Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Eulogy for Henry Hudson

Like many great explorers in the past and future, Henry Hudson possessed the rare spirit to go where no one had gone before him. Not only driven by trade routes and economics, it was his responsibility to all of humanity, particularly in man’s ongoing quest for information about the world around him. He was the kind of individual that will always live on in our collective fantasy... someone willing to forge into the unknown, no matter the risk, making the ultimate sacrifice.

There can be debate as to the word ‘discovery’, in this case, it’s true men already lived in Manhattan, and there may have even been voyages that landed haphazardly, or passed by these shores, but I hold that he discovered Manhattan in making it known to the world.
He writes in the Half Moon’s log on Sept 11, 1609, ‘they found a good entrance, between two headlands and thus entered into as fine a river as can be found with good anchoring on both sides...He learned later upon further exploring the Hudson river that ‘It is on that side of the river that is called Manna-hata’...and thus what we know now as Manhattan island was born to maps.
Not much is known of Hudson’s life, where he was born and died still remains a mystery. All recorded history of the great explorer marks only 4 short years in which he explored the arctic circle through Siberia, Greenland and finally what we are standing on today.

I don’t think we can really grasp what it was like to navigate by the stars across the Atlantic, endure weeks or near starvation and attacks by native people only to have your own crew turn on you. Henry met his end 700 miles north of this spot, when his crew, having spent the winter, iced in what is now known as Hudson bay, mutinied and set him, his son and loyal crew adrift in a small wooden rowboat.

It is this pursuit of discovery and ultimately information that we want to celebrate, his spirit of exploration into the unknown; the personal unknown as much as the geographic unknown.

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