English navigator Henry Hudson was obsessed with discovering the Northwest Passage. Between 1607 and 1611, he sailed farther north than any other European explorer, venturing to the top of the world and braving the icy arctic waters for a passage that did not exist.
In his first voyage, Hudson sailed toward Greenland and was blocked by ice. The next year, Hudson tried again, this time sailing along the coast of Norway in an effort to sail around Asia. Again, he was forced to turn back. After two failures, Hudson lost support in England but he found financial backing from Dutch merchants.
In April 1609, Hudson and a 16-man crew set sail in the Half Moon. Hudson sailed up the coast of Norway. Temperatures plummeted and ice coated the rigging. The crew refused to go farther. Hudson gave in, but instead of returning to Holland, he ordered the ship westward toward North America. By mid-July, Hudson sighted the coast of Maine.
The Half Moon made its way down the coast to Virginia and returned north. On September 2, Hudson discovered a giant, beautiful bay at the mouth of a vast river. Excited that this river might be the Northwest Passage, Hudson and the crew sailed north.
Indians spotted the giant ship and paddled canoes out to greet it. The Indians “seemed very glad at our coming . . . and are very civil,” noted a sailor in a diary, “we durst not trust them.” Hudson continued 150 miles before realizing that the river had grown too shallow and narrow to be the passage.
Disappointed, Hudson left the river that to this day bears his name. The Dutch claimed the Hudson River Valley and founded a city called New Amsterdam, known today as New York.
Despite appeals, Henry Hudson and several crewmen are set adrift in the frigid waters of Hudson Bay. They were never heard from again.