Today, the Hudson NY Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when the Half Moon left Amsterdam on April 4, 1609.
From the History of the City of New York, 1609-1909, by John William Leonard, published in 1910:
Of Henry Hudson’s early life nothing is definitely known. It is said that a man of the same name was in the employ of the Muscovy Company in the early half of the Sixteenth Century, and from this has been built up a theory that the navigator was a son or grandson of that Hudson, and that, like some other sons of employees of that company, he had been brought up in its service, there learning the art of navigation.
However much or little basis there may be for this possible but by no means proven story, it is as a man already a master of the art of navigation that we have the first glimpse of his actual career which has found its way into recorded history.
In the employ of the Muscovy Company of London, Henry Hudson sailed northward in the ship Hopeful, April 19, 1607, bent upon the endeavor to reach the Orient through some channel in the Arctic seas.
He penetrated as far as Spitzbergen, or within ten degrees of the Pole, then returned to London, unsuccessful, so far as regards the object of his voyage, but convinced that success, under better climatic conditions, was possible.
He went again in 1608, once more representing the Muscovy merchants of London, but again unsuccessful in his quest, though adding much to the world’s knowledge of the regions around Nova Zembla, where, during the half century before, several expeditions had come to grief.
Though the possibility of a more southern passage had not been entirely abandoned by Hudson and other navigators, it seemed less probable than one further north; and to find an Arctic passage to the Indies had now become the greatest object of geographical ambition.
Not only the Muscovy Company, Hudson’s English employers, but also France and Holland, had their eye on the coveted goal.
The States-General of Holland held out a reward of twenty-five thousand florins as an inducement for success in Arctic exploration.
In the two voyages just mentioned, Hudson, while he had not succeeded in accomplishing his object, had gone further toward success than any of his predecessors in that field of adventure, and was evidently the man best fitted to command an enterprise of this kind.
The Seventeenth Century was Holland’s Golden Age; and the year 1609 was one of especially marked importance in the commercial history of the Netherlands, as in January of that year the Bank of Amsterdam was established by decree of the municipality.
The Dutch merchants of that day were the most enterprising in the world; the discovery of the Northern Passage was their most eager ambition, and as Henry Hudson’s was the name that filled the ear as the greatest Arctic navigator of his day, it is not at all surprising that on January 8, 1609, he was in conference with a committee of two members from the Amsterdam Chamber of the Dutch East India Company, with Jodocus Hondius, a citizen of Amsterdam who had formerly lived in London, as interpreter and witness.
This was not the first interview that Hudson had with the company, but at the previous one the directors had desired him to postpone the voyage for a year.
Hudson was a man with whom activity was a necessity. He was as impatient as he was intrepid, and was not of the temperament to brook a year of idleness.
The French ambassador at Amsterdam, hearing that Hudson’s services had not been engaged, hastened to advise his royal master, Henry IV, of the fact, and to counsel the securing of his services at the head of a French expedition.
The directors of the Dutch East India Company, hearing of the French negotiations, hastened to close with Hudson, and then occurred the conference just referred to, at which a contract was signed.
It stipulated that the directors were to equip a vessel of sixty tons burden for a voyage to the North around the northern extremity of Nova Zembla, continuing eastward on that latitude until Hudson could turn to the south and steer for India.
For this voyage the directors were to pay the navigator the sum of eight hundred florins (or $320), as well for his outfit as for the support of his wife and children, and the contract said: ‘”in case he do not come back (which God prevent) the directors shall further pay his wife two hundred florins ($80) in cash.”
In the event of the success of his quest, the directors promised to reward him in their discretion.
After nearly three months of preparation, the Halve Maen, or Half-Moon, was fully equipped, and on April 4, 1609, sailed from Amsterdam.
Two days later the vessel passed out from the Zuyder Zee, through the channel between Texel and North Holland into the North Sea.
After about a month of sailing it was found impracticable to reach Nova Zembla, because of the ice, and Hudson called his crew of twenty men together.
The Northeast Passage having proved to be impracticable at this time, he had a mind to try a western route, either northward through Arctic Seas via Davis’ Strait, or by a more southward route which was rumored to exist at about latitude 40° north, as indicated by a map in his possession furnished by his friend, Captain John Smith of Virginia.
The crew preferred the northern route, but Hudson, either deliberately or because of stormy weather, took the southerly route; because the next thing known of him is that he landed on the coast of New France, in latitude 44°, and replaced his foremast with one cut new from the hitherto untroubled forest.
From there he went southward until he came to Cape Cod, and then went southeast until he reached Chesapeake Bay.
Thence he coasted northward, intent on the discovery of the rumored passage, or strait, supposed to exist at or about 40° north latitude.
He entered Delaware Bay, then went north again, keeping in sight of the New Jersey coast, and September 2, 1609, cast his anchor in the Lower Bay of New York, in sight of “high hills” (the Navesinks).
It was, according to his narrative, “a very good land to fall in with, and a pleasant land to see.”
There the ship remained for ten days, with occasional changes of position, sending out boats to make soundings and find channels, and dealing, with much caution, with the natives, who constantly flocked around the ship.
One boat went up the Narrows to explore the bay beyond, and on this trip one of the crew, named Coleman, lost his life, being shot through the throat with an arrow.
On September 12 the Half-Moon itself was steered into the opening and anchored about two leagues beyond the Narrows, at a point near the site of the present Battery Park.
The next day began the famous ascent and descent of the river which now bears the explorer’s name.
The story, which has often been repeated, is derived from the personal journal of Henry Hudson and from the logbook of the Half-Moon, kept by his English mate, Robert Juet, the other mate being a Dutchman.
The Hudson NY Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of a replica Half Moon arriving in the same area 300 years later.