January 20, 2007
by Ian Chadwick,
Text & design copyright
||Web design, Net training,
writing, editing, freelance columns, editorial commentary, research & data
Was Hudson really on a voyage to look for the Northwest Passage,
or was he really searching for gold and other minerals to help rebuild
England's depleted treasury? Was the idea of searching for a passage
just meant to confuse rival countries and companies while the mission
had another, secret goal?
his recent arrest for sailing under another nation's flag, Henry Hudson managed
to get support from English backers for another voyage, this time in search
of a Northwest Passage, one he had wanted to pursue almost since the start of
The main sponsor this time was Sir Thomas Smythe - governor and treasurer of the Virginia
Company, and also of the English East India Company. Smythe desperately needed to
recoup his losses after a disaster that saw his last fleet to Virginia scattered,
with hundreds of men lost. He may not have paid Hudson for his services - rather,
it may have been Hudson's payment for Smythe getting Hudson out of house arrest.
Click image for a map of this voyage.
the third time, Hudson decided to include Robert Juet in the crew, a decision that would
eventually cost him his ship and his life. His ship this time was the Discovery, formerly
sailed by Captain Weymouth. Smythe only provided eight months of provisions for
The voyage started inauspiciously with a company man put off the ship and a another man
brought aboard - Henry Greene, a gambler who would prove a partner in trouble with Juet.
According to the journal of Abacuck Prickett, Hudson promised to make Greene a
member of the Prince's Guard on their return, which speaks to the personal
influence Hudson must have had with Henry, Prince of Wales.
Almost from the start there was trouble with the crew. Hudson's ability to manage his crew
appears even weaker than in previous voyages. There were fights and almost a mutiny within
the first few months, before they even reached the area Hudson intended to
Discovery ended up sailing through the treacherous Arctic waters north of modern Quebec
- the Furious Overfall - known today as Hudson's Strait although he did not discover it - and into a large body of water now known as Hudson Bay.
The currents in the strait are rapid and turbulent, treacherous to the small
ships of Hudson's day. Water from the bay rushes eastward along the south side,
while water from the Greenland current and Davis Bay rushes west along the
north. Ice is torn into large dangerous chunks that whirl around in the current
Careful navigation and a steady hand is required: it is easy to be turned around
in the conflicting currents, and the small, high ships of Hudson's day could
overturn and capsize in rough waters.
By the fall of the year the crew
was stuck hundreds of miles south, unable to go further or to get home. They had to endure
a harsh winter in that hostile land, during which one crewman died and most others were
sickened by scurvy or lack of food. Again, Hudson's showed his inability to deal with the
natives and his own crew during the cold months they spent ashore.
By late next spring, the ship was ready to sail again. Hudson wanted to continue his
explorations, but the crew only wanted to head home. Fights broke out over food and Hudson
accused some crew members of hoarding. They in turn accused him of the same. Eventually a
large number of crew members, led by Juet and Greene, decided to mutiny. They put the
captain, his son and others they didn't like into a small shallop and set it adrift
while the Discovery sailed away. None
of the abandoned crew were ever seen again.
On the way back to England, the ship was piloted by Robert Bylot. Many of the crew, including the
lead mutineers, died on the return voyage, some from fights with the natives, others of
starvation. When the survivors returned home they were arrested for mutiny, but would all
be cleared later.
Bylot would return to the bay several more times over the next years to explore
and ostensibly search for survivors. Hudson's successes in both navigation and
exploration of this northern area have been overshadowed by the mutiny and his
death. Many others would come in the following centuries, searching for the
elusive Northwest Passage.
The British explorer, Samuel Hearne, travelled overland as far west as the Coppermine River
in 1771–72, but only discovered there was no easy, straight waterway
across the top of Canada. The existence of a Northwest Passage was
in the late 19th century. In his expedition (1850–54), Robert J. Le M. McClure
travelled from the west along the northern coast of the continent, and by a land expedition reached Viscount Melville Sound.
This had previously been reached from the east by Sir William Edward Parry (1819–20).
The actual passage zigzags through the maze of straits and islands in
Canada's north and is difficult and dangerous to navigate. No one actually made the complete journey until the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen
made the trek in 1903–6.
Was Hudson really on a voyage to look for the Northwest Passage, or was he
really searching for gold and other minerals to help rebuild England's depleted
treasury? Was the idea of searching for a passage just meant to confuse rival
countries and companies while the mission had another, secret goal? No one knows, but
by turning into the bay instead of continuing northwest, Hudson would have been
more able to explore the land and search for areas that might prove valuable. His meandering in James Bay looks like a survey,
with sounding swaths made systematically along his route. It may be that he
was looking for a suitable harbour where his backers could set up a port for
mining operations in the mineral-rich Canadian shield. See
- It had been five months since his last voyage. Although only a portion of
Hudson's journal of the 1610 voyage survived, a record of the voyage was made by Abacuck
one of the survivors who returned to England, and there are depositions from the survivors as to the events. However, some
of the dates after August 3, when Hudson's log ends, may be inaccurate. Prickett's
geography is also confused and sometimes wrong. A note by another of the
crew, Thomas Widowes (Woodhouse), was found in his desk after the Discovery
returned home. Widowes documented Juet's early disposition to mutiny.
fourth voyage was financed by the merchant Sir Thomas Smythe (Smith) of the East India
Company, Sir Dudley Digges (a rich landowner and son of famed navigator Sir
Thomas Digges) and John Wolstenholme (a Yorkshire landowner and collector
of customs for the port of London). They were backed by Henry Frederick, Prince
of Wales. Smith is shown in this contemporary portrait.
- A total of five noblemen
and 13 merchants were involved in a new venture called The Company of Gentlemen.
The British East India Company also contributed 300 pounds to the venture.
Several of the backers were or had been directors of the Muscovy Company,
which financed Hudson's first two expeditions.
- At the urging of the three backers, Prince Henry agreed to receive Hudson
in a private audience. The prince later accompanied Hudson to a public audience
at Whitehall in mid-April. This would garner Hudson credibility, and show
official favour after he had apparently lost it by sailing for the Dutch the
previous year. Hudson would later promise passenger Henry Greene a place in
Prince Henry's regiment of guards, when he returned home for the voyage.
- A new company (syndicate; The Company of Gentlemen) was formed with the
three, plus Prince Henry, as directors, plus the Earl of Northampton, the
Admiral of England and others. But other investors still tried to get involved,
sensing riches might be made.
- Capt. Weymouth's (Waymouth) old ship, Discovery (sometimes called Discoverer);
was purchased by the new company. She was a stout-hulled barke or flie (vlie
65 feet long, 55 tons (some reports say 70 and even 80 tons), and was refitted for the voyage. She was larger than
either of Hudson's previous ships. Discovery drew 10 feet of water. Discovery made six voyages in quest of the Northwest Passage.
Her explorations started in 1602 when she and the Godspeed travelled together under George Weymouth, with a combined
crew of35 and enough provisions to last 18 months. They were commissioned by
the by "the right Worshipfull Merchants of the Moscovie and Turkie Companies"
to hunt for a Northwest Passage.
- Hudson boasted he hoped to see Bantam (Java) by Candlemas (2 Feb), which
would be brought back against him by Juet, when Hudson was lost in the bay.
- Hudson had chart of Davis Strait based on Weymouth's earlier (1602) exploration.
But neither Davis nor Weymouth went into the strait any great distance, probably
fearful of surviving the 30-60-foot tides in it.
- Hudson was guided to Greenland by mid-14th century sailing directions from Greenlander Ivar Bardarsen (provided by eminent publisher,
Jodocus Hondius, and lent to Hudson for
the voyage). These charts were also used by Norwegian skippers. Hondius had
already credited Hudson with the discovery of the ice barrier between Greenland
and Spitzbergen in one of his maps. Hudson had other maps with him, too,
many obtained from the Dutch when he met with the UDEIC cartographers before
1609. But there were already maps that indicated what he might find in the
northwest: a 1540 map by Sebastian Munster showed the bay that now bears Hudson's
name. A 1544 map by French cartographer Oronce Fine also indicated four river
systems that flow into the bay. Dutch cartographer Petrus Plancius and Portuguese
cartographer Bartolomeo Lasso both published maps from 1590-early 1600s that
showed the bay. In 1611 Hessel Gerritz, Plancius' successor, published a map
with more details from the bay, and a 1612 map of Canada by Samuel de Champlain
had great detail about the area. No one can say for sure where these map makers
got their knowledge, but some of the sources may have been ancient Greek or
Roman cartographers. However, it's hard to understand with all these maps
available how Hudson might have thought a passage would be found by heading
south a passage would be found.
- 17: Shortly after dawn, Discovery set sail from St Katherine's Pool,
below the Tower of London. On board were 23 men and two ship's "boys":
captain; John Hudson, ship's boy; John King, quartermaster;
Thomas Woodhouse (passenger, recommended by Sir Dudley);
Ludlow; Michael Butt; Adam Moore;
Syracke Fanner; Philip Staffe, carpenter;
mate; William Wilson: boatswain; Robert Bylot, leading seaman;
Edward Wilson, surgeon; Abacuck Prickett (former manservant to Sir Dudley Digges and likely an agent of the company);
Bennett Matheus, cook; Sylvanus Bond;
John Thomas; Francis Clements;
Michael Perse; Nicholas Syms: ship's boy;
Adrian Motter; Master Coleburne and
John Williams, gunner. This was the largest crew Hudson had
managed to date.
- Henry Greene would be picked up in
Gravesend when Coleburne was dropped off.
- Crew who had served under Hudson before are Robert Juet, Phillip Staffe, Arnold Ludlow,
John Hudson and Michael Perse.
- Only eight of the 23 aboard would ever see
England again. For the full crew list and their fates, see the
- Several literate crew members were included in the company aside from
Hudson, including Juet, Prickett and Woodhouse.
- The guests who assembled to see the Discovery off included Prince Henry, Richard Hakluyt,
Sir Thomas Smith, Sir Dudley Digges. The Prince and Sir Thomas toasted Hudson in his cabin
- Hakluyt, skeptical of the grand sendoff and hoped-for results, was later to write, "It would be a boon to all mankind if there
were such a passage, but Nature is seldom that kind."
- 22: Coleburne - former mate on Waymouth's voage in
the Discovery - was put off the ship before it cleared English waters. He had been put in crew by the London
merchants as 'advisor', possibly to oversee their investment and act as assistant to Hudson.
His knowledge of the voyage and of the ship might have made Hudson see him
as a rival. Hudson
put him ashore with a letter to the company, containing his reasons. In his
journal, Hudson wrote
simply, "I caused Master Coleburne to be put into a pinke bound for London."
That letter was never made public and the reasons are still shrouded in
mystery. A pinke or pinkie was a small ship, usually a coastal fishing vessel.
Henry Greene, listed as a passenger, was picked up
at this time.
- Captain Lake Fox later wrote, “In the road of Lee, in the river Thames, he [Hudson] caused Master Coalbrand to be set in a pinke to be carried back againe to London. This Coalbrand was in every way held to be a better man than himselfe, being put in by the adventurers as his assistant, who envying the same (he having the command in his own hands) devised this course, to send himselfe the same way, though in a farre worse place, as hereafter followeth.”
Abacuck Prickett was less forthcoming and simply wrote, “Thwart of Sheppey,
our Master sent Master Colbert back to the owners with his letter.”
Coleburne disappears from the records.
- Henry Greene was brought onboard at Gravesend without the knowledge of the ship's owners.
Greene had a bad reputation in London as a troublemaker, gambler and roustabout,
but he had
stayed as a guest in Hudson's London house.
- Prickett would later write of Green (Greene), "You shall understand that
our master kept in his house in London, a young man named Henrie Greene, borne in Kent, of worshipfull parents, but by
his lewd life and conversation hee lost the good will of
all his friends, and spent all that hee had. This man our
master (Hudson) would have to sea with him, because
hee could write well: our master gave him meate, and drinke and lodgeing, and by means of one Master
Venson, with much ado got four pounds of his mother
to buy him clothes, wherewith Master Venson would
not trust him, but saw it laid out himself. This Henry
Greene was not set down in the owners' bookes, nor
any wages made for him."
- 2: Athwart of Flamborough Head, Yorkshire coast.
- 5: At the Orkney Islands.
- 6 at 55°22', at north end of Scotland.
- 8 Off Faeroe (Farro) Islands.
- 11: Sighted Iceland.
- 15 Off Iceland. Because of heavy fog, they sheltered in a safe harbour until bad
- Mount Hekla (Hecla), an active volcano, erupted as Discovery passed. "A sign of foul weather
in short time," wrote Prickett.
- They stopped in another bay they called "English Louise" or
sometimes "Lousy Bay." The crew fared well,
bathed in hot springs, ate well, shot lots of fowl and caught many fish. They stayed there
until the end of the month.
- Greene and surgeon Wilson got into a fist fight. Hudson intervened and Hudson defended
Greene, while the crew supported Wilson. Hudson wrote of the surgeon he "had a tongue
that would wrong his best friend."
- Juet said Hudson had brought in Greene to "crack his credit" with the crew
(act as a spy and report to Hudson on the crew). Hudson heard this and wanted to turn around
and put Juet ashore at "Lousy Bay" to catch a fishing boat home, but was persuaded otherwise and
nothing about Juet's insubordination.
- Prickett wrote, "So Henry Greene stood upright and very inward with the master, and was a serviceable man every way for manhood: but for religion, he would say he was cleane paper whereon he might write what hee would."
- 1: Hudson started for Greenland from the west end of Iceland.
- 3: Sighted ice at 65°30'N.
- 4: Greenland sighted but encumbered by ice, the ship can't get close. The ship tacked
back and forth without luck.
- 9: Off Frobisher Strait, wind northerly, Discovery plied southwest until the
- 15: Headed northwest until the 20th, and arrived off land called Desolation by John
Davis. Prickett mentioned seeing many whales in these waters.
- Hudson noted an error in earlier geographies at 59°27'N.
- 21-23: Off Cape Elizabeth, Labrador "in sight of much ice."
- 24: Sighted Resolution Island to the north (off the southeastern tip of Baffin
Island) , but soon lost sight of it. Discovery continued to sail west.
- 25: Hudson tried to enter the Furious Overfall (now Hudson's Strait).
He noted "mountaynes of ice" passing. The strait is 450 miles long and dangerous
until mid-July, when it is navigable until late September, but Hudson did not know this at
- Both Davis and Frobisher had sailed to at least the mouth of the strait
before Hudson's voyage. But long before them, Portuguese explorers had found
it, and possibly even sailed through it into the bay.
- In his journal, Prickett noted "some of our men fell sick" and said there were
"signs of trouble" among the men. Winds pushed Discovery south.
- 5: Working along the south shore of Resolution Island, ice blocked them from going
further west. Hudson lamented in his journal his fear the ship "should never
have gotten out of this ice but there have perished." Yet he continued on,
and finally reached the calmer waters of the bay.
- Discovery turned to head south into Ungava Bay to 59°16'.
Hudson sighted land along the
eastern shore of the bay. Continuing in the bay, Hudson sighted an island north by
northwest, and called it Desire Provoketh (Akpatok Island, Inuit for "Place Where Auk
Birds Are Caught"). He wrote it was a "champagne land."
- Ungava Bay is shallow, and stirred by the currents rushing eastward from
Hudson Bay through the Hudson Strait. Ungava is also the home of high tides;
Leaf Basin on the southwest shore has tides as high as 16.8 m (53 feet),
making it the equal of Fundy Bay, in the south. Hudson had no knowledge of
the tides or currents when he sailed into Ungava. Small ships could easily
be tossed about in these waters and left stranded on rocks when the tide
- 6,7: A mutiny almost broke out. The ship was caught in ice, the crew and captain
despaired of being stuck (Hudson wrote he was "in despair" he would perish
in the ice). One crew member swore if he had a 100 pounds, he would give
back 90 just to be in England. But Staffe retorted if he had 100 pounds,
"he'd not give ten pounds on such a condition, but would think of it to be
as good money as he ever had, and to bring it as well home."
- The crew (except Staffe) wanted desperately to go home. Hudson brought out his map and boasted they
gone 100 leagues (300 miles) further than any Englishman and should continue.
This indicated Hudson had a chart of the strait with him, possibly based on
Weymouth's 1602 exploration. The crew was
still unsure, but moral was boosted and they finally agreed; they got out to clear the ship of ice. Hudson continued northwest. Leaving
the decision to the crew whether or not to continue probably further eroded Hudson's
authority with them.
- Prickett wrote that Hudson was eager to press on against the crew's
misgivings: prevailed: “After many words to no purpose, to worke we must on all hands, to get ourselves out and to cleere our ship.”
- 8: Along the east coast of the island he called Desire Provoketh,
Hudson skirted the mouth of Ungava Bay.
- 11: Continuing west, Discovery anchored from a storm near three rocky islands he
called Isles of God's Mercies (now the Saddleback Islands). Hudson noted a tide rise of 24
- 16: Hudson finally realized he was in a bay, and headed northwest
to get out of it.
- Trapped in Ungava Bay by ice and current for three weeks, Hudson worked his way slowly
west and northwest, until he finally left the bay around the 19th. He headed northwest.
- 19: In the north part of Ungava Bay near the west shore he sighted a cape and called
it Hold with Hope.
- Named islands as he sailed west: Prince Henry's Foreland, King James his Cape and Queen
- 26: Reached 62°40'.
- 28: Back in the Furious Overfall, he headed west at 63°20'.
- 31: At 62°50'.
- 1: Sighted a northern shore (Charles Island). Named land to the south Cape
- 2: Called a headland (island) to the north Salisburie's Foreland (Salisbury
Island). The Discovery headed southwest and "suddenly came into a great and whirling
sea." The ship turned south into the clear water of what is today called Hudson Bay.
Purchas called it "a spacious sea wherein he sayled above a hundred leagues
south, confidently proud that he had won the passage."
- Foggy morn: vessel driven by the tide into an inlet flowing from the northwest. The
depth of water and playing forward of the ice roused Hudson to believe it would prove to be
the passage he sought. Hudson apparently never lost his faculty of hoping.
- 3: Travelled six miles. Hudson sighted and named two headlands. South: Cape Wolstenholme, north: Digges' Island.
These headlands are tall, basaltic cliffs, 2,000' high, guarding the
entrance to the bay. Hudson reported "a sea to the westwards."
- Hudson's diary ends here with this last entry at 61°20'. All other notes
that follow are from the
journal of Abacuck Prickett or statements made to the Admiralty Court after the survivors
returned to England.
- The crew explored Digges' Island: they commented that it had grass like in England, scurvy grass
(sorrel), deer, a great waterfall, (an overshot mill), and flocks of fowl.
They found Eskimo cairns
(the crew thought at first they were the work of Christians) with birds hanging inside to
cure and store.
- Hudson called the crew back to the ship by firing its guns. The crew (Prickett) begged to
stay longer on the island and replenish their depleted food stock, but Hudson,
confident in his quest, pushed on before his crew could plunder
the cairns and gather the birds
- 4: to Oct 31 - Discovery travelled down the east coast of Hudson Bay,
sailing in a "labyrinth without end." After 100 leagues they found themselves in
a shallow bay (now James Bay), and the ship turned north again looking for an exit along the
western shore, but not for long.
- Discovery was still in James Bay.
- Hudson clashed with the crew as to which direction to take. His wandering through
the bay look today like a systematic survey of the water's depths. He made
four voyages up and down the coast in the shallow bay, methodically using
a sounding line to test the depths and making sweeps of rough 16 miles each.
- 10: After Juet jeered sarcastically at the master's (Hudson's) vain "hope
to see Bantam (Java) by Candlemas," Hudson's frayed nerves snapped and
he ordered a trial of Juet for mutiny. Hudson recalled Juet's perfidy in Ungava
Bay to the crew and made an issue of it. He demoted Juet, and replaced him with Bylot. Juet's
wages went to Bylot, and the boatswain's 'overplus' wages were divided equally between
Wm. Wilson (made boatswain, replacing Clements) and King ("one of the Quarter Masters, who had very well carryed themselves to the furtherance of the businesse,"
wrote Prickett). Motter was also made b o'sun's (boatson's) mate.
- Prickett noted Wilson was unpopular with the crew: "William Wilson, a man thought more fit, preferred to his place. This man had basely carried himselfe to our Master and the action."
- Thomas Woodhouse wrote of the event in a journal discovered later
in his desk on Discovery after the return:
"The tenth day of September, after dinner, our master called all the
company together to hear and bear witness of the abuse of some of the company...
after the master examined and heard with equity what (Juet) would say for
himself, there were proved so many and great abuses, and mutinous matters
against the master... that there was danger to have suffered them longer:
and it was fit time to punish and cut off farther occasions of the like mutinies.
"It was proved to (Juet's) face, first with Bennet Matthews, upon our
first sight of Iceland, and he confessed that he supposed that in the action
would be manslaughter, and prove bloody to some.
"Secondly, at our coming from Iceland, in hearing of the company, he
did threaten to turn the head of the ship home from the action, which at that
time was by our master widely pacified.
"Thirdly, it was deposed by Philip Staffe, our carpenter, and Arnold
Ludlow, to his face upon the Holy Bible, that he persuaded them to keep muskets
charged and swords ready in their cabins, for they should be charged with
shot ere the voyage was over.
"Fourthly, we being pestered in the ice, he had used words tending to
mutiny, discouragement and slander of the action, which easily took effect
in those that were timorous; and had not the master in time prevented, it
might easily have overthrown the voyage: and now lately being imbayed in a
deep bay, which the master had desire to see, for some reasons to himself
known, his word tended altogether to put the company into a fray of extremity,
by wintering in the cold."
- Despite the damning evidence against the potential mutineers, Hudson must
have recognized he could not continue on without them. He offered them pardon
if they behaved themselves henceforth. Woodhouse wrote: "If the offenders
yet behaved themselves henceforth honestly, he (Hudson) would be a means for
their good, and that he would forget injuries." But he now had a
severely divided and generally hostile crew on his ship.
- Hudson's acts shows he was capable of being a stern and strong leader,
and of taking command when necessary. But if he gained respect from the
crew, he soon lost it over the following seven weeks, as he meandered in
James Bay, seemingly without purpose. Prickett would later cast doubts on
Hudson's seamanship and soon the resentment had grown back among the crew.
- Michaelmasse - the ship reached a bay Henry Hudson called Michaelmasse Bay (now Hannah Bay at the
very southern end of James Bay). They lost their anchor in the rocks and would have lost
the cable too, except Staffe acted quickly and cut it before it was torn away.
- The crew went ashore hunting for food. They found human footprints on the snowy rocks,
plus a good wood store, which they brought back to the ship. Hudson
- Staffe warned Hudson to be ware of dangerous rocks in the water, but Hudson
ignored him and Discovery became wedged on some for 12 hours. They get off,
but the ship's bow was damaged and so was Hudson's standing among the crew.
James Bay is very shallow, seldom exceeding 45 feet, and usually less than
10 feet deep within 15 miles of the shore. The Discovery drew 10 feet and
would have been pressed to dodge large boulders (glacial 'erratics') that
are randomly scattered along the bottom.
- Hudson seemed to meander in the Bay, going northwest, north, then south again
and finally east. Was he lost? Or just discouraged? Or conducting a survey,
looking for landmarks on ancient maps - landmarks that had long since disappeared? In all, Hudson
made four sweeps/surveys of the bay, using a sounding line to test the water.
- At the end of October, realizing they would not get out, Hudson sent Prickett and
Staffe ashore to find a suitable place for winter quarters.
- 1: The crew hauled the ship aground at the bottom of the bay (the
southeast corner, today called Waskaganish).
- 3: to June 18 The crew wintered near the mouth of the Nottaway River, (Rupert
Bay) or the mouth of the Rupert River (James Bay). "To speak of all our trouble would be too tedious," wrote Prickett of the miserable winter they endured.
- 10: The bay - and the unlucky crew - were frozen in, somewhere around 51 degrees north
latitude in the subarctic bleakness of James Bay.
- In London, Shakespeare's play, Winter's Tale was staged for the first time this
- Hudson offered a reward to any crew member who killed any "beast, fish or fowl" for
- Middle Nov.: John Williams (gunner) died of exposure and was buried in a shallow
grave dug out of the hard, frozen soil. Prickett suggests there was some
"uncharitable dealing" by Hudson of the gunner, but did not give many
details. ("About the middle of this moneth of November dyed John Williams our Gunner. God pardon the Masters uncharitable dealing with this man. Now for that I am come to speake of him, out of whose ashes (as it were) that unhappie deed grew which brought a scandall upon all that are returned home, and upon the action itself, the multitude (like the dog) running after the stone, but not at the caster; therefore, not to wronge the living nor slander the dead, I will (by the leave of God) deliver the truth as neere as I can.”)
- Greene envied the dead William's heavy grey cloak and
Hudson said he could have it, although traditionally, clothes and other belongings were
usually auctioned to crew at the main mast when a sailor died. The proceeds went to the sailor's
next of kin when the ship returned to port. Hudson's arbitrary gift angered the crew
and broke with naval traditions. Prickett wrote scathingly of Greene and his
"lewd life and conversation."
- Hudson demanded Staffe build a house onshore, although he should have ordered it built
earlier when the conditions were better. The carpenter said no, "He neither could nor
would go in hand with such work," wrote Prickett, and Staffe protested he
was not a
"house carpenter" and that he knew "what belonged to his place" better
than Hudson did.
- An angry Hudson went to the cabin and found Staffe. Hudson struck Staffe
and threatened to hang him, although some sources say he later apologized for
his outburst of temper. After arguing with Hudson, Staffe agreed, and built the house,
but is out of favour with Henry Hudson.
- Next day, Greene got Staffe and they went out hunting together. Seeing Greene
go out with the man he had fought with so recently enraged Hudson so much
that in a fit of pique he gave the cloak Greene wanted to Robert Bylot instead.
Greene challenged Hudson to keep his promise, but Hudson railed at Greene with
"so many words of disgrace," saying his friends would not trust
him (Greene) with 20 shillings.
- Hudson reminded Greene that he had no wages except by Hudson's tolerance (threatening
the loss of his entire wages unless he behaved. Because Greene was not on the crew
manifest, he would not have been paid by the Company, so any wages would have come from
Hudson himself. Greene thus became Hudson's enemy from this point on. Prickett wrote "He
did the master what mischief he could in seeking to discredit him."
- Lots of fowl were shot at first, about "100 dozen" in the first three months,
but the birds left the area by spring. Many fish were also caught at first. After the
first few months, the
food became scarce. The crew scoured the woods for food, and was reduced to eating moss and frogs to
- The crew suffered from scurvy, a debilitating disease that robs its victim's
strength and will. They drank an antiscorbutic medicine made of boiled pine
tree or tamarack buds ("full of a turpentine substance") that Thomas
Woodhouse brought back from one trip. Prickett wrote this helps the crew: "I
received great and present ease of my pain."
- Winter temperatures in the region were bitterly cold, and the unprepared
crew probably endured days when the thermometer would have dropped to -45C,
while deep snow piled high around them.
- Towards the end of their winter, when the ice had just begun to break up in the bay, an Indian came to the
ship (called a "savage," the native first they'd seen on this voyage).
- Hudson treated the native well, and "promises unto himself great matters by
his means." Hudson asked the crew for all of their knives and hatchets,
but only King, Prickett and Staffe gave him theirs. Hudson gave the Indian
a knife, a looking glass and some buttons. The Indian thanked him and made
signs that he would come again, which he did the next day.
- The native arrived with two deer skins and two beaver skins, but not food
(Powys says he came with "some meat"). He gave Hudson one beaver
skin for the goods he got the day before. Hudson offered him a hatchet. The
Indian wanted to give him one deer skin in return, but Hudson wanted both.
After bargaining, Hudson got both, but unwillingly.
- The Indian signed that there were many people to the north and south and
that after several sleeps he would be back. He never returned, possibly put
off by Hudson's greed.
- Wm. Wilson, Greene, Perse, Thomas, Motter, Mathews, and Ludlow went fishing
together and caught 500 small fish, the size of herrings or trout. At first
relieved because their food shortage appeared over, the men's confidence proved
premature. Although they tried, they never caught so many fish again.
- Greene, Wilson and some others plotted to take the shallop and leave to
fend for themselves, but their plans were upset. Hudson unexpectedly took it
for himself (with the
net - the seine - and 8 or 9 days' victuals - possibly taking King
and others with him). Hudson and went south and southwest looking for food and Indians.
The natives saw him coming and set the woods on fire before him, rather than
let him approach, so he came back worse for wear. During his absence, the
crew gathered water, wood and ballast, getting ready to leave.
- Before the ship left, Hudson took out all the remaining bread
and distributed it, weeping, with his promise to return to England. The ration
came to a pound/man. Soon Wm. Wilson and Greene had eaten all of their bread
rations. The boat was sent out Friday morning and stayed out until Sunday
noon, fishing, but only brought back four score (80) small fish. The crew
only had about 14 days' worth of food in store.
- 12: Finally ready to depart, the ship weighed anchor and went to
the mouth of the bay where Hudson distributed the remaining cheeses from the
stores. There were only five, although the company said there should have
been nine. Each member got three and a half pounds of cheese. Hudson again wept
as he doled out the rations. But, as with their bread ration, several men
ate all their food too soon, including Greene and Wm. Wilson. They then accused
Hudson of holding back some of the cheese (at the trial, the mutineers said
they discovered 200 biscuits, a peck of meal, cheeses, a keg of beer and aqua
vitae brandy in a secret scuttle in his cabin). Hudson, however, told the
rest were spoilt and showed the remaining pieces to the crew.
- 18: Monday? (Prickett's narrative says 18th Monday but 21st is Saturday).
The ship departed, but was caught that night in ice until the following Sunday.
The crew despaired of ever leaving the area.
- 20: Hudson ordered the ship to sail west, apparently intent again
on finding his passage (he may have also been trying to skirt the ice flows
heading northeast into the strait). But the crew only wanted to return home.
With food so short, Hudson demanded the crew's chests be opened by Syms in
search of hoarded bread (although this should have been the rightful property
of the men, bread put away for hungry days ahead). Syms delivered 30 cakes
in a bag to the Master. The ship was becalmed and Hudson, in his despair had
suggested leaving some of the men on shore.
- If Hudson was really looking for a Northwest Passage, why did he want to
continue to explore the coast of James Bay - a shallow body of water any experienced
mariner would recognize as a bay and not a major waterway to another ocean?
He may have been looking for islands indicated on later maps by Gerritz and
Champlain - islands that Hudson expected to be near a harbour on his
- 21: The conspiracy started while the ship was moored in the ice.
- William Wilson and Greene came to Prickett's cabin, who was lying in his
bed with a lame leg. They said there was only a 14-day supply of food left.
They told Prickett about their plan to commandeer the ship, asking him to
join them. Prickett tried to argue them out of it, asking for a delay of several
days in their mutiny, but the two were adamant. They finally agreed to wait
- Juet came into Prickett's cabin after Wilson and Greene left. He had also joined the mutiny,
saying to Prickett he would justify his deed when he returned home. Then John
Thomas and Michael Perse ("birds of a feather") came in, and finally
Motter and Bennet.
- 22: Somewhere in the middle of James Bay (not far from the Cape Hope
Islands? or perhaps Pebble Island?), the mutineers acted.
- King was the first on deck,
and was grabbed. He was shoved into the hold. When Hudson appeared, he was
taken by Matthews and Thomas and had his arms pinned, then tied behind his back.
Meanwhile, several sick crew members were also rounded up and taken prisoner.
- Juet went into the hold to fetch King, but King had found a sword there
and attacked Juet. Juet's cries brought help; King was outnumbered and
overpowered. Ludlow and Butte were also captured, as was Hudson's son, John.
Prickett recorded it thus, "The master called
to mee, who came out of my cabbin as well as I could
to the hatch waye to speak to him: where on my knees,
I besought them for the love of God to remember them-
selves, and to doe as they would be done unto. They
bade me keepe myselfe well, and get me into my cab-
bin, not suffering the master to speake to me. But
when I came into my cabbin, againe he called to me at
the horne that gave light into my cabbin, and told me
that Juet would overthrow us all. Nay, says I, it is
that villaine Henry Greene, and I spake it not softly."
- Hudson and the eight others the mutineers had taken were put in the ship's boat.
- Prickett's journal:
"Now were all the poore men in the shallop, whose
names are as followeth: Henrie Hudson, John Hudson,
Arnold Lodlo, Sidrach Faner, Phillip Staffe, Thomas
Woodhouse, (or Wydhouse,) Adam Moore, Henrie
King, and Michael Bute. The carpenter got of them
a peece, and powder and shot, and some pikes, an
iron pot, with some meale and other things. They
stood out of the ice, the shallop being fast to the sterne
of the shippe, and so when they were nigh out, for I
cannot say they were cleane out, they cut her head fast
from the sterne of the ship, then out with theire topsayles, and towards the east they stood in a cleare
For the full list see: crew.
- Matthews and Thomas begged Greene not to put their friends, Francis Clements
and Sylvanus Bond, in the boat. Greene reluctantly agreed.
- Although he had not be taken by the mutineers, Staffe insisted he be put
in the boat. The mutineers asked him to stay aboard with them. Staffe
declined, and then asked
Prickett to leave some token at the Capes (Digges & Wolstenholme), near
where the fowls bred, so the abandoned crew would know they had been there
(obviously believing they would also find their way out).
- After the boat had been put into the water, Hudson called out to Prickett,
warning him to beware of Juet. Prickett shouted back that Greene was the leader
of the mutiny, not Juet.
- The abandoned crew took clothes and bedding into the shallop, according
- The mutineers cut the rope that held the boat to the ship, but the men in
the boat continued rowing to pursue the ship. The mutineers put up Discovery's top
sails, and the ship sailed away. Looking back, they saw the shallop still
in sight and growing closer, so they lowered the mainsail and finally rushed
out of sight, never seeing the others again. For the list of remaining crew,
- In a frenzy, the mutineers ransacked the ship and the Captain's cabin. The captain's
and abandoned crew's clothes were sold among the remaining crew (the money
allegedly paid to the relatives of the owners, when the crew returned to England).
Although they had expected to find a secret hoard, the remaining food they
found only came to a box and a half of meal, two small tubs of butter, 27
pieces of pork, half a bushel of peas, a barrel of beer and about 200 biscuits
- a small amount for the remaining nine crew.
- The survivors would later testify to the Admiralty that Henry Hudson his
abandoned crew were not shot at by crew on Discovery as they sailed away.
- 23: The ship anchored off a small island where the crew went hunting,
but only returned with two birds and "cocklegrass," similar to rye,
which they also ate.
- Although unqualified, Greene took over as the captain, probably using his
position and gentle birth to claim the right to lead. He accused Prickett of stealing and hoarding
30 cakes of bread. Prickett said he was accused of things Greene had done
himself. When the crew voiced fears for their safety - as mutineers they faced
hanging when they returned - Greene promised he would not land anywhere until
"he had the king's majesty's hand and seal to show for his safety."
- Greene snubbed Juet and replaced him as pilot with Bylot. Juet and Bylot
subsequently argued over navigation. Bylot's advice, which Greene took, to head northeast ended up with
Discovery locked in the ice for 14 days, but they eventually got free. Juet had wanted to
head northwest, which would have led them away from England.
- Greene had intended to abandon Prickett with the others, but now seeing he
might prove useful later, put Prickett in Hudson's cabin, and gave him Hudson's journals and log.
He told Prickett to write an account of the voyage that was favourable to the mutineers.
- 25: The mutineers reached Digges' Island after a long month of travel, during much of
which they wandered lost in Hudson Bay.
- 27: They sent the boats out to get fowl they had encountered on their first stop
here, but could not find the place where the fowl bred again. They shot 30 gulls before
returning to the ship. The Discovery ran aground, but was freed shortly.
- 28: The crew sent boats out to Digges Island again (called Digges Cape by Prickett).
While ashore, they were discovered by seven boats of 40-50 Eskimo (Inuit - including men, women and
children), who offered the strangers food, and showed them how to snare birds. The Inuit
took the crew back to their camp and hosted a banquet, with displays of dancing and
leaping. Greene was so convinced of the Inuit's peaceful intentions, that he wouldn't post
a guard that night.
- 29: The crew sent the boat out again, this time going out of sight of the ship.
Greene and five men, unarmed and confident, found the Inuit again and tried to barter for more food. But according
to Prickett, unprovoked, the Eskimo attacked the crew instead. Two also tried to attack
the boat where only Prickett stood guard alone. Greene bravely tried to
defend his retreating crew mates with a broken pike.
- Back at the boat, Prickett managed to kill one attacker, the other of the
two was knocked unconscious in the boat.
Thomas, Wilson, Greene and Perse were seriously wounded, but made their way back to the
- Motter, unharmed, swam from shore to the boat as they left. Greene and Motter were
killed by arrows from the natives onshore. Prickett was hit in the back by
an arrow as they rowed back to the ship. Wilson and
Thomas died later that day on Discovery, Perse (Pearce) lived only two more days.
- Pricket described the incident this way: "Now when they had rowed a good way from the
shore, Michael Pearce fainted and could row no more.
Then was Andrew Moter driven to stand in the boat's
head and waft to the ship, which at the first saw us not,
and when they did, they could not tell what to make of
us; but in the end they stood for us, and so took us up.
Henry Greene was thrown out of the boat into the sea,
and the rest were had on board. But they died all
three that day, William Wilson swearing and cursing in
the most fearful manner. Michael Pearce lived two
days after and then died. Thus you have heard the
tragicale of Henry Greene and his mates, whom they
called the captaine, these four being the only lustie men
in all the ship."
- Only Prickett and Motter survived the attack. There is no record of what
happened to the Inuit on the boat. Conveniently for the others, most of the
major conspirators had apparently all died in this attack and could never be
called to account.
- 30: The next day, remaining crew went out and, with no natives in
sight, gathered about 200 fowl, then they
left the island and headed home for England, piloted by Bylot.
- Favourable winds helped them along the way. Juet tried to convince the crew to find
refuge in Newfoundland, possibly to become pirates sailing from there.
- After a while, they ran out of food onboard. The crew was forced to eat sea gulls. Then finally
eat they ate birds' bones fried in candle grease - each man received a pound of candles
- Juet assured the crew they had only 200 miles left to get home, but they really had 600
to reach the Irish coast.
- Not long before they sighted land, Prickett wrote that Juet died of hunger - "mere
want." The last ringleader was gone and the survivors could blame the
dead for their troubles without having anyone contradict them.
- 6: The ship reached Bantry Bay, off the southeast coast of Ireland, and the
eight remaining crew were brought in by a fishing boat. They were starving,
described by witnesses as "more dead than alive."
- The crew sold their cable and anchor to John Weymouth, to buy food in Ireland while they
prepared for their last leg home.
- The ship sailed to Plymouth, then Gravesend, and finally London.
- Total time since leaving: 1 year 4 months 3 weeks.
- 20: Discovery returned to London. Bylot reported to Sir Thomas, and the directors
interrogated the other survivors: Syms, Edward Wilson, Prickett, Matheus, Bond, Clements
- The crew was questioned, and a recommendation made that they be hanged.
However, the trial did not take place until 1618, after several had died of
Then, perhaps not wanting to expose a secret reason for the fateful voyage,
the Admiralty court found the surviving mutineers not guilty and freed
them. But this was not be the last voyage some of them made in Discovery,
nor the last time Discovery sailed the Arctic waters. Both Bylot and
Prickett would soon head back to those fateful waters. See the
file for more details.