THE POLE AND AMERICA

Hudson and Baffin—Champlain and La Sale—The English upon the coast of the Atlantic—The Spaniards in South America—Summary of the information acquired at the close of the 17th century—The measure of the terrestrial degree—Progress of cartography—Inauguration of Mathematical Geography.

Although the attempts to find a passage by the north-west had been abandoned by the English for twenty years, they had not, however, given up the idea of seeking by that way, for a passage which was only to be discovered in our own days, and of which the absolute impracticability was then to be ascertained. A clever sailor, Henry Hudson, of whom Ellis says, "that never did any one better understand the seafaring profession, that his courage was equal to any emergency, and that his application was indefatigable," concluded an agreement with a company of merchants to search for the passage by the north-west. On the 1st of May, 1607, he sailed from Gravesend in the Hopewell, a craft about the size of one of the smallest of modern collier brigs, and having on board a crew of twelve men; and on the 13th of June, reached the eastern coast of Greenland at 73°, and gave it a name answering to the hopes he entertained, in calling it Cape Hold with Hope. The weather here was finer and less cold than it had been ten degrees southwards. By the 27th of June, Hudson had advanced 5° more to the north, but on the 2nd of July, by one of the sudden changes which so frequently occur in those countries, the cold became severe. The sea, however, remained free, the air was still, and drift wood floated about in large quantity. On the 14th of the same month, in 33° 23', the master's mate and the boatswain of the vessel landed upon a shore which formed the northern part of Spitzbergen. Traces of musk oxen, and foxes, great abundance of aquatic birds, two streams of fresh water, one of them being warm, proved to our navigators that it was possible to live in these extreme latitudes at this period of the year. Hudson, who had re-embarked without delay, found himself arrested at the height of 82°, by thick pack ice, which he endeavoured in vain to penetrate or sail round. He was compelled to return to England, where he arrived on September 15th, after having discovered an island, which is probably that of Jan Mayen. The route followed in this first voyage having had no result towards the north, Hudson would try another, and accordingly set sail on April 21st in the following year, and advanced between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla; but he could only follow for a certain distance the coast of that vast land, without being able to attain as high an elevation as he had wished. The failure of this second attempt was more complete than that of the voyage of 1607. In consequence, the English Company, which had defrayed the expenses of both attempts, declined to proceed further. This was doubtless the reason which decided Hudson to take service in Holland.

The Company of Amsterdam gave him, in 1609, the command of a vessel, with which he set sail from the Texel at the beginning of the year. Having doubled the North Cape, he advanced along the coasts of Nova Zembla; but his crew, composed of English and Dutch, who had made voyages to the East Indies, were soon disheartened by the cold and ice. Hudson found himself forced to change his route, and to propose to his sailors, who were in open mutiny, to seek for a passage, either by Davis' Strait, or the coasts of Virginia, where, according to the information of Captain Smith, who had frequently visited them, an outlet must surely be found. The choice of this crew, little accustomed to discipline, could not be doubtful. In order not to render the outlay of the Company completely abortive, Hudson was obliged to make for the Faröe Islands, to descend southward as low as 44°, and to search on the coast of America for the strait, of the existence of which he had been assured. On July 18th, he disembarked on the continent, in order to replace his foremast, which had been broken in a storm; and he took the opportunity of bartering furs with the natives. But his undisciplined sailors, having by their exactions roused the indignation of the poor and peaceable natives, compelled him again to set sail. He continued to follow the coast until August 3rd, and then landed a second time. At 40° 30', he discovered a great bay which he explored in a canoe for more than 150 miles. In the meantime, his provisions began to run short, and it was impossible to procure supplies on land. The crew, which appears to have imposed its wishes on its captain during this whole voyage, assembled; some proposed to winter in Newfoundland, in order to resume the search for the passage in the following year; others wished to make for Ireland. This latter proposition was adopted; but when they approached the shores of Great Britain, the land proved so attractive to his men, that Hudson was obliged, on November 7th, to cast anchor at Dartmouth.