Henry Hudson


Age of Discovery

Quick Facts:

He discovered the Hudson River, Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay on his search for a Northwest Passage to China, which allowed trade to expand throughout North America.

Name: Henry Hudson

Birth/Death: 1565 CE - 1611 CE

Henry Hudson, portrait

Henry Hudson Portrait

Henry Hudson. From: Edward R. Shaw: ''Discoverers and Explorers''. New York/Cincinnati/Chicago: American Book Company, 1900.

Early Life

  • Little is known about Henry Hudson’s early life. He was born around 1565 and studied navigation as a child.

  • By 1607, Hudson was married and had three sons, one of whom sailed on all four of his father’s voyages.


  • Henry Hudson first sailed the Arctic Ocean on May 1, 1607, for the English Muscovy Company with the goal of sailing across the North Pole to China. Hudson made it as far as the Svalbard archipelago north of Norway before he was stopped by ice. At Spitsbergen (now called Svalbard), he noted the large number of whales. In 1610, Jonas Poole made the same report, which led to the establishment of an English whaling outpost in Spitsbergen, which became a profitable business.

  • He sailed again on the Hopewell for the English Muscovy Company on April 22, 1608, to find the Northwest Passage and managed to go as far as Novaya Zemlya, an island north of Russia, which was also covered in ice.

  • Hudson sailed for the Dutch East India Company on March 25, 1609, and commanded the Half Moon. Originally he sailed in a northeasterly direction, but after the crew complained he changed direction and sailed in the northwest direction. He travelled to Virginia and discovered the Delaware Bay before going up north.

  • Although Giovanni da Verrazzano first discovered the Hudson River in 1524, followed by Estevan Govez in 1525, Hudson was the first to explore the river. At first, Hudson thought that it was the Northwest Passage, but discovered that it was not the Northwest Passage once the river became shallow further inland. During his voyage he stepped on land only once, to spend the night with a group of Native Americans, who broke their arrows to prove that no harm would come to him.

  • In 1610, he was commissioned to search for the Northwest Passage by the British East India Company. He commanded the Discovery, and sailed on April 17, 1610. In June of 1610, he entered what is now the Hudson Strait, but strong currents made him stay in Ungava Bay, north of present-day Quebec, Canada.

  • In July he entered what is now called the Hudson Bay, which he thought was the Pacific Ocean. Once he found St. James Bay, he wandered for months until his ships were trapped by the ice. Hudson’s relationship with his crew deteriorated. The crew had already started to argue and began to consider mutiny when Hudson divided the food rations. The crew thought that Hudson had given more food to people he liked, while Hudson thought that the crew hoarded food. Relations grew worse when he went on a failed expedition instead of searching for food. The final straw was when Hudson demoted both Robert Juet and another man, and Juet convinced the man to turn against Hudson.

  • The crew mutinied, and on June 21, 1611, Hudson, his son John, and a few faithful and sick crew members were sent adrift on a small boat and were never heard from again.

  • The remaining crew suffered even more hardships and were put on trial when they returned to England. Because there was little evidence that they had done something wrong, they were released and ended up exploring more of Hudson Bay.

Notable Ships

  • Hopewell (first and second voyages)

  • Half-Moon (third voyage)

  • Discovery (fourth voyage)


  • The bay he discovered and its estuaries provided access to otherwise landlocked parts of western Canada and the Arctic which allowed the Hudson Bay Company to expand its trade and influence throughout North America.

  • The Hudson Strait became the entrance for all ships who searched for a Northwest Passage through the Arctic.

  • The Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, the Hudson River and several cities and bridges are named in his honor.

  • Adams, Arthur G. The Hudson Through the Years. Lind Publication. 1983. Print.

  • Bonlander, Richard E. ed. World Explorers and Discoverers. MacMillan Publishing Company. 1992. Print.

  • Carmer, Carl. The Hudson. J.J Little and Ives Company. 1939. Print.

  • Cleveland, Henry R. Makers of American History: Life of Henry Hudson. The University Society, Inc.  1905. Print

  • Edward, Phillip. Last Voyages: Cavendish, Hudson, Raleigh. Clarendon Press. 1988. Print.

  • Gerson, Noel B. Passage to the West: The Great Voyages of Henry Hudson. Julian Messner. 1960. Print.

  • Johnson, Donald S. Charting the Sea of Darkness: The Four Voyages of Henry Hudson. International Marine. 1993. Print.

  • Novaresio, Paolo. The Explorers: From the Ancient World to the Present. Stewart, Tabori, & Chang. 1996. Print.

  • Williams, Glyn. Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage. University of California Press. 2009. Print.

  • “Age of Exploration: Henry Hudson.” The Mariner’s Museum. N.P, N.D. 6/05/13.

  • “Empire of the Bay: Henry Hudson.” PBS. MacNeil/Lehrer, 2000. 6/05/13.

  • “Henry Hudson.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Caswell, John Edward, n.d. 6/05/13.