Today, the Delaware Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when Hudson’s third voyage discovered and explored the Delaware Bay on August 28, 1609.
From the History of Delaware, 1609-1888, General history by John Thomas Scharf, published in 1888:
It is not positively known who discovered the territory now known as Delaware, but as early as 1526, the Spaniards not only explored the whole coast from the Mexican Gulf, northward to and beyond the thirty-fifth degree of latitude, but had even attempted to form a settlement about that parallel.
There is evidence, apparently incontrovertible, that the Chesapeake was known to the Spaniards, and that an expedition had been made by them for the occupation of its coasts at least twenty years before we have any knowledge of any attempt of the English to establish themselves in any part of the American continent.
In view of these facts it would have been strange that the great basin, now known as Delaware Bay, should have remained unknown to the Spaniards until it was visited by Henry Hudson in 1609.
In the sixteenth century enterprises for discovery were numerous, and the daring and skill of the early voyagers who led the way to the colonization of the United States deserve the highest admiration.
The character of the prevalent winds and currents was unknown, and the ships employed for discovery were generally of less than one hundred tons burden.
Frobisher sailed in a vessel of but twenty-five tons; two of those of Columbus were without a deck, and so perilous were the voyages deemed that the sailors were accustomed, before embarking, to perform solemn acts of devotion, as if to prepare for eternity.
It is certain that the first practical discovery of the Delaware Bay and River and of the New York Bay and Hudson River was made in 1609, by Henry Hudson, an English navigator in the service of the Dutch East India Company, whose title to immortality seems to be assured by the fact that one of the largest bays and one of the noblest rivers in the world equally hear his name, and are admitted to have been discovered by him.
The discovery of Delaware Bay and River was made, according to the journal kept by Robert Jewett (or Juet), the first officer of Hudson’s ship, on August 28, 1609 (new style), and on this discovery the Dutch founded their claim to the countries binding upon and adjacent to the North (Hudson) and the South (Delaware) Rivers.
The accounts of Hudson’s third voyage and his discovery of the North and South Rivers are too accurate, circumstantial, and satisfactory to allow of any question in regard to them.
Hudson’s journal as well as that of Robert Juet are preserved in Purchas’ Pilgrims, and Juet has given not only the courses and distances sailed on the coast, but the various depths of water obtained by soundings off the bars and within the capes of the two bays.
Juet’s log-book of August 28, 1609, has indeed been tested by actual soundings and sailing distances, and is found to be so accurate to this day that his route can be minutely followed.
At noon Hudson having passed the lower cape, the shores were descried stretching away northwest, while land was also seen towards the northeast, which he at first took to be an island, but it proved to be the mainland and the second point of the bay.
The remainder of the day was spent in sounding the waters, which were in some parts filled with shoals, as at the present time, so that the “Half Moon,” though of light draught, struck upon the hidden sands.
“Hee that will throughly discover this great Bay,” says Juet, “muste have a small Pinnasse that must draw but four or five foote water, to sound before him.”
At sunset the master anchored his little vessel “in eight fathomes water,” and found a tide running from the northwest; “and it riseth one fathome, and ﬂoweth South-Southeast.”
“From the strenth of the current that set out and caused the accumulation of sands,” he “suspected that a large river discharged into the bay.”
In the course of the night, the weather, which had been intensely warm all day, suddenly changed. A passing storm dispelled the heat, while the breeze blowing from the land refreshed the weary men with the moist perfumes of sweet shrubs and summer flowers.
At early dawn the explorations were renewed and Hudson stood towards the “norther land,” where he again “strooke ground” with his rudder.
Convinced that the road to China did not lie that way, he hastened to emerge from the Delaware in search of new channels through which he might pass quickly to India, the goal of his wishes.
Imbued with this idea, he continued his voyage along the coast of New Jersey, and cast anchor, on the 3d of September, within the shelter of what is now Sandy Hook, New York.
His subsequent discovery of the river which bears his name, and his ascent to a point in the vicinity of the present city of Albany, are facts too well known to be given repetition here.
The English early gave the name of Delaware Bay and River to the South River of the Dutch, upon the pretext that it was discovered by Lord de la Warr in his voyage to Virginia in 1610.
Mr. Brodhead and other writers, however, have plainly shown that Lord La Warr never saw Delaware Bay, and that the name Cape La Warr was given to Cape May by the roistering Capt. Samuel Argalls, of Lord Somers’ squadron, who, being separated from his commander in a fog off the Bermudas, in that voyage the narration of which is supposed to have given Shakespeare his theme for the Tempest, was carried by a cyclone as far north as Cape Cod, and descending the coast again to Virginia, sighted the cape in question and gave his lordship’s name to it.
The Dutch eventually rested their claim to the New Netherlands upon the magnificent discoveries of Hudson, as opposed to the English claim through the general discovery by the Cabots, but they did not immediately profit by them to any great extent, nor did they make prompt endeavors to by that best of all methods, organized colonization.
The Delaware Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s portrayal of Henry Hudson.