Born: c. 1570
Died: c. 1611
Best known as: The first European to sail up the Hudson River
Henry Hudson was the English navigator who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1609 and became the first European to sail up what is now the Hudson River in New York. Little is known about Hudson's early life. In 1607 he was hired by the English Muscovy Company to lead the ship Hopewell on an expedition north of the European continent, in an effort to discover a northeastern sea passage to the spice islands of the South Pacific. He reached Greenland and Spitzbergen before his path was blocked by ice. On his second voyage, a year later, he made it as far as the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean. Still convinced that there might be a separate passage to the northeast, the merchants of the Dutch East India Company hired Hudson in 1609 to lead an expedition on the ship Halve Maen (Half Moon in English). Hudson had other ideas, however, and sailed in the other direction, across the Atlantic to North America. He explored along the coast of Nova Scotia and down to what is now New York Harbor, sailing up the Hudson River as far north as Albany. Hudson's fourth voyage, aboard Discovery (1610-11), was financed by English merchants seeking the Northwest Passage across America to the Far East. He made it as far as Hudson's Bay before mutineers put him and eight others (including his son) adrift on a small boat in the bay in June of 1611. Although no record exists of their fate, the men were already sick and without provisions, and it is assumed Hudson and the others did not survive.
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