Hudson, Henry (?–1611), an English navigator and explorer. His exploration of the Hudson River, on a voyage sponsored by the Dutch, led to their colonization of what is now New York City. His discovery of Hudson Bay, during an expedition financed by Englishmen, established England's claim to that region and rights to the fur trade that followed.

Nothing is known of Hudson's life prior to the four voyages he made in search of a direct, all-sea route from Europe to Asia. During his first two voyages, 1607 and 1608, Hudson hoped to find such a route by sailing northeast from England. In both of these attempts he was blocked by polar ice north of Spitsbergen (Svalbard), and north of Novaya Zemlya. On his way back he discovered Jan Mayen Island.

Hudson's Third and Fourth Voyages

In 1609, hired by the Dutch East India Company, Hudson and his crew of 20 in the Half Moon reached the Barents Sea. Here, disregarding instructions, Hudson turned west to seek a northwest route to India. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sighted Nova Scotia, and followed the North American seaboard south to Chesapeake Bay. In September, 1609, he entered New York Harbor and sailed up the Hudson River 150 miles (240 km) to the site of Albany, New York, trading with the Indians along the way. (He was not the first European to discover the river, but the first to explore it.)

In 1610, English merchants provided Hudson with the 55-ton ship Discovery. He skirted western Greenland, turned west across Davis Strait, and entered Hudson Strait. It led him to Hudson Bay, which he thought might extend westward to the Indies. He explored Hudson Bay's eastern shores and islands and spent the winter in James Bay, its southward extension.

After the Discovery was freed from the ice in June, 1611, Hudson's half-starved crew mutinied. They set Hudson, his son, and a few loyal seamen adrift in a rowboat; the fate of the abandoned men is unknown.

Some of the mutineers were killed by Eskimos and others died of exposure. The eight who eventually returned to England were not hanged because their knowledge of the New World was too precious to be lost.