connecticut, the Hudson, and the Delaware rivers.
Early in 1524 Giovanni da Verazano, who was born in 1480 at Florence, crossed the .Atlantic with a single ship and a crew of fifty men. He sighted Cape Fear, N. C., and coasted north to latitude 50 deg. About the last of April, 1524, the “Dauphine,” as Verazano’s craft was called, arrived off a low point of land, now known as Sandy Hook, where, seeing an inviting harbor, Verazano sailed into the roadstead. The ship’s boat was manned and rowed through the Narrows into the Upper Bay, where a hasty survey was made of its islands and inlets, and the mouth of the noble river which flowed into it.
He speaks of the river as ‘a very great river” (una grandissima riviera); and the name Grande River was used by some of the leading map makers of Europe during the sixteenth century. When the Dutch took possession of this part of the country, the name “Groote” was substituted for the Italian term.
Henry Hudson was no doubt induced to explore the “Grande River” by a letter from Capt. John Smith, who wrote that it was a strait connecting with the western sea, which in those days was believed to lie not very far from the Atlantic seaboard.
Of Henry Hudson the man we know comparatively little, and that little is comprised within the years 1607 and 1611. He was born in or near London; but of the exact date of his birth there is no certainty. His first appearance is on April 19th, 1607, when, with eleven companions, he is found partaking of Holy Communion in a little church in London, prior to embarking on his first recorded voyage.
Our last sight of him is when he passes from view among the mists of Hudson Bay on June 22nd, 1611, turned adrift with a few companions by the mutinous crew.
No authentic portrait of the man exists. He came of a seafaring family, had a wife and children, and evidently belonged to a prominent family. He made four recorded voyages, the first, second, and fourth under English auspices, and the third under the Dutch.
The Four Voyages of Henry Hudson In 1566 Parliament incorporated “The Fellowship of English Merchants for the Discovery of New Trades,” which was better known as the Moscovy Company; and it was in their employ that Hudson, on his first voyage, made an effort to reach China by passing between Greenland and Spltzbergen. At latitude 81 deg. 30 mm. he was checked by the Arctic ice and returned home. This voyage lasted from April 23rd to September 15th, 1607.
The second voyage, In 1608, lasting from April 22nd to August 26th, had the same object in view. This time he endeavored to pass between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. After reaching latitude 75 deg. 30 mm. he was driven back by the Ice.
In 1609 he entered the service of the Dutch East India Company, and made the voyage which resulted in the exploration of the Hudson River.
His last voyage, made under the auspices of the Moscovy Company, commenced on April 17th, 1610, had for its object a search for a northwestern route to the Pacific Ocean through what is now called Hudson’s Strait; and it was here In the following June that Henry Hudson, John Hudson, and seven others, mostly sick and disabled, were set adrift by the mutinous crew in an open boat, with a gun, some powder and shot, an iron pot, some meal, and a chest of carpenter’s tools. The ultimate fate of the great explorer, whether he died of starvation or drowning, or was frozen to death, is a matter of pure conjecture.
Henry Hudson hired by the Dutch India Company
On the 8th of January, 1609, a contract was made between “the Directors of the Dutch India Company of the Chamber of Amsterdam” and “Mr. Henry Hudson, Englishman, assisted by Jodocus Hondius,” who was to act as interpreter. In the Dutch copy of the contract preserved at The Hague, Hudson’s Christian name is three times spelled “Henry,” and he signed the document in the same way; so that in the opinion of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission, “as he was an Englishman, It is a mistake to call him ‘Hendrik.’”
The “Half Moon” set sail from Amsterdam April 4th, 1609, with a crew of eighteen Dutch and English sailors. The object of the voyage, as per the contract, was to seek a passage to the north of Nova Zembla, and by an easterly course to reach what is now the Pacific, In the latitude of 60 deg. On May 5th he rounded North Cape, but, baffled by the ice and by the discouragement of his crew, he determined, instead of returning home, to sail direct to the coast of America at the latitude of 40 deg., where he hoped to find a northwest passage by a strait which his friend, Capt. John Smith, in the letter sent to him from Virginia, informed him led into the Western Ocean somewhere between New England and Virginia.
On July 18th he cast anchor in a harbor on the coast of Maine. He touched at Cape Cod; sailed to a point one hundred miles south of Chesapeake Bay; and then turned northward again and entered Delaware Bay. Finding the river unnavigable, he ran back to the ocean and sailed up the coast, and on September 2nd was off the New Jersey shore, and anchored probably off what are known as the Navesink Highlands to the south of New York Bay. On the following day the “Half Moon” let go her anchor inside of Sandy Hook. The week was spent in exploring the bay with a shallop, or small boat, and “they found a good entrance between two headlands” (the Narrows) “and thus entered on the 12th of September into as fine a river as can be found.” The log of this voyage was kept by Robert Juet, who was probably the mate of the “Half Moon.” It is written in the quaint English of that period, and is entitled “The Third Voyage of Master Henry Hudson, toward Nova Zembla, and at his return, passing from Farre Islands to New Found Land, and along to Fourtie-Foure Degrees and Ten Minutes, and thence to Cape Cod, and so to Thirty-Three Degrees, and along the coast northward to Fortie-Two Degrees and one Halfe, and up the river neere to Fortie-Three Degrees.”
Exploration of the Hudson River
In his passage up the river, Hudson made progress according as wind and tide were favorable, the time from sundown to sunrise being always spent at anchor. On Monday, the 14th, he passed through a “very high and mountainous” country, probably the Highlands. On the following day, mention Is evidently made of the Catskills, when the log records that they “came to other mountains which lie from the river aide.” On Saturday, the 19th, the little ship had reached the northerly limits of its trip, and anchored off what is probably now the northern section of the city of Albany. Further exploration of the river was made in the shallop, In the expectation of finding deeper water beyond the shoals. This was a vain hope, however, and the conviction must finally have come to the heart of the intrepid adventurer that once again he was foiled in his repeated quest for the northwest passage.
On Wednesday, the 23rd, the “Half Moon” started on her return trip down the river. On the 29th she was at the northern entrance to the Highlands, having reached “the edge of the mountames or the northermost of the mountaines.” Detained by a heavy gale until October 1st, Hudson weighed anchor on that day and reached Stony Point. Finally, on Friday, the 2nd, the “Half Moon” cast anchor off “a cliffe that looked of the colour of a white greene,” which is considered to have been undoubtedly “the green serpentine outcrop” at Castle Point, Hoboken.
Hudson's impressions of the river and it's peoples Evidently the “Great River” made the same pleasing impression upon Hudson as it has done on the many millions who have voyaged between its banks in the intervening three centuries. Says he: “It is as pleasant a land as one need tread upon. The land is the finest for cultivation that I ever in my life set foot upon.” With a few exceptions, he found the native Indians to be friendly disposed.
Dressed in skins and with the characteristic decoration of feathers, wearing copper ornaments on their necks and carrying bows and arrows, they smoked large red or yellow copper tobacco pipes. To the little ship they brought tobacco, dried currants, grapes, corn, pumpkins, and beaver and otter skins, which they bartered for knives, hatchets, and trinkets. The country appears to have been quite populous with the Indians, who lived In domeshaped huts, built of saplings and covered with bark. They existed chiefly on corn, which, together with beans, was dried for their winter use. Fish and birds also formed part of their diet, and mention is made of salmon, mullets, rays, and sturgeon.
At the various places where Hudson landed he was usually received amicably and with no little ceremony. It is evident that Hudson’s treatment of the Indians waskindly, and the voyagers made a good impression upon the natives, which was destined to have a beneficial and lasting effect on the subsequent history of this State.
It was while at Albany that Henry Hudson decided “to trie some of the chiefe men of the countrey whether they had any treacherie in them”; and accordingly he. “tooke them down into the cabin and gave them so much wine and aqua vitae that they were all mierrie, and one of them had a wife which sate so modestly, as any one of our countrey women would do in a strange place. In the end one of them was drunke.”
Not always was the intercourse of this convivial character. After the return of the “Half Moon” to the lower harbor, and when John Colman and four others were exploring In the shallop, they were attacked by the natives, and Coleman was killed. This was on September 6th. Other conflicts occurred on the 9th and the 15th of September, and on October 1st, the log records how an Indian who had climbed up the rudder to the cabin window was caught stealing and shot. The following day the Indians attacked in force, and were driven off with a loss of eight or ten killed.
On the 4th of October the “Half Moon” sailed down the harbor and out to sea, and “on the seventh day of November,” according to the log, “being Saturday by the grace of God, the ‘Half Moon’ safely arrived in the range of Dartmouth in Devonshire in the year 1609.”