This edited article about Henry Hudson originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 274 published on 15 April 1967.
The small rowing boat dwindled gradually among the ice floes. The mutineers aboard the Discovery watched as it drew farther and farther away.
In the stern of the boat sat Henry Hudson, his arm round the shoulders of his son. The seven men who had remained loyal to him pulled silently at the oars.
At last a cold mist hid the rowing boat from the Discovery, and the fate of Henry Hudson, his son John, and his companions, has remained a mystery to this day.
It was in 1607 that Henry Hudson set out on his first voyage of exploration. In a small boat, with a crew of only 10, he sailed from London in an attempt to reach the North Pole, and also to discover a north-east passage to China. He touched Greenland and Spitsbergen before barriers of ice compelled him to return.
In 1609, the Dutch East India Company commissioned Hudson to find a way to China. This time Hudson took a westerly direction, touching the American coast and sailing up the great river that now bears his name.
Winter forced him to return to England, but now he was sure that there was a north-west passage, and he set out again, on what was to be his last voyage, in April, 1610.
Again he sailed up the east coast of America and, sailing through the Hudson Straits, entered what came to be called Hudson’s Bay. At first, the English navigator thought he had found the passage he sought, but after three months’ sailing in the bay he realised with great disappointment that he was in a great, land-locked sea.
The ship became caught in the ice, and during the winter the crew grew increasingly resentful of Hudson, the man who had brought them to this terrible region of ice and fog. When the ice began to thaw and the crew realised that Hudson was determined to press on with the voyage, they mutinied. Hudson and his companions were cast adrift on 23rd June, 1611.
Retribution caught up quickly with the mutineers. Five of the ringleaders were killed by Eskimos while hunting, and several others died of sickness on the difficult voyage back to England. When the Discovery finally returned to London, there were only three men left alive.
Hudson vanished, but his discoveries lived on. On 2nd May, 1670, King Charles II granted a charter to a group of British businessmen to form the Hudson’s Bay Company. Its objective was to obtain furs from the Hudson Bay area for the English market. This in effect gave the Company rights to all the lands reached through Hudson’s Strait. Thus, a private company ruled all the land from Labrador to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Red River headwater to Chesterfield Inlet on Hudson Bay.
These boundaries were soon disputed by France and the then British Province of Canada, and a commission was appointed under the Treaty of Utrecht to decide the Company’s boundaries. But the Commission of 1713 reached no conclusion, and the Hudson’s Bay Company continued its vast fur trading enterprises until it surrendered its territorial rights to Canada in 1870 for £300,000 compensation.