Henry Hudson. Isn’t That The Guy They Named The Car After?

Who in the world is Henry Hudson?  Isn’t that the guy they named the car after?  Ever heard of him?  How about the Northwest Passage?  Hudson Bay?  Ringing any bells yet?

On this date, June 22, 1611,-that would be exactly 400 years ago today-the boys on the “Discovery” decided they had had enough of Henry and his exploration.  They mutinied.  That’s when sailors forcibly take control of a ship from their officers.  In this particular case they stuck Henry, his teenage son, and seven of his staunch supporters, injured and ill men, into a small boat, called a shallop, and sent them adrift.  I’m assuming that means without a paddle and, well, Hudson Bay is pretty big, some 1,230,000 sq mi big.  It’s the second largest bay in the world, after the Bay of Bengal.

Henry was an English navigator searching for the fabled Northwest Passage.  A way to get to the trade routes and the Pacific Ocean by a water-way that ran through the Arctic Ocean Archipelago (That’s a big bunch of islands.) along the northern coast of North America, around Alaska, and through the Bering Straits.  He wasn’t having much luck, on this his fourth attempt.

See, everybody was exploring the coast of North America expecting to find a passage through the continent and thus a faster way to get to India.  For that reason, much of this exploration was paid for by trading companies.    For some reason, they believed at the time, that seawater didn’t freeze, which is why they started searching farther and farther north.  Guess they never sailed north in the Winter?

Map of Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay by Jens Munck 1624

So after three months of sailing around the bay, they were trapped by ice.  Setting up shore camp in some rather brutal conditions the men were starving and freezing, and damn ready to go home with the spring thaw.  Not in Hudson’s plan at the time, so they sent him adrift in a boat and headed for home.

When they arrived in England without a Captain and blood-stained decks, the authorities decided something sinister had happened and questioned the remaining crew.  They claimed the missing crewmen were to blame.  Still not convinced the Admiralty charged four of the men with murder.  See there was no charge of mutiny on the books yet, and they couldn’t be charged with treason because the boat was owned by private investors, and the not the Crown.  In the end, no one was punished for the crime.

The bodies of Hudson, his seventeen-year-old son, and the other men, were never found.  Advice to you future explorers, don’t push it.  People are going to follow you only so far.  WTF 


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