Quad Cheat Sheets

The who, what, and why behind this year’s 400th hoopla.


(page 2 of 4)

Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson

Cause to celebrate: First European to explore what he called the “River of Mountains” — today’s Hudson River.

The basics: Sailing for the Dutch East India Company, Hudson and his Dutch and English crew (a dozen or so men) aboard the 85-foot Half Moon set out from Amsterdam on April 4, 1609, to locate a northern route to the Orient. Encountering ice, he turned westward, winding up on North America’s East Coast. The ship reached Cape Henry (near the Jamestown colony established by Hudson’s seafaring pal, John Smith) before backtracking north. On September 11, 1609, the Half Moon sailed into New York Harbor. Hoping the waterway led through the continent, Hudson ventured as far as Albany, where the river became too shallow to proceed. By early October, the ship was back at the river’s mouth, headed for Europe.

Vital statistics: Born in Great Britain, birth date and place unknown. Presumably died in June 1611, after mutinous crewmen set him adrift in a small open boat in Hudson Bay, off northeastern Canada (see below). His contract with the Dutch East India Company notes he had a wife and children; their names are unknown. A John Hudson set adrift with him in 1611 may have been a son.

Life before: Made two voyages of discovery for the London-based Muscovy Company in 1607 and 1608, both in search of a northern passage to the Far East. On the first he came within 600 miles of the North Pole and survived a whale attack.

Life after: On his last voyage, begun in 1610 for the British, Hudson’s ship Discovery sailed past Iceland, Greenland, and Labrador, again in quest of a northerly route to the Orient. After being stuck in ice for the winter, Hudson wanted to explore further; his crew was desperate to go home. They won out.

Lasting importance: During Hudson’s three-week exploration of the river that now bears his name, he claimed the fertile surrounding valley and its riches of timber and beaver for the Netherlands. Within 20 years, a thriving colony and cosmopolitan city (New Amsterdam, now Manhattan) had been established. Though ceded to the British in 1664, strong ties to Dutch culture remain throughout the Hudson Valley today.

Quote: “His is the unique fame of one known only by his deeds, perishing pitiably with the stamp of failure upon him, yet afterward to be recorded as one of the world’s most notable discoverers.” — New York Times, 1908

Next page: Samuel de Champlain


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