Nobody knows what he truly looked like. Portraits in museums, on cigar wrappers, and in books are based on the imagination of artists. We don’t know exactly where he died, and have only the testimony of a few survivors about why a deadly mutiny arose in remote northern Canada. Yet one of the world’s greatest rivers and one of its largest bays bear his name, offering conspicuous testament to a life of achievement. Now, in a unique mix of travel essay and historical sleuthing, Corey Sandler tracks down the Henry Hudson that time forgot, giving us a fascinating portrait of a tragic hero in the Age of Discovery.
Hudson’s first British-backed voyage in 1607 took him from London to the frozen waters of Svalbard, near the North Pole. In 1608 he sailed up the coast of Norway to Novaya Zemlya, north of Russia. Two years later he sailed the length of the North American coast from Maine to the Jamestown settlement in Virginia and navigated 150 miles up what would later be known as the Hudson River, all in search of a route to the riches of China and Japan for his Dutch backers. In 1610 he embarked upon his final and most extraordinary voyage, sailing directly for northern Canada to penetrate the “Furious Overfall” and enter a watery empire of dramatic extremes. After a cruelly punishing winter in the ice, he met a grisly and untimely death at the hands of his own crew.
Travel writer Corey Sandler pored over the journals and logbooks of the great explorer and his crew before he set out on his own journey to the very places that shaped Hudson’s life. From the tiny London chapel where Hudson received communion before setting out on his first voyage, to the frigid, far-flung wilds of Spitsbergen, Greenland, and onward to the isolated communities of the Inuit and Cree of Canada’s far north, Sandler reveals an engrossing portrait of a man who was self-absorbed and downright paranoid, illuminating questions that have puzzled historians for four centuries: Was Hudson to blame for the mutinies that scarred his career and ultimately claimed his life? Why, in an age when mutiny was a hanging offense, was his rebellious crew released from jail in England and sent back to sea on the crown’s behalf? Was he secretly spying for the British while sailing for the Dutch? And, perhaps most important, was he a bold and successful mariner or a rash and bungling failure?
Henry Hudson: Dreams and Obsession takes us back to a time of bold and harrowing adventure, while searching the present for traces of Henry Hudson in some of the planet’s most obscure and challenging places.
Corey Sandler is the author of over one hundred travel books with over two million copies in print. He has appeared on NBC’s Today show and National Public Radio, and has been profiled on CNN. His fascination with the mysteries surrounding the life of Henry Hudson took him on a yearlong, 25,000-mile journey to England, the North Pole, and deep into Canadian wilderness areas accessible only by boat. He lives on Nantucket Island, off the coast of Massachusetts. Please visit his website, www.hudsondreams.com.
Henry Hudson: Dreams and Obsession
Henry Hudson was a ship’s captain and an explorer, not a conqueror. He made no claims of ownership.
He did not sail north of the Arctic Circle in order to claim these cold, rough places for England or for Holland. And he did not plant the Dutch flag at the deep mouth or the shallow end of the great river that bears his name in what is today New York.
When he traveled north of Labrador and through the Furious Overfall, into the floating ice and treacherous tides of the strait that now bears his name, he did so as a private citizen. The driving force behind Hudson—and many others who followed in his wake—was trade and commerce. Hudson’s financial backers in England and then Holland dreamed of a route from Europe to China and Japan. The lands he explored in North America proved to be a far greater treasure.
Was Hudson one of the greatest explorers of all time?
Was he merely an accidental tourist who stumbled into history?
Or was he the world’s worst ship’s captain, master of four failed expeditions, enabler of at least three mutinies and of an atmosphere that led to his own ignominious death?