Tuesday, November 03, 2009

On My Nightstand: Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World

The latest book to grace my nightstand is Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World, by Douglas Hunter.
The year 2009 marks the four-hundredth anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the majestic river that bears his name. Just in time for this milestone, Douglas Hunter, sailor, scholar, and storyteller, has written the first book-length history of the 1609 adventure that put New York on the map.

Hudson was commissioned by the mighty Dutch East India Company to find a northeastern passage over Russia to the lucrative ports of China. But the inscrutable Hudson, defying his orders, turned his ship around and instead headed west—far west—to the largely unexplored coastline between Spanish Florida and the Grand Banks.

Once there, Hudson began a seemingly aimless cruise—perhaps to conduct an espionage mission for his native England—but eventually dropped anchor off Coney Island. Hudson and his crew were the first Europeans to visit New York in more than eighty years, and soon went off the map into unexplored waters.
It goes into the intrigue and politics of the decisions that led to Henry Hudson violating his contract with the Dutch East India Company to search for a Northeast Passage to China in the Arctic and instead led to the exploration of the Hudson River Valley in what is now New York.

Thus far, it's a fascinating read on the backstory that all too many people don't learn in school about the European exploration of the New World. What many people don't realize is that the exploration of the New World was a by-product and accidental discovery that got in the way of finding shipping lanes to China.

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