In 1609 he sailed the Hudson River

Henry Hudson - Trapped in the Ice

More than 400 years ago, the English navigator Henry Hudson was determined to find a northern passage to Asia. Read about his adventurous voyages of discovery - and their tragic end

We have enough once and for all! ”On the morning of June 22nd, 1611, Henry Hudson looked bad when he looked into the angry faces of the sailors who were blocking his way on the deck of the“ Discovery ”. The captain stands facing his crew for a moment, then the men overpower him and force him and eight other, mostly sick, crew members into a tiny dinghy. The rioters give those abandoned a rifle and a kettle of grain, then sail away. Henry Hudson watches helplessly as his ship disappears behind the horizon.

Henry Hudson's search for the Asia route

Review: In Henry Hudson's time, Spain and Portugal claimed the sea route from Europe past the southern tip of Africa to India and China. Countries like France, England and the Netherlands therefore want to find a northern passage to secure their trade in spices and other treasures from Asia.

Fame and fortune await the discoverer of this route. Henry Hudson, who was born in England around 1565, is also obsessed with tracking down a northern passage. He starts expeditions twice, in 1607 and 1608. Both fail because masses of ice block the way. But then, on April 6, 1609, Hudson set sail again on behalf of the Dutch. With his ship, the “Halve Maen”, he reached the North Cape after a month on the way to the northeast. There the ice becomes so thick again that it is impossible to continue driving.

Instead of returning to Amsterdam as agreed, Hudson single-handedly decides to sail west across the Atlantic with the 16-man crew (take a look at the map on page 49). Having arrived on the east coast of North America, after a search for weeks he discovers a wide estuary near the island of Manahatta (today it is home to the New York borough of Manhattan). Is that the hoped-for route to Asia?

Hudson sails up the river. At first it’s going well. “It is such a pleasant country as one can stand on one foot,” notes a mate in the logbook. The men fish delicious fish and trade with locals - until the ship runs aground after more than 200 kilometers in the river. The "Hudson River", later named after Henry Hudson, is too shallow. The captain turns back contrite.

Caught in the ice

But Hudson is not discouraged and makes a fourth attempt. Together with 23 men he left the port of London on April 17, 1610 on the "Discovery". This time he is heading for a strait north of Labrador in what is now Canada. At the end of this street, a seemingly infinite sea lies in front of the 55-ton ship. In fact, it is a huge bay, more than three times the size of Germany and known today as "Hudson Bay".

Hudson cannot know that yet and believes he has reached the goal of his dreams: That must be the Pacific, and somewhere behind the horizon is China! For months he explored the coast and islands - and underestimated the upcoming winter. The wind becomes frostier and frostier, the drift ice stronger and stronger. At some point there is no more getting through. There is only one way out for Hudson: he has to put the "Discovery" aground near the bank and wait for the next summer.

Terrible months begin on board the ship. The men are cold and hungry. At first they kill ptarmigan, but after the migratory birds have left the region, they eat little more than the moss they find on land. Many of the seafarers are angry with their captain for maneuvering them into this damned position. Some also consider Hudson to be unjust since he did not auction the coat of someone who was frozen to death as usual, but instead awarded it to one of his favorites.

The end of the expedition

At the beginning of June 1611 the ice finally thawed so far that Hudson lifted the anchor. His emaciated men want to go home as soon as possible, but Hudson orders a search for an Indian settlement nearby - and steers the "Discovery" back into the ice. On June 22nd, 1611 the team finally had enough: the men revolted.

After Hudson was abandoned, the first officer steers the ship back to London. Some of the men remaining on the "Discovery" die on the way fighting with natives, others starve to death. Only six sailors survive the voyage. You are tried in England for mutiny but acquitted. The search for the legendary passage continues - for centuries. It was not until 1850 that the Briton Robert McClure actually discovered a passage into the Pacific. Henry Hudson, however, remains missing to this day.