A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Explorer Henry Hudson, whose name has been given to a prominent river and a large bay, is a well-known historical figure, isn’t he? Not really, according to author Douglas Hunter in Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage That Redrew the Map of the New World, for no record of his name has been found in British documents before 1607, the year he led an English-financed voyage looking for the Northeast Passage from Europe to the Far East via the Arctic Ocean. He led subsequent voyages of exploration in 1608, 1609, and 1610-1611 and died in 1611 somewhere in Hudson Bay, Canada. His four mystery-filled years of exploration is all that is really known about the man. The author takes what little is known and works it into a lively history of the exploration of the Atlantic Coast. Readers learn much about life on sailing ships and the tides of the Hudson River. Most importantly, the author shows how most popular accounts of early exploration of North America are skimpy and misleading. Much occurred that was never publicly revealed. Half Moon may interest readers usually inclined toward historical novels, for Hunter keeps several story lines running and develops Hudson as fairly mysterious character. I was never quite sure whether to view the captain sympathetically or condemn him. He also provides a health dose of historical details without bogging down, and thoughtful readers may want to learn how their school books were wrong.
Reviewed by Rick