Henry Hudson and Hudson Bay

After receiving his commission to locate the Northwest Passage from King James I of England in 1609, Henry Hudson set sail aboard the Discovery in June 1610. Following Martin Frobisher's route (see 1576), Hudson located Frobisher Bay on the south-eastern portion of Baffin Island. Instead of sailing into Frobisher Bay, however, Hudson sailed along the southern shore of Baffin Island until the water opened up to the south. Hudson was convinced that he had found the Pacific Ocean.

By this time, winter ice was beginning to form. The desolation of the Arctic and the advancing ice were beginning to take their toll and the crew was split into factions. One group wanted to return to England while the other group remained loyal to Hudson.

Hudson turned south into what is now Hudson Bay, assuring his crew that they would reach warmer climates soon or, at least, they would locate an outlet into the Atlantic Ocean. The militant crew members wanted to turn north again and to try to beat the ice and make it back to England before winter, but Hudson continued on his southern course.

They found no warmer climates. Nor did they find an outlet to the Atlantic. They had reached a dead end in James Bay. With no escape to the north now, Hudson realized that they would be stranded until warmer weather returned the next year. The Discovery became locked in ice.

Throughout the winter, Hudson encountered only one Native who traded 2 deer and 2 beaver skins for a knife, a looking glass, and some buttons.


The crew had already become divided when the approaching Arctic ice forced them southward into Hudson Bay, and, during the long, ferocious winter, talk of mutiny became commonplace among the crew. Hudson was a well-known and determined explorer, but he was ill-suited to commanding a ship. He was often indecisive and, perhaps unwittingly, showed is incompetence in front of his crew. He rarely held any authority over anyone in his command.

In June of 1611, the ice finally broke up and the Discovery was free once again. Most of the crew wanted to return to England. Food was in vert short supply and the extreme rationing which Hudson had imposed upon them concerned them. They suspected that Hudson held a secret cache of food reserved for himself and his loyals. However, Hudson was determined to complete his commission to find the Northwest Passage and announced that they would be sailing westward away from England.

The crew mutinied. Hudson was bound and placed in a boat along with his son, John, and all the sick and lame crew from the Discovery. The Discovery set sail for England. Reports indicate that Hudson did, indeed, have a cache of food hidden in his cabin.

Somehow, those 9 men abandoned in the rowboat managed to keep pace with the ship for several days but eventually began to fall behind until the Discovery had disappeared entirely.

Back in England, 4 of the mutineers were tried for the murder of Henry Hudson, but they were aquitted and the mutiny was blamed on those who had died. Hudson may have been an excellent explorer, but his reputation as an unauthoritative and indecisive captain were well known.

No trace of Hudson was ever found.