Who Is Henry Hudson? - Facts, Voyage & Route

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Crystal Daining

Crystal has a master's degree in history and loves teaching anyone ages 5-99.

Henry Hudson was an English explorer and navigator. Learn more about his life and the four important expeditions that he made while trying to find a direct route from Europe to Asia.

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Introduction

Henry Hudson (1565-1611) was an English explorer and navigator who helped with the first European explorations of the Arctic Ocean and northeastern North America. Little is known about his early life, until Hudson was hired by the Muscovy Company in 1607. The Muscovy Company wanted Henry Hudson to find a direct waterway from Europe to Asia.

Portrait of Henry Hudson
Henry Hudson

Hudson was known to be very headstrong and adventurous. He undertook four major expeditions to try to find the direct waterway from Europe to Asia. His relentless search for this waterway resulted in Hudson helping discover New York City's excellent harbor as well as drawing European attention to the vast natural resources of North America.

Hudson's Four Voyages

In his first voyage, Hudson and his crew struggled with icy and cold conditions from the very beginning. They were only able to explore some of the islands near Greenland before they had to turn back. However, Hudson's reports noted an abundance of whales in the area, so many Europeans used this knowledge to start whale hunts.

In his second trip the following year, Hudson tried again to find a direct route from Europe to Asia. Hudson attempted this by trying to go north of Russia, through the Arctic Ocean. However, this also proved a failure as the route was eventually blocked by ice.

Hudson

On his third journey, Hudson decided to try going west to find the route to Asia. He and his crew crossed the Atlantic Ocean and first came ashore in what is now Nova Scotia. It was on this trip that he found the New York City harbor and explored the coast and up some of the rivers before returning to England.

For his fourth and final voyage, Hudson left England in April 1610. He and his crew again headed west. This time, they went a bit more north and ended up in an area later named after him, called the Hudson Bay. Hudson explored this bay quite thoroughly to find his passage to Asia, however, he soon found that the bay was a dead end. By the time he realized this, he and his crew were low on supplies and trapped in the ice. They had to spend the winter in this way, which led to high tensions between Hudson and his crew. It wasn't until June 1611 that the conditions had improved enough for the ship to sail again. However, shortly before the ship set sail, several crew members mutinied and set Hudson, his son, and any crew members that were sick out to sea in a small boat. His crew returned to England and were never punished for their mutiny. Hudson was never seen again. It is assumed that he, his son, and the sick crew members died from exposure or starvation.

Third and Fourth Voyages of Hudson
Third and Fourth Voyages of Hudson

Lesson Summary

Henry Hudson is considered one of the world's most famous explorers. Even though he never found what he was looking for, Hudson's expeditions encouraged future explorers and adventurers to come to America. It was Hudson's reports about North America's rich natural resources that encouraged Europeans to come settle and trade in America. His legacy remains today, since many streets, buildings, and places have been named after this early explorer. We also still have the Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and the Hudson Bay named after Henry Hudson to remember him for his discoveries.

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