On this day in 1609, Captain Henry Hudson began exploring the river that would one day bear his name. At the time, the area was yet-to-be settled by Europeans. The Native Americans, however, had experience interacting and trading with whites in the past. It was Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano who had discovered the mouth of the river some 85 years earlier.
Hudson, an English navigator and explorer, was paid by the Dutch to find a shorter, north-westerly trading route to Asia and her lucrative tea, silk, and spice markets. He was charged with the ship Halve Maen (“Half Moon”) and instructed to sail above Russia, through the Arctic Circle, then down into The Orient. This route proved impassible and Hudson—now making all of his own decisions—sailed south. He had heard rumors of a “Northwesterly Passage,” probably based on Native American knowledge of the Great Lakes optimistically conveyed by earlier European explorers.
Hudson made it as far north as present-day Albany. While he did not find a Northwest Passage, he did find a land rich with beavers and natives who were happy to trade them. He returned to Europe with news of these “rich pickings,” prompting more Dutch to hurry-over and takeover Nieuw Amsterdam.
On Hudson’s next voyage (aboard the British ship, Discovery, 1610-11), he did make it closer to a Northwest Passage. But his crew grew homesick, irritable, and restless. They set-adrift Captain Hudson (and his teenaged son) in James Bay. They were never seen again.