January 19, 2007
by Ian Chadwick,
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The Admiralty was in no apparent hurry to try the mutineers. Only
one had a deposition taken in the same year they returned. The rest
would wait another five or six years - after some had died and memories
had lost their freshness
No one knows what happened
to Henry Hudson and his shipmates after the mutinous crew
aboard Discovery lost sight of them on that cold morning in June, 1611. They
were never found by subsequent rescue missions, nor was any trace found to identify
them as having survived in that harsh land. Even the exact route taken by Hudson
into the the bay that now bears his name is still unknown. Douglas McNaughton
(see sources) recently suggested Hudson may have actually
sailed to the west side of the bay, instead of along the northeast. At the time of
year, the west would have been clear of ice, while the northeast would be clogged
with ice flowing into the strait.
Another theory about Hudson's voyage was proposed by Carl Shuster, in the Beaver
Magazine, Sept. 1999. Shuster believes Hudson was not searching for a northwest
passage, since he was not prepared to meet with expected Oriental potentates
- he carried no letters of introduction, gifts or trade goods as other
explorers did. Instead, Shuster
suggests, Hudson was looking for a harbour where his backers could build a port
to take advantage of the area's rich mineral and other resources. Thus his wanderings
in James Bay were not random, but a methodical survey. An experienced mariner
like Hudson would have known the shallow bay was fed by rivers and hid no exit
to the west. But Hudson may have been bound by an oath of secrecy to his
backers, and could not tell his crew.
Hudson may also have had a copy of a map that showed the bay - European cartographers
had made maps since 1540 showing the bay - many highly detailled. Petrus Plancius
had published maps in the last decade of the 16th century that showed Hudson
Bay. But many of these maps were based on ancient originals, some made as early as
150 CE. Geography has changed considerably in the area, and many landmarks have
changed or disappeared since early mapmakers, the result of the slow rebound
(isostatic) of the land since the ice ages. That movement continues even today.
Hudson - says Shuster - may have been looking for landmarks on ancient maps
that had long since disappeared as a result of the changes.
Intriguing as the idea is, we will never know for sure. Hudson never confided
in his crew. He never gave them any reason for his determination to continue
the search, even after the hardships of the winter had left them dangerously
short of food, weakened and demoralized. With no better cause than their master's
personal vision, and having lost their faith in his abilities and leadership, the crew mutinied.
Possibly Hudson and his abandoned crew died in that boat on the water, of cold and hunger.
Several were already sick when they were set adrift. Possibly they made their way to the
shore, to set up camp and await the rescuers they knew would be sent from England to find
them. In 1631, Capt. Thomas James found the remains of what may have been a shelter
erected on Danby Island - the ship's carpenter was among the abandoned men. During the expedition of 1668-70, Capt. Zachariah Gillian found
similar remains supposedly left from an English crew 60 years earlier. But the evidence
however tantalizing is inconclusive. Hudson and his abandoned crew vanished from history
and no positive proof of their fate was ever found.
The main record of this voyage is Abacuck Prickett's self-serving
journal, written after the mutiny. Robert Juet and Henry Greene were made the villains of the mutiny:
they were cast as the ringleaders who organized the others. This may in
part be dissimulation by the survivors to protect themselves from being
Greene emerges from Prickett's narrative as the mastermind behind the
events, but Juet's evident dissatisfaction with his treatment at Hudson's hands, and
his early attempt at mutiny make him equally culpable. Prickett says
Hudson brought Greene along because "he could write so well." But
although the majority of seafarers might not have been literate, this
claim seems illogical. Hudson himself could read and write, as could
Juet, Prickett and Woodhouse - and perhaps others.
Juet's role in Hudson's voyages is complex and mysterious. Despite
apparent dissention between the two, Hudson hired him three times. Juet
was literate - uncommon but not rare in his day (Queen Elizabeth
actively promoted education and literacy throughout England). His record
of the 1609 voyage is clear, concise and well-written, so it appears he
was himself an experienced mariner who knew his instruments and
measurements. He apparently also wrote a journal of the 1608 voyage,
which Purchas chose not to reprint "for brevity." He served as Hudson's
mate twice, but not in 1609 (the Dutch masters likely wanted a more
compliant Dutch mate to oversee Hudson). But why he was taken aboard
again in 1610, and why he agreed to go remains unclear. Possibly, he was
put aboard by the company to keep and eye on Hudson and ensure he kept
to his goals. Possibly he was simply valuable as a seaman who had
survived three previous journeys to the unknown waters of the Arctic.
Four hundred years of history have buried the answers.
Juet has a parallel in an earlier history: Thomas Doughty, who sailed
with Francis Drake in 1577 and caused such dissension in the crew.
Doughty often seems an amalgam of Juet and Henry Greene: a combination
of mutiny and high birth.
The Admiralty was in no apparent hurry to try the mutineers. Only one
had a deposition taken in the same year they returned. The rest would
wait another five or six years - after some had died and memories had
lost their freshness. Perhaps it was their claim to have discovered the
Northwest Passage that saved them. At least two of them were sent back
to the Bay; ostensibly to search for Hudson but possibly to also verify
that claim. In the end, when they came to trial in 1618, none were
charged or punished for the crime. And no survivors were ever found in
the years to follow.
Legends and oral histories
abandoned men were in sad shape after their long winter. They had few tools and were ill-equipped to survive another winter in that
without help. They might have built a shelter and waited for rescue. They
may have met with natives and traded their meagre tools and belongings for necessary supplies and food. They might have even
been allowed to join a band and, if legend is true, could survive today in the genes of modern natives. But
Hudson had not shown any qualities that would have endeared him to the natives in the
past, and there is little to suggest the natives would have felt any sympathy for any of
them. Prickett's journal suggests the natives fled from attempts at contact.
However, legends still survive that may cast some light on their fate. One story tells of
an Inuit band which found a small boat on the water, filled with dead white men, and a
single survivor, a white boy - John Hudson? The Inuit didn't know what to do with the boy,
so they tied him outside their huts, with their dogs. No more is known about his fate.
There's another local legend in the Ottawa Valley (Ontario, Canada) that Henry Hudson, and possibly his son and some of his abandoned crew,
were captured by natives and enslaved for a time, which led to a trip down the Ottawa
River before they were eventually killed. Markings that read "HH CAPTIVE
1612" were found on a stone along the banks of the Ottawa River which supposedly corroborate this story, but
archeological studies to authenticate it have been lacking. The stone sat in Tenna-Brise Park in the village of Chalk River. These pictures are from
the town of
Laurentian Hills web site.
According to a story in the North Renfrew Times, this historic rock
was damaged by vandals in 2005: "When
the Hudson Stone was pushed off its moorings, it landed on the slab, and
broke into four pieces. When the Hudson Stone was mounted in the park,
at the intersection of Church and Wilson Streets, it signalled the end
of along road that had been travelled by the stone, ever since it was
discovered 38 years ago by a road crew repaving Highway 17 at the
eastern end of Deep River... although the stone is broken into four
pieces, the writing on its surface remains intact in one piece. "
The full story of the rock's discovery is online at the
Schoolhouse Museum (Deep River) site and a
picture of the stone's discoverer is also on that site.
Although the plaque notes the stone as discovered in 1959, Douglas McNaughton informed me
that accounts of the letters "HH" carved in stones along the Ottawa River,
upstream of Chaudier Falls date from the 1860s and were reported, with
engravings, in several old journals. Apparently the carvings were later covered by a dam
in the area. McNaughton says he recalls anthropologists identifying the symbols as those
of the Ottawa Indians that only looked like HH.
From Robert Prontack, 2004:
Hello from Canada. I was recently in Inukjuak on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay, on vacation. On one of
the Hopewell Islands (Harrison Island] I was told that there were
stone houses of Dorset culture people there (they were early Inuit
people]. These same people also told me that there were graves of
some of the Hudson crew. This might be a myth. I don t know, but
the stone houses of the Dorset people are there. For me, I always
liked the story of Capt James. It is sad that he is so neglected
today. I have visited James Bay in the past .I hope that you find
this interesting. Robert
From Lee Ann Gilpin, 2004:
There is a local legend here, I live in James Bay on the Quebec side, in
a little Cree community called Wemindji. The story goes that a it is
quite possible that Henry Hudson is buried near here. There is a trapline nearby that is call "Wamstuksheesh" which means little white
man in Cree. Apparently it was named after him because it is believed
that he had lived peacefully among the Cree People until he was an old
man. If this is true I would assume that he would have taken a Cree
woman has his wife and they most likely had some offspring.
has been passed down from generation to generation orally and I'm sure
some history has been forgotten. Had it just been written!! I found
that story so interested that my main goal when I attended post-secondary school in Montreal was I was going to be an archaeologist
and solve this mystery (I'm an early childhood education professional). But an archaeologist (can't recall his name) was here maybe about eight
years ago or so and a few friends of mine and myself asked him if he
believed that Henry Hudson was buried here.... he told us that the soil
around this area was very acidic and that remains usually are non-existent when buried for a long time. The only evidence would be if he
wore buttons, rings, etc....and even if they found such things it would
be hard to prove it was Henry Hudson!
So that's my little story on our local legend of Henry Hudson....
Tommy McGee, 2004:
I used to live in the James Bay area, where Hudson, was reportedly last seen, and actually, there's this place near a reserve called Wemindji, where some of the locals told my father that there was a certain mound of large rocks assembled just 8 km south of Wemindji. The mound, apparently, was not made by any of the locals.
What I find somewhat odd is that no team of archeologists has bothered looking in this area for any evidence. I never been there but my father has, since he wasn't any pro on archeology, he could not verify anything. We even had a non-fiction writer, Lawrence Millman (Evening among Headhunters) come to the place, and other suspected areas where Hudson could've been.
Many of the locals also told my father and the writer, that "many" years, that their ancestors had seen several men, in one particular, was called "red beard."
They could've been referring to the carpenter who was with Hudson. They were spotted at a cove, next to a small rocky island. I've been there. I couldn't find anything. There was another island just 7 km south of Wemindji, which was called "monkey island". The reason being, that the locals spotted 2 "ape men" on a boat going to that island. I know for a fact, back then, the Crees, who inhabited the area, were known for never having facial which strongly concludes, based off probability that those so-called "ape-men" were bearded Europeans, possibly Hudson's crew but so far, no one in the local area, has been able to verify if that is true.
If you ever heard anything about these or other legends, or had any
photographs to share, I would appreciate you emailing me at email@example.com
or posting a notice in my Henry Hudson discussion forum with
whatever information or sources you have.
Another theory emerged, this time from Dr. David Duff, former chemistry lecturer at
Paisley University. He claims to have found evidence that Hudson navigated his
remaining crew 3,000 miles across the Arctic Ocean to land on Spitzbergen Island,
where they finally died. His theory is based on a discovery of graves by Douglas Clavering,
in 1823, noted in a diary of an expedition to Greenland. This story, published
Jan. 4, 1998, is available on the Electronic Telegraph at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/. While a significant challenge,
it would not be impossible - witness the extensive voyage of Captain Bligh in
a similarly small ship, the 18th century. More likely the graves were those of
early whalers who perished in the pursuit of their trade.
Hudson's tale sparked the imagination of England in 1611, and wild rumours
spread rapidly. The main one was that Hudson had found the Northwest Passage
before the mutiny. Hudson became a hero, posthumously. Sir Thomas Smythe
- one of the men who had sponsored Hudson's fateful voyage - decided it was
true. He formed a new company under the approval of King James I, and soon had
270 wealthy investors eager to exploit the passageway to the Orient. But Smythe and his supporters were soon to be disappointed
again. No trace of the fabled Northwest Passage would be found in their lifetimes
- although England did make a commercial success from trading outlets later
established in the north. The Hudson Bay Company became the largest trading
firm in Canada's north, and continues to this day.
Crew of the Discovery:
||Captain, Master, navigator; arms pinioned (tied) when put into boat.
||Ship's boy, Henry's son, called Jack. This was his third voyage with
||(Henry King, Kinge) Mate. Previously quartermaster, appointed by Hudson
over Juet during the previous winter. King could neither read nor write. See note on
||(also Wydowse or Widowes) Scholar & mathematician, recommended by Sir Dudley.
Possibly the son of Richard Widows, a goldsmith and financier for the
Virginia Company. When thrust out of the ship, he begged the mutineers to take his keys and share his
belongings to save his life. He was possibly son of Richard Widowes, goldsmith, named in
the second charter of the Virginia Company. Sick at the time of the mutiny. He was
"put away in great distress" according to Prickett. Left a note in
his desk that described Juet's early bent to mutiny.
||(Ladley, Ludlowe) Seaman *
||(Bute, Buche) Seaman (sick), married.
||(Adrian or Adam Moore) Seaman (sick, apparently since the start of
||(Sidrach) Seaman (sick), married, from Ipswich. Lame at the time of the
||(Stacie) A carpenter from Ipswich,
Suffolk. He chose to accompany Hudson in
the shallop. He took his chest with him, plus fowling piece, powder & shot, pikes
& iron pot. By asking to join the men in the shallop, Staffe showed
unexpected loyalty to his captain, despite harsh words Hudson had had with
him that winter. Prickett said Greene wanted to put Staffe in the boat because "the
master loved him and made him his mate," but he probably meant John King.*
Possible related to the family of William Staffe who is recorded living in
nearby Chelmondiston in 1640.
Those who remained
||(Ivett or Iuett or Jewett) From Limehouse. Mate, Hudson's "evil genius." He died of
"mere want" on the voyage home (the only one noted to die of starvation). He had threatened
earlier to turn the head of the ship home and persuaded the crew at that time to keep
muskets charged and swords ready in their cabins in an early attempt at mutiny. Described
by Llewellyn Powys as "an elderly man, cynical, skeptical and dangerous." *!+
||Boatswain, used "ugly words and worse actions." He was
wounded in bowels by Eskimo on Digge's Island, and died that day "cursing and
swearing in a most fearful manner." Wilson pinioned Henry Hudson's arms behind him
and "basely carried himself to our Master and the action." !+
||(Robart Billet, Bileth, Blythe). Welsh.
was leading seaman, and a trained and competent
navigator from the Precinct of St Katherine's. He replaced Juet as navigator on the
return. He joined the mutiny because he "honestly respected the good of the
action." He would later serve or lead three more expeditions to the Arctic, in two as
captain of the Discovery.#
||Surgeon, 22 at the time of the mutiny.
||(Habbacuck Pricket). Landsman, servant or valet of Sir Dudley Digges, and former
haberdasher. Likely an agent of the backers put aboard to watch over
Hudson's activities. Captain Luke Foxe, who met Prickett, wrote of him, "I am in great doubt
of thy fidelity to master Hudson." Wrote the main document that today
stands as the history of the voyage. #
||(Mathews or Matthews) Cook and Landsman. In the employ of Lady Smith
before the voyage and vouched for by Sir Thomas. He jumped on Hudson during the mutiny.
Called "our trumpet" by Prickett because he called out the captain's orders to
||(Silvanus) Cooper, from London, spent most of his adult life before
||Seaman. Wounded in the bowels by Eskimo on Digge's Island, he died
that day. He was described by Prickett with Perse as "birds of a feather." He
jumped on Henry Hudson in the mutiny. +
||(Clemence or Clemens) Seaman (former boatswain, displaced by Wm.
Wilson), from Wapping.
||(Michell Peerce or Pearce) Seaman. He was wounded by arrow from
Eskimo, Digge's Island, and died two days later. *+
||(Simms) Ship's boy, from Wapping.
||Picked up in Gravesend (when Colebourne was let off, with a letter
to the directors).
He had family in Kent, and was the son of a gentleman farmer. He stayed at Hudson's London
home before the voyage. He was a gambler and troublemaker, but had been promised a post
with Prince Henry's guard when he returned to England. He was a firebrand who, with Juet,
stirred up the crew to mutiny. He (or possibly Bylot) took a ring out of Henry Hudson's
pocket before putting him in the boat. Greene took over as captain on the voyage home. He
was killed by an Eskimo arrow while fleeing Digge's Island, and his body dropped into the
sea. Bylot testified Greene and "two or three others" wanted to turn pirate,
which Bylot said be believed they "would have done if they had lived." !+
||(Mutter, Mowter) Appointed boatswain's mate by Henry Hudson, from
Middlesex. rated an able-bodied seaman, he carried letters of recommendation that were
||(Colebert, Coalbrand or Coolbrand): Served under Weymouth previously. Placed in
ship's company by the adventurers (merchants) as Hudson's 'advisor.' On April 22, 1610
Hudson wrote: "I caused Master Coleburne to be put into a pinke bound for
London" with no record of reason. In 1631, Luke 'North West' Foxe wrote
"Coleburne was a better man than Hudson" and made the unlikely claim it was
Coleburne's idea to hunt for a passage at 61° N.
||Gunner, died during the winter in James Bay. ++
||Sailed with Hudson previously.
||Listed as one of 288 (88?) members of the "Discoverers of the
Northwest Passage" trading company after they returned.
||Main conspirators in the mutiny.
||Died on the way home, 1611.
||Died before the mutiny in 1611.
||Alternate spellings of names in parentheses.
Crew sleeping arrangements
on the Discovery
Bow at this end, port (larboard) to left
sleeping in pairs:
- Only the surgeon, Edward Wilson's, deposition is taken by the Admiralty.
wait until 1616 or 1617 before their statements are taken. Smythe refused to
bring charges of mutiny against any of the survivors.
- Hudson's chart aroused excitement in London. It showed only the eastern shore of the
Bay, with an 'unterminated' peninsula to the west. Merchants were convinced the
Northwest Passage had been found. Smythe played on their interest and got
investors to support another company to search for the passage.
- Nicolas de Vignau, an adventurer with Samuel de Champlain in New France, volunteered to
join the Indians (Algonquin) on their homeward journey north, and winter among them. He
left in the Algonquin canoes, passed up the Ottawa River, and was not seen again for
- First British envoy to the Great Moghul.
- The first King James Bible is published. Shakespeare's The Tempest
was performed at Whitehall for King James I.
- James Hall and William Baffin, in the Patience and Heart's Ease, explored the west coast
of Greenland in search of the Northwest Passage.
- July 26: King James I provided a charter to some merchants to establish a trade
route by the northwest passage.
- England colonized Bermuda.
- Nicolas de Vignau returned to Paris, bringing a tale of wonders. Champlain said,
"he was the most impudent liar that has been seen for many a day." Vignau swore
that at the sources of the Ottawa River, he had found a great lake; that he had crossed
it, and discovered a river flowing northward. He said he had descended this river, and
reached the shores of the sea; that here he had seen the wreck of an English ship, whose
crew, escaping to land, had been killed by the Indians; and that this sea was distant from
Montreal only seventeen days by canoe. The clearness, consistency, and apparent simplicity
of his story deceived Champlain, who had heard of a voyage of the English to the northern
seas, coupled with rumors of wreck and disaster (Hudson's voyage). He believed Vignau's
story, as did many prominent French nobles and merchants. The Maréchal de Brissac, the
President Jeannin, and other persons of eminence about the court urged Champlain to follow
up without delay. Champlain, with the Pacific, Japan, China, the Spice Islands, and India
stretching in flattering vista before his fancy, entered with eagerness on the chase of
this illusion. (Reported in Compare Jérmie, Relation, in Recueil de Voyages au Nord, VI)
- Dutch historian Hessel Gerritz (Gerritsz) wrote the first history of
Hudson's 1610 voyage, and included in his recounting a map (above). He wrote
that many in Holland believed Hudson "purposely missed the correct route to
the western passage" in 1609 because he was "unwilling to benefit Holland
and the directors... by such a discovery." This report suggested Hudson was
secretly working for his English backers while in Dutch employ. Gerritsz first published
his map in 1612, later reproduced (as above) by Johann Theodore de Bry in
1613. It was the first map to depict Hudson Bay and the Canadian Arctic.
Abacuck Prickett seems to have had possession of the chart, which somehow made its way to Amsterdam
and Gerritsz very soon after Prickett's return to England.
- A journal was published, supposedly written by Henry Hudson, chronicling his voyage in
1587 as mate with John Davis. Many contemporaries thought his son, Oliver,
actually wrote it. Hakluyt's reprint of the log was written by John Jones, and notes John Churchyard as pilot
and a Master Bruton on that journey.
- May: Discovery and Resolution, with a crew of 160 men, were sent
out by Prince Henry (the Prince of Wales) and the directors of the Muscovy Company, under command of Capt.
Thomas Button (a gentleman of Prince Henry's Household). They set out to search for the
Northwest Passage, and search for any survivors. Three former members of Hudson's crew, Abacuck Prickett,
the Welshman Robert Bylot (as pilot) and Edward Wilson, were aboard. Prince
Henry gave specific instructions to Button on how to govern his crew to
avoid another mutiny. Five of his men died on Digges Island attempting to
commandeer some canoes from the Inuit. The Resolution was crushed by ice and
- Expecting to find a
passage to Cathay, Button carried a letter from King James addressed to the emperor of Japan. Button crossed Hudson Bay
to the west side around 61° N, then sailed south
exploring the bay. The ships stopped and and wintered at the mouth of the
Nelson River. Port Nelson, where they wintered-over, was named after one of
the mates who was buried there.
- Next spring, the ships headed back north along the coast,
until shallow water convinced him he had found a sound (now Roe's Welcome
Sound), not a passage west. The Resolution was crushed by the ice and sank.
Discovery sailed north to what was called Sir Thomas Roe's Welcome, between
Southampton Island and the east coast of America, before turning for
England. A considerable length of coastline was charted on this expedition.
It was also determined that no westward passage from Hudson Bay existed.
Button headed east and returned home to England, 16
months after his departure.
- The Bay was first named
"Button's Bay" after Capt. Button, but later officially named Hudson (not
Hudson's) Bay. Nothing in the log of that voyage shows the ship ever
searched for Hudson or the abandoned crew at the bottom of the bay where
they knew he had disappeared.
- Prince Henry died at age 18.
- In July, The Company of Merchants of London, Discoverers of the
Northwest Passage was granted a royal charter to explore the waters west of
- Button and Bylot continued their journey through Hudson Bay, heading north
in the spring, reaching a latitude of 65° before returning to England.
- Benjamin Joseph and William Baffin, with seven ships, searched for the Northeast Passage.
- Early in the spring, Champlain crossed the Atlantic, and sailed up the St. Lawrence. On
May 27, he left Montreal with four Frenchmen, one of whom was Nicolas de Vignau, and one
Indian, in two small canoes, searching for Vignau's "sea." They passed the
swift current at St. Ann's, crossed the Lake of Two Mountains, and advanced up the Ottawa
till the rapids of Carillon and the Long Saut (Sault?) checked their course.
Champlain reached Allumette Island, only to find that the youth had taken no
such journey as he previously reported, and that the Indians didn't know of any
passage through to Hudson Bay. On this, his first trip up the Ottawa,
Champlain lost the astrolabe which, in 1807, was turned up by the plough
near Muskrat Lake in Renfrew County.
- British settlement permitted at Surat, India.
- Hessel Gerritz's report of Hudson's voyages is published. He wrote a scathing commentary on Hudson's third voyage,
calling it a failure, and saying, "All that he did in the west in 1609 was
to exchange his merchandise for the furs of New France."
- Dutch explorer Adrien Block spent the winter on an island which he named
"Manhatte." He built a small fort he named New Amsterdam. The territory
comprised between the Hudson river and Delaware was known as New Belgium and
New Holland. The city of New
York was built on Manhatte island.
- Benjamin Joseph and
William Baffin, with a fleet of thirteen ships this
time, searched for the
Northeast Passage in the direction of Hudson's second voyage. They, too,
- March: William Gibbons, who had sailed with Button the previous
year, set sail for the Northwest Company in the Discovery, intending to search for the Northwest Passage through
Hudson Bay, but was blocked by ice. He spent 10 weeks trapped in an inlet on
the Labrador coast, then returned home.
- Dutch historian Emmanuel Van Meteren's book, Historie der Nederlanden wrote that
a mutiny took place on Hudson's 1609 voyage, originating in quarrels between Dutch and
English sailors. Van Meteren (van Meteran) was the Dutch counsel in London when Hudson returned, and had
access to Hudson's journals, charts and logbooks at the time.
- Katherine Hudson, Henry's widow, applied to the East India Company for employment for
Richard, one of her remaining sons.
- According to Asher, on April 19, 1614, the EIC, "Being informed that Mrs. Hudson, the wife or widow of Mr. Hudson who was left in the North West discovery, desired their favour for employing a youth, a Son of his, she being left very poor, and conceiving that they were partly obliged in charity to give assistance in regard that his Father perished in the service of the Commonwealth, resolved to recommend him to the care of some one who is to go the voyage [to the East. Indies]."
- Again on that same date, April 19, 1614, "Mrs. Hudson's son recommended to the care of Hunt, master's mate in the 'Samaritan,' 5pd. to be laid out upon him for apparel and necessaries."
- William Baffin set out to explore a Northwest passage on Discovery.
This time Robert Bylot served as captain. Baffin (his pilot) explored the
entrance to Hudson Strait. The voyage proved Hudson Strait was definitely
not the northwest route to Asia. He arrived at Resolution Island by the
end of May. Ice and bad weather in the strait slowed the voyage and Baffin
didn't reach the southwest corner of the island that would be named after
him until July. Baffin explored the northern coast of Southampton Island and
the southern waters of Foxe Basin before returning home. He did not believe
there was a passage in that direction.
- The Dutch settled on Manhattan Island.
- Four of the nine mutineers were tried for murder, but none was convicted. It
has been suggested they were not hung because they might have knowledge of
the area where the English traders still hoped to find mineral wealth and
a safe harbour.
- March 6: the Half Moon, in the company of other Dutch vessels under
the command of Laurens Real, heading to the East Indies, was wrecked and
lost near the island of Mauritius. There are no further records of the Half
- The first known reference to tea by an Englishman was made by Richard Wickham,
who wrote to Macao asking for 'a pot of the best sort of chaw' (the Chinese name for tea).
- 1615 Samuel de Champlain journeyed to Lake Huron.
- Bylot, now captain of the Discovery, found and explored Baffin Bay,
sailing north along the west coast of Greenland to Smith Sound (between
Ellesmere Island and Greenland), then south to what is now Baffin Island and
south along its eastern coast. Bylot, still in disgrace from the mutiny, named
the bay after
his first mate and pilot, William Baffin, because his disgrace would not
allow him the honour of having his name used in a discovery. Bylot and the Discovery explored Smith
Sound, Jones Sound and Lancaster Sound. Baffin's highest latitude reached
was just above 78° N. Baffin believed the bay was
another dead end, which would not be disproved for another two centuries
when Elisha Kent Kane crossed its ice into what is now Kane Sound, in 1853.
However, beyond the Kane basin lie the increasingly narrow Kennedy then
Robeson Channels (between Greenland and Ellesemere Island) before the Arctic
Ocean is reached.
- Bylot made four voyages to the Arctic, and Discovery was used in a total of six.
During his 1616 voyage, Bylot made several notable achievements, thanks to a
combination of his talents in ice navigation, and the brilliant
navigational and mapping skills of Baffin. They reached and reached a
farthest north point of 77°45N, which would not be exceeded until 1876 when
Capt. George Nare led the Alert and another ship named Discovery into the
waters. They were the first Europeans to
see Jones, Lancaster and Smith Straits, important waterways which were named
after patrons of the voyage (Alderman Jones, Sir James Lancaster and Sir
Thomas Smith). They mapped the entire bay that was named to honour Baffin.
They were able to reach 70° 45' North latitude, a record which held for 236
years. Bylot successfully sailed back to England, but nothing is known about
his life after that point. William Baffin usually receives full credit for
the successes of the 1616 voyage.
- The Admiralty took statements from Prickett and Bylot. The court records
"...the trial of Robert Bileth alias Blythe, late of the precinct of St. Katherine next the Tower of London, co. Middlesex, mariner, Abacucke Prickett, late of the city of London, haberdasher, Edward Wilson of the same, barber-surgeon, Adrian Matter, late of Ratcliffe, Middlesex, mariner; Silvanus Bonde, of London, cooper, and Nicholas Sims, late of Wapping, sailor, to be indicted for having, on 22 June 9 James I, in a certain ship called The Discovery of the port of London, then being on the high sea near Hudson’s Straits in the parts of America, pinioned the arms of Henry Hudson, late of the said precinct of St. Katherine, mariner, then master of the said ship The Discovery, and putting him thus bound, together with John Hudson, his son, Arnold Ladley, John Kinge, Michael Butt, Thomas Woodhouse, Philip Staffe, Adam Moore and Sidrach Fanner, mariners of the said ship, into a shallop, without food, drink, fire, clothing or any necessaries, and then maliciously abandoning them, so that they came thereby to their death and miserably perished."
(I have reprinted documents from the mutineers' trial at
- The Half Moon was last heard of from off the Island of Sumatra, in the
South Seas. She was wrecked this
year on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean while on a voyage to the Dutch East
Indies, although other sources say she was burned with other Dutch ships off Jakarta in
- Richard Hakluyt died.
- By 1616, the
Dutch controlled all the Spice Islands (the Bandas) except the smallest one,
two miles long and one mile wide, called Run.
- The Admiralty took a statement from Clements.
- Baffin ended the speculation about a possible northwest passage, writing "There is
no hope of a passage to the east from Hudson Bay."
- 1617 Samuel de Champlain returned to Québec with Louis Hébert, who was
accompanied by his wife, his son, his two daughters and his brother-in-law.
With the arrival of this family, the French colony in New France was born.
- July 23,24: Abacuck Prickett, Edward Wilson, Bennet Matheus (Matthews) and Francis
Clements appeared in Southwark to stand trial for their piracy. Nicolas Simms was excused
because he was a minor at the time of the mutiny. Three other survivors had died in the
- According to Admiralty documents, the mutineers claimed Wilson and Greene first only
wanted at first to take the shallop and flee, taking care of themselves. But later they
resolved to take the entire ship.
- Edward Wilson said the mutineers first put the others in the shallop only while they
found and divided the 'hidden' food, but later "would not suffer them to come back
again into the ship."
- Clements charged Hudson was hoarding food and giving it to his favourites in his cabin,
including Edward Wilson.
- The jury gave the conspirators "not guilty" on charges of "the ejection
of Henry Hudson and John Hudson and others from the ship Discovery in a boat without food
or drink and other necessities and the murder of the same" and "fleeing from
justice" or for putting Henry Hudson, Master of the Discovery "out of the same
ship with eight more of his company into a shallop in the Isle of America without meat,
drink, or other provision; whereby they died."
- Greene got most of the blame, along with Juet and William Wilson - all conveniently
dead and beyond the reach of justice (or the inquiry).
- The Thirty Years' War begins, one of several wars that divided Europe
over national and religious issues.
- Two Danish ships, the Unicorn and Lamprey, manned with a crew of 68 (65?)
under the leadership of pathfimder Jens Munk attempted to find a Northwest
passage. They over-wintered at the mouth of the Churchill River (near the
site of the later Hudson's Bay Company post, Fort Prince of Wales), where they
were stuck for nine months. All but three of the two crews died of cold and
scurvy (although trichinosis from poorly-cooked pork has also been blamed). Munk survived,
and helped return the Lamprey home, a voyage of 3,500 miles. His journal was published
In the East
Indies, Dutch-English confrontations over the spice trade had been
growing worse and more violent for the past decade. In 1619 the English
East India Company and the Dutch East India company signed the Treaty of
Defence. They agreed to cease all fighting, return all captured ships,
release all prisoners, and to create a joint fleet (one-third English,
two-thirds Dutch) to expel Spain and Portugal from the Spice Islands and
to destroy their bases in Indonesia, China, the Philippines, and the
Malay Peninsula. Although the Dutch had the upper hand, the English were
granted one-third of all trade in the Spice Islands. These terms were
unacceptable to the Dutch governor-general in the East Indies, so he
ignored them and continued to wage war.
- War between Holland and Spain resumes after a 12-year truce.
- England declares war on Spain.
- William Hawkridge, with two ships, entered Hudson Strait to search for the Northwest
- Juet's journal of the 1609 voyage was published in Purchas His Pilgrims. Portions
of Hudson's journal of the same voyage were published in John De Laet's history, Nieuwe
Werelt. Prickett's journals of the fateful 1610 voyage were published
only after the death of his employer, Sir Thomas Smythe.
- James I dies, succeeded by Charles I.
- William Connor, an English merchant on the ship the Swallow, reached the
southeast corner of Hudson Bay. There, he said, he and his men found a cabin
constructed of planks cut with carpenter's tools. Inside were several beds
and an iron cooking pot. There was no sign of clothing or muskets, nor any
graves outside. Connor's tale was not believed by many at the time.
- Two independent, rival captains, Luke 'Northwest' Foxe (in the Charles) and Thomas James (in
the ship Henrietta Marie, and backed by Bristol
merchants), set out from England to make another effort to find the passage. They met by
coincidence in Hudson Bay. Foxe was returning home, disillusioned, having explored
the southwest shore of Hudson Bay not mapped by Button. James was just starting to explore. He was carrying a
letter from King Charles I to the emperor of Japan. Foxe went north, deep
into the sound that now bears his name (Foxe's Channel), then headed back to England.
The bay was named after James.
- James over-wintered on Charlton Island in
James Bay and also returned home without finding a route. Because he had
faced the hardships of winter when Foxe had returned, James got the
hero's welcome, even though Foxe produced the better reports and charts. This would be the
first confirmed exploration of the southern end of Hudson Bay by English
mariners after Hudson. Foxe was convinced there was no passage north through
the sound and he was proven right: the narrow strait between Baffin Island
and the Meville Peninsula on the mainland (now called the Fury and Hecla
Strait) is usually blocked by ice. Despite numerous attempts in the
following centuries to find it, proof of the existence of a Northwest
Passage would remain elusive until the early 20th century.
- During the winter, James found a row of stout, sharpened stakes - possibly
sharpened by a European axe - on nearby Danby Island,. These were thought to
remnants from Staffe's house or from the efforts of the abandoned crew who later
may have reached the island. The stakes, James wrote, "had beene cut sharpe
at the ends with a hatchet, or some other good Iron toole, and driven in, as
it were with the head of it.” These stakes were possibly relics of Henry
Hudson and his men, who had been abandoned thereabouts some 20 years
earlier. Upon his return to England, James wrote his story under the title,
Strange and Dangerous Voyage (1633). In it, he rightly
concluded that no northwest passage existed south of 66°N.
- This author uncovered several references made to people named Hudson in the House of Lords, including
Thomas Hudson, Mrs. Hudson, Capt. William Hudson. It is unsure if these are
members of the explorer's family. Search the records at
- 1638: A Mrs. Hudson, widow, is listed as a
resident of St. Faith's in London, at an annual rent of 16 pds.
- July 13, 1642: "An Ordinance for securing
Thomas Hudson touching the Personal Estates of Henry Hudson and Robert
Holiday, Delinquents, late in Partnership with him..."
- December 16, 1642: "Mr.
Winch claimeth an Interest in certain Goods and Chattels, which Mr. Jordan,
by Order of this House, hath seized as the Goods of Captain Wm. Hudson..."
and "the Four Horses belonging to Mrs. Hudson, and seized by Serjeant Major
Pretty, shall be valued by the Commissaries appointed for that Purpose; and
delivered unto Serjeant Major Pretty, to be employed by him in the Army, for
Recruiting of his Troop, according to the Warrant of my Lord General...
Ordered, That Mrs. Hudson be restrained in her House in London; giving good
Security, that she will not depart thence, without first acquainting the
Ordered, That Mr. Ashe do consider of the Bills and Bonds taken with Mrs.
Hudson; and take the best Course for Recovery of the Sums due upon those
Bonds, to the Service of the Commonwealth."
- February 15, 1643: "...Colonel
John Birch; relating, That he hath lent, for the Service of the State,
Fifteen hundred Pounds; and desiring that he may have, upon Account, towards
the Satisfaction of the said Fifteen hundred Pounds, such Estate of Henry
Hudson, a Delinquent..."
- October 16, 1644: "...Mr.
Clement Spelman, of Grayes Inne, now in the Serjeant's Custody, be forthwith
bailed, upon the Security of William Gerratt and Henry Hudson Esquires; the
Principal in Two thousand Pounds; and the Security in a Thousand Pounds
- April 8, 1645: "An Ordinance for
securing Thomas Hudson touching the Personal Estates of Henry Hudson and
Robert Holiday, Delinquents..."
- April 14, 1645: "...the
Ordinance for the securing of Thomas Hudson the Personal Estates of Henry
Hudson and Rob't Hollyday, Delinquents, remaining of or in late Partnership
with the said Thomas Hudson..." and "Whereas, by virtue of an Ordinance and
several Orders of Parliament, Thomas Hudson, Citizen and Haberdasher of
London, hath paid Two Thousand Pounds; videlicet, One Thousand Five Hundred
Pounds unto Colonel John Birch..."
- The first coffee house in England opened was in Oxford. The coffee
house in London, the Sign of Pasqua Rosee in St Michael's Alley off Cornhill, was opened
- Anne Hudson, listed as daughter of Henry, married George Stodard of
London. She bears the coat of arms of her father (Argent, a Cross Sable
between four Fleurs-de-lis Gules).
- A voyage funded by the Hudson's Bay Company set out from London with the Nonsuch and Eaglet.
The small vessel, Nonsuch, sailed from through the Hudson Strait and into
Hudson Bay, and opened a sea route for trade in furs with the local Indians.
- Capt Zachariah Gillian, master of the ketch Nonsuch, and his crew constructed Fort Charles, a trading
site, on the shore of James Bay, near the mouth of the Rupert River, on the ruins of a
house supposedly built there 60 years before by the English. Those ruins
were widely believed to be the
remains of the house built by Staffe for the wintering in 1610-11, or possibly made after the
abandoned crew made landfall.
- Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Medard Chouart Sieur de Groseillers - Courier
de Bois - were aboard the ships, Radisson sailing with Capt. William Stannard aboard the
Eaglet, Groseillers aboard the Nonsuch. The Eaglet was forced to turn back by a violent
storm, and the Nonsuch went on into James Bay.
- After wintering over, the Nonsuch returned home the next year, with many pelts.
- The Hudson Bay Company is founded to take advantage of opportunities to
trade in pelts with natives in the New World. The company would assume its
coat of arms in 1678: Argent, a Cross Gules between four Beavers proper.
This may in fact refer back to the coat of arms of the Hudson family.
- James Knight, in an expedition funded by the Hudson's Bay Company, left in
search of "minerals and to traverse the 'Strait of Anian.' They departed
from Gravesend on the lower Thames in June 1719 and were never seen again.
His ships Albany and Discovery (Hudson's former ship) attempted to
take refuge on Marble Island in Hudson Bay, but in the attempt the ships were damaged. After two winters,
there were no survivors. Presumably, they all starved.
- In his book, Passage to the West, Noel Gerson reported in 1725 an agent of
the Hudson Bay Company called Miller met a Cree Indian with "surprisingly
pale skin" and who had boasted of an English ancestor, one of a "few"
Englishmen who had been living in the forest and eventually joined the Cree
and taken a Cree wife.
- Captain Christopher Middleton sets out with the Furnace and Discovery. The
vessels winter at Sloop Cove, between the Hudson's Bay Company's fort, named
after the Prince of Wales, and the recently vacated Old Factory on the
Churchill River. The following year they headed north to the uncharted and
ice-infested waters of Sir Thomas Roe's Welcome (now Roe's Welcome Sound),
between the west coast of Southampton Island and the east coast of North
America. They reached a deep bay whose upper reaches touched the Arctic
Circle. Middleton named it Repulse Bay because he was repulsed from his
efforts to find a northwest passage.
- Hudson's logs from his third voyage (1609) were probably among the property of the Dutch
East and West India Companies, sold at auction by the Dutch government in 1821. The New
York State Legislature attempted to find them in 1841. Their agent, John Romeyn Brodhead,
wrote, " ... the papers of the West India Company relating to New Netherlands ... are
now irrecoverably lost." One excerpt was published in 1625. In it, Hudson wrote about
the area, "It is as pleasant a land as one can tread upon."
- Bantam was a common name for Java, although it was really the name of a
town on the northwest shore of the island. When the Dutch arrived, they
built Batavia, their own port, nearby and Bantam lost is importance.
- Boys served on ships as cabin boys until age 16, paid only in food. After that they
served as apprentices for seven years to learn the art of sailing and, eventually become
ranked as a 'seaman'.
- Puchas notes a "bittacle" was a small enclosed area used to house the
compass. References in Juet's 1609 journal.
- 1607: Captain John Smith first encountered Iroquois in Chesapeake Bay.
- 1608: Champlain founded the first permanent European settlement in the New World:
Quebec. Jamestown was founded the same year; the first permanent English colony in New World.
- Scurvy: gums swell and turn black, teeth loosen and fall out, rheumatism, lethargy sets
- Ship's watch was changed every 4 hours.
- Ship's punishments: flogging, hanging, 3 knocks on head by bo'sun's (boat
swain's) club (for swearing).
- Daily rations: 1 lb biscuit/man. Four days/week: 1 lb salt beef or salt
pork plus handful of peas. Two days/week: salt cod instead of meat. Friday:
1/2 lb cheese, sometimes small portion of butter or spoonful of olive oil.
Food was eaten uncooked if no galley fire was lit (due to bad weather).
- Midday: captain checked the ship's location with his astrolabe, if sun is visible,
latitude with help of tables. Observations were checked by mate using ship's cross staff
(less accurate). Speed was also checked with a knotted rope and log thrown out behind
the ship, for
the duration of an upturned sand-glass.
- The Dutch returned to the area of Hudson's discoveries in what is now New York
and established a colony a few years after the 1609 voyage. In 1621, a West India Company
was formed to trade in the New World. In 1626, Peter Minuit purchased the island of
Manhattan from the natives and made it the capital of the company's properties. In 1647,
Peter Stuyvesant arrived there as Director-General and laid the foundations for New
Amsterdam, now New York.
- More than 30 vessels that went in search of the Northwest Passage were forced to endure unexpected winters in the Arctic.
Several were crushed, and many crew died.
- Ungava means "Faraway"
- Cree: contraction of Kristinaux, French form of Kenistenoag. Young men shaved
except for a small spot on their crown. The Cree buried their dead in shallow graves covered by stones, rarely on
platforms. They lined the graves with branches & articles of the deceased. Men wore tight leggings
to hip, breechcloth one foot wide, five foot long, wrapped, with belt, vest or shirt worn
long to hips, sometimes a cap, moccasins, mittens in winter. Women wore skirts to
arms covered to wrists, same leggings & shirt as man but shirt was longer. Men had sweat
house ceremonies. They used a double-headed drum and rattle for ceremonies.
Cree were expert canoe users. They
call Iroquois "Iri akhoiw." The Cree lived all along west side of Hudson & James Bay.
- Eskimo (Inuit) lived along east shore, not quite to south end of James Bay,
around the north shore of Quebec.
- Algonkin (Algonquin) lived to the south.
- Ojibwa lived to the southwest.
- Chippewa is from Cree "Chippwayanawok" from Chipwa "pointed" and
weyanaw "skin" - northern Athabascan tribes.
Hudson Strait is a 450-mile bottleneck, a boiling maelstrom of currents and
pulverizing ice pans.
Shakespeare played in Gray's Inn, London, in the early 1600s. Possibly one of his
plays was seen by Hudson between or before his voyages. The Globe Theatre was built outside London in 1599 and the first
play produced there was Julius Caesar. "The prince of darkness is a gentleman" -
Shakespeare wrote in King Lear. A suitable comment for either Greene or Juet.
Greenland was originally believed to be in two parts: south was named Desolation, north
- The National Film Board of Canada made a film about Hudson's last voyage. Check
- Discovery, (OV-103), the third of NASA's fleet of reusable, winged spaceships, is
named for two famous sailing ships; one sailed by Henry Hudson in 1610-11 and the other by
James Cook on a voyage during which he discovered the Hawaiian Islands. It arrived at
Kennedy Space Center in November 1983. It was launched on its first mission, flight 41-D,
on August 30, 1984.
- In 1725, Vitus Bering began his quest to discover whether Asia and North America
were joined. He discovered the strait that now bears his name. Extensive Russian
exploration of the northern
Siberian coastline began in 1733. In 1741, Bering claimed
Alaska for his (now) homeland Russia. He died that year of scurvy on a remote island off
the east coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
- 1860: Historian George Asher heard rumours of a confession
written by one of the mutineers, but was unable to locate it. "It is said that a document has been discovered among the archives of the Hudson bay company at their headquarters at York Factory, which is the confession of one of the mutineers. The manuscript is written in a large, firm hand, and consists of ten slips of paper, apparently torn from a book and tied together for better preservation, and it is now in the office of the Hudson bay company in London."
- 1976: The white-flowered 'Henry Hudson' rose, a hybrid rugosa,
was introduced as one of the Canadian Explorer series, a group of roses bred in Ottawa for cold and wind tolerance.
This modern cultivar of wild Rosa rugosa typically produces single-to-semi-double flowers, which bloom all season.
- In 1909, poet Henry Van Dyke wrote a poem about Hudson's last
Shallop on Hudson Bay, and having Hudson say,
"I believe/That God has poured the ocean round His world,/Not to divide, but to unite the lands./And all the English captains that have dared/In little ships to plough uncharted waves,--/Davis and Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher,
Raleigh and Gilbert, --all the other names,--/Are written in the chivalry of God/As men who served His purpose."