Henry Hudson and His Crew Sailed into the River that Would
Bear His Name
September 3, 1609
did the Hudson River in New York and New Jersey get its name?
On the misty morning of September 3, 1609, explorer Henry
Hudson and his crew aboard the Half Moon sailed into the
majestic river off the Atlantic coast by chance. Strong
head winds and storms forced them to abandon the northeast
voyage they had been assigned. Rather than return to
Holland with nothing to report, the crew voted to look for the
Northwest Passage, a legendary waterway that would carry a
ship all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
They passed by the island we know today as Manhattan and
sailed up the river.
Hudson was not the first European
explorer to discover this river. The Florentine navigator
Giovanni da Verrazano discovered the Hudson in 1524. But
Henry Hudson traveled the river much farther than its previous
explorer. After 150 miles, the Half Moon did not reach
the Pacific, but it did reach what would later become Albany,
New York. There, they turned around. But as a result of
Hudson's exploration, the river bears his name today.
Hudson was a headstrong but courageous commander. Though he
often mismanaged his crews by playing favorites or letting
morale suffer, he was a competent navigator. He undertook four
dangerous voyages, and made huge contributions to geographical
knowledge. His exploration of the Hudson River led to Dutch
colonization of the area.
The Hudson River, once known
to the Mohican Indians as Muhheakunnuk ("Great Waters
Constantly in Motion"), was the site of key battles in the
American Revolution. It also inspired an important phase of
landscape painting called the Hudson River school that
celebrated the natural beauty of the American landscape.
Today, the Hudson is one of the nation's most important
waterways. Oceangoing ships can navigate the river to Albany
year-round. Pleasure boats and tugboat and barge traffic can
reach the Great Lakes from May to November. Cargo such as wood
pulp, steel, cocoa beans, grain, and scrap metal rely on the
Hudson for deliveries. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point
overlooks the Hudson too. What would Henry Hudson say if he
saw that river today?