January 20, 2007
by Ian Chadwick,
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After a near-mutiny in which the crew probably forced his hand,
Hudson gave his crew notice that he was returning by his own hand,
without any force on their part, probably a fabrication demanded by the
crew so they won't get charged with mutiny and hung.
After three months, Henry Hudson was ready to sail again, in the same ship and for the
same company as his first voyage. This time he went looking for a
through the Arctic waters north of Russia. Among his crew was Robert Juet who would play
an important role as a troublemaker in this and Hudson's subsequent voyages -
and as chronicler in 1609.
Click image for a map of this voyage.
Hudson was employed by the Russia Company (also called the Muscovy Company - the "merchants who trade with the Muscovites") to explore the coast of Siberia much further east than the
area previously reached by Stephen Borough in 1556. The merchants wanted an
alternate trading route in case the good relations currently established between England and Russia might not
survive when the elderly Tsar Ivan the Terrible died. They wanted to grab some
of Spanish trade in the Far East by taking a direct sea route to Japan and Cathay (China)
across the seas north of Asia.
Queen Elizabeth's court astrologer,
Dr. John Dee, was also adviser to the Muscovy Company.
He was convinced there was a sea passage, a belief shared by his
contemporary geographers and mapmakers Mercator and Ortelius. Although
his father, Richard Hakluyt, the lawyer, agreed with Dee, the younger Richard Hakluyt
was less confident that the passage existed. Dee, however, had lost
favour in the court following the death of Elizabeth, and himself died
The founding governor of the Muscovy Company,
Sebastian Cabot, had
also believed in the existence of this passage and had organized several
unsuccessful expeditions to search for it, before is death in 1577.
Hudson's observations about the sea proved him an able navigator, but he was unable to
get through the ice-laden waters past the islands of
Novaya Zemlya (Nova Zemlya
or also Nova Zembla). He turned around and
was planning to try for a northwest passage, but was prevented from doing so when his crew
found out they weren't going home. He was able to placate his crew only by turning for
home and writing a letter saying they had not forced him to do so.
Hudson's failure to make any significant discoveries or progress - and possibly his
obvious problems with the crew - made the Muscovy Company lose interest in further
exploration of the north.
The Northeast Passage was not traversed until Nils A. E. Nordenskjöld of Sweden accomplished the
voyage in 1878–79.
- It had been eight months since Hudson's last voyage.
- He sailed again as captain of the Hopewell (first used for Arctic
exploration by John Knight in 1606) for the Muscovy Company,
which directed him to "finding a passage to the
East Indies by the northeast." He decided to sail the then-unknown waters north of Russia,
where the late Sebastian Cabot and others believed sailors would find an
open passage to Cathay.
- The Hopewell was strengthened with extra planks to help it make its way through icy waters.
- Robert Juet (Ivett), 50, was aboard as master seaman. Hudson wrote to Hakluyt,
describing Juet as a man "filled with mean tempers."
- Juet appears to have kept a separate journal of the 1608 voyage, but
Puchas omitted to reprint it when he printed Hudson's journal, noting only
he did so "for brevity." That journal, along with other original records of
the voyages, have since been lost. Juet was one of the few literate men
onboard, aside from Hudson.
- A crew of 14 only included three members who had sailed with Hudson to the Arctic previously
(in his first voyage). His
young son John was also aboard, for a total of 15. Included in the crew were: Robert Juet, master's mate;
Arnall Ludlowe (Arnold Ludlow or Ladle); John Cooke, boatswain; Philip Stacie (Staffe),
carpenter; John Barnes; John Braunch, cook; John Adrey; James Strutton; Michael Feirce;
Thomas Hilles; Richard Tomson; Robert Raynor (Rayner) and Humfrey Gilby.
- 22: Hudson left St. Katherine's Docks, on the Thames, London. According to Philip Vail,
an Anglican priest blessed the voyagers, but Juet didn't take part in the religious
ceremonies. He was busy entertaining friends in his quarters. Hudson was forced to turn
out Juet's guests in order to get underway. "The nose of Master Juet was put much out
of Joint," Vail says Hudson wrote in his journal. "When I desired to retire to
my sleeping cabin, J. was still in foul humours, and had to be summoned to take the
If true, this was an inauspicious start and indicates bad feelings between Juet and
Hudson from even before the first day they sailed together. Chamberlain puts the date of
sailing as April 25.
- Hopewell sailed northeast for a month, rounding the northern tip of Norway in late May,
then went on into the Barents Sea. Bad weather and cold forced Philip Stacy,
the ship's carpenter,
and three or four others, into their bunks with illness.
- 3: Sighted North Cape at 71°N.
- In early June they encountered ice and tried to go through it. Hudson almost got trapped
in the ice,
but backed out in time before the ship took serious damage.
- 8: Hudson noted the colour of the sea changed near ice.
- 15: Two crew members - Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayner - sighted a mermaid
at 75° 7' N, and
shouted at the rest of the crew to come and look. Hudson recorded it in his log as having a "tail of a porpoise and speckled like a
mackerel." She was "looking earnestly on the men" who gathered on the
side to see her. The description
Hudson wrote says she had very white skin, "speckled like a macrell"
(mackerel), long black hair, white skin and a woman's breasts - with the
tail of a porpoise. By the matter-of-fact record, it seems obvious Hudson
believed in mermaids.
18: The Hopewell reached the ice barrier to the port side.
"Very fearful to look on," wrote Hudson.
- 22: At 74° 35'N, surrounded by ice, Hudson sailed southeast.
- 26: They sighted land at 72° 25'N, about 12-15 miles away.
- 27: Hudson reached the islands of Novaya Zemlya, north of Russia, but could not go further north
because of the ice. He tried to go south around the islands to the Kara Sea
on the other side. The Kara is usually blocked by ice, except for August and
- He reached calm waters two miles offshore,
and stopped. He
dispatched Juet, mate, and John Cooke, boatswain, to lead a party of six ashore to
"see what the land would yield that might be profitable and to fill two or three
casks with water." The men returned with deer antlers and whale fins, and reported the
presence of grass and streams, as well as tracks of bear, deer and fox. They also returned
with pieces of a cross they found ashore, and reported seeing another cross at a different
location as well - a sign others had been there before.
- Their boat was followed back to the ship by a herd of curious walrus, but the
unable to catch any ashore.
- 30: Hudson sent his crew back to land to look for the walrus, thinking they may have
arrived by warm currents. Although they spied 40-50 of the animals asleep on a rock, they
were only able to shoot one, and brought back its head as a trophy. During the night, their
anchor broke free and the ship went aground, but was pulled off without
- 1: Ice near the ship
was moving northwest. Hudson sent some crew to explore the
sound and a river at the head of the bay. Hudson wrote he hoped to navigate south of the
island, but north of the Cape of Tartaria (Cape Tabin).
- 2: Hudson spotted a "fair river" on the island, "six to nine miles
broad, its depth exceeded 20 fathoms" the colour of the sea and "very salty with
a strong current setting out of it." He turned the ship to explore it, but barely
escaped a collision with an iceberg. It took the crew all day to fend the ice off with
beams and spars, while pulling the ship out of its path.
- 4: Hudson sailed 15-18 miles upriver but the water became too shallow to continue
- down to one fathom (about six feet). He sent Juet and five or six others in a boat to
explore the river. This action was similar to what he would do in the New
World river that now bears his name.
- 5: The crew returned after travelling another 18-24 miles upstream, saying it
became too shallow to go further. They said they saw many deer while they travelled. The
mate Ladle (Ludlow) went ashore with four crew to hunt for walrus, but didn't find any.
Instead, they shot almost 100 birds called 'wellocks.' Hudson decided there
was no passage
around the island this way and gave up his quest to get past Novaya Zemlya. He secretly
decided to sail for North America, but didn't tell his crew.
- 6: Hudson decided to look for 'Willoughby Land' (Willoughby Island), which was
actually a 'conceit' of map makers and didn't exist. The Hopewell set sail west and
southwest, heading back the way they came. They travelled through considerable rain and bad
weather for the rest of the month.
- 11: Hudson again noted a green sea and a "black-blue colour sea...is a
sea pestered with ice, according to last and this year's experience." He
was the first
mariner to record the changing colour of the water with the proximity of ice.
- 26: Hudson noted the crew has to burn lights again at night because the midnight sun
is no longer with them.
- 30: Off the Lofoten Islands, north of Norway.
- 7: When the crew realized they weren't going home to
England, they got angry. After a near-mutiny in which the crew probably
forced his hand, Hudson gave his crew notice that he was returning by his
own hand, without any force on their part, probably a fabrication demanded
by the crew so they won't get charged with mutiny and hung.
- "I used all diligence to arrive at London," Hudson wrote in his journal.
"and therefore I now gave my crew a certificate under my hand, of my free and willing
return, without persuasion or force by any one or more of them.
For when we were at Nova Zembla on the 6th of July, void of hope of a Northeast
Passage...I therefore resolved to use all means I could to sail to the northwest."
- Although he recorded in his journal his belief that a passage lay
through the Furious Overfall, he headed back to London. Historians have
speculated that Robert Juet was the man behind the crew's insubordination.
Thomas Janvier called him Hudson's "evil genius."
- 26: The Hopewell returned to Gravesend, England.
- After his failure, the English lost interest in his goal of a Northwest
Passage. The Company directors were
disappointed in Hudson's efforts and probably had lost confidence in
Hudson's abilities. The
Company refused his request for another voyage with more men and less rigid orders.
- With no employment for him in England, Hudson went first to the Dutch, then to the
French, looking for sponsors. Cold at first to his plan, at the end of 1608, the Dutch
decided to hire him, probably to prevent their rivals, the French, from hiring him. For
details, see the story of Hudson's third voyage, 1609.