So Who Was Henry Hudson?

July 2, 2009 at 3:43 pm Leave a comment

The river, the valley, the highway — all integral parts of New York’s landscape that share Henry Hudson as their namesake.

While most of us are aware of Hudson’s stature as an explorer, maybe we’ve forgotten (or never knew) the events that led to landmarks being christened with his name.

We spoke with James Nevius who, along with his wife, Michelle, leads walking tours of New York City, about why we’re celebrating Henry Hudson.

In basic terms, what was Hudson’s greatest achievement?
Discovering New York, which was an accident. He was looking for a Northeast Passage to the Orient.

How did he find it?
After two failed voyages in search of the passage he was hired by the Dutch East India Company. Against orders, he revised his course and sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean, into what’s now the New York Harbor.
What were some historical ramifications of his discovery?
The biggest is the Dutch colonization of New York. He was working for a Dutch company. After finding the harbor, he reported back that it was a good find. It was teeming with beaver (a valuable commodity), which drew Dutch settlers.

What’s a little-known fact about Hudson’s voyage?
The day Hudson seized New York Harbor was actually Sept. 11, 1609. That’s the actual anniversary.

What ultimately became of Hudson?
Still looking for a way to the Orient, he went on a fourth voyage. Hudson was a bad captain — he was headstrong and didn’t listen to his crew. Eventually the crew decided to mutiny and put Hudson and his son into a boat and set it adrift. They were never heard from again.

If he was a bad captain, why such a celebration?
There’d be no New York if he hadn’t thought the Hudson River was a shortcut to the Orient.

James and Michelle Nevius are the authors of “Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City.”

Henry Hudson: Fast facts

Circa 1565

Little is known about Hudson’s early life, but historians assume he was born around this time in London, England.

Previous failures
Between 1607 and 1608, Hudson was hired twice by Russia’s Muscovy Company to find the Northwest Passage. While he did happen upon a series of small islands, he didn’t find what he was looking for.

What led him to New York
To find the passage, the Dutch East India Company instructed Hudson to sail around the Arctic Ocean north of Russia, into the Pacific and into to the Far East. Not wanting to deal with the ice that plagued all his previous voyages, Hudson revised his route, eventually — and quite accidentally — sailing into New York Harbor.

 By Perrie Samotin

amNY

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