The Fourth and Final Voyage
Henry Hudson’s fourth voyage to the New World was sponsored once more by the Muscovy Company. They changed their minds after losing interest in working with him after his second voyage had failed to find a route to Asia by sailing across the Pole. Even though his most recent voyage on behalf of the Dutch had failed to find a river passage, there was still a route explorer John Davis called the “Furious Overfall” that had not yet been tried. This route would take a sailor daring enough to try through the Hudson Strait where the tides rush through at great speed and the water rises thirty to sixty feet. In an attempt “to try if, through any of these inlets which Davis saw, but durst not enter, any passage might be found to the other ocean called the South Sea.” The Muscovy Company, eager to find a sea route to Asia, decided to once again entrust the mission to Hudson. Sailing on the bark Discovery, Hudson and his crew left from London on April 17th, 1610. The crew on this final voyage consisted of Henry Hudson, captain; Robert Juet, mate; John King, quartermaster; Robert Bylot; Edward Wilson, surgeon; Francis Clemens, boatswain; Silvanus Bond, cooper; Philip Staffe, carpenter; Arnold Lodlo, Michael Butt, Adame Moore, Syrake Fanner; John Williams, gunner; William Wilson, John Thomas, Michael Perse, Adrian Motter, able-bodied seamen; Abacuk Prickett and Bennett Mathues, landsmen; Thomas Wydowse (Woodhouse), a mathematician; and two boys, John Hudson, and Nicolas Syms. Juet, Staffe, Lodlo and Perse had served under Hudson on previous voyages. Another man named Henry Greene joined the ship farther down the river. Greene proved to be a difficult man and Hudson again experienced problems with his crew.
“A Chart of Hudson’s Straights and Bay of Davis Streights, and Baffin’s Bay as Published in the Year 1662,” An Account of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage by Hudson’s Streights, to the Western and Southern Ocean of America, 1748-49, From The Library at The Mariners’ Museum, G650.1746.D75 rare.
The strait was four hundred and fifty miles long and one hundred miles wide. Its position was so near the Magnetic Pole it made compass use impossible, and the dangerous tides moved ice floes back and forth across its waters. Had Hudson attempted it several weeks later, the worst of the danger from ice would have passed, but because of the ice he found it impossible to keep to a westward course, so took the ship south. They came upon the coast of Labrador and turned north again. A second unsuccessful attempt to travel through the strait sent the ship south again and they entered Ungava Bay. Sailing north once more, they reached an island near the northwest cape of the Bay. From there, the Discovery sailed westward along the southern shore of the Bay until she came into a “great and whirling sea.” Polar bears amazed the sailors as they swam and played among the ice floes, but the crew grew uneasy sailing with the floating masses of ice and gradually began to feel that Hudson had no idea of their location. Mate Robert Juet openly made fun of Hudson and his plan for reaching the Indies. Instead of dealing with the disrespect in a firm manner, Hudson tried to talk with his crew and showed them his charts in order to convince them of the wisdom of his plan.
It was August when the ship sailed between Cape Digges and Cape Wolstenholme and Hudson and his crew felt the most dangerous part of their voyage was behind them. As the ship passed through the narrows that separated the two towering capes, Hudson made what would be the last entry in his journal. He sent several men in a small boat to explore the surrounding land. While ashore the men found a storehouse full of food and wanted to remain in the area for some days, but Hudson was determined to venture further into the bay and began to sail southward, sure that when he entered James Bay, he would finally have found the passage that would lead to the Great Sea. As he sailed back and forth within James Bay without finding the passage, the crew again became disgruntled. Hudson’s navigation was ridiculed and this time Hudson accused Mate Robert Juet of disloyalty. Juet demanded a trial before the entire crew. Several crewmen testified to Juet’s conniving and traitorous remarks and sided with Hudson. Juet was demoted and his pay was cut. Others of the crew who had sided with Juet in criticism of Hudson were also dismissed from their positions and replaced. Hudson promised the demoted and disgraced men that future good behavior would go far toward forgiveness, but the damage was done. Robert Juet nursed his grudge, powerless for the moment.
“A Chart of Hudson’s Straits & Bay,” An Account of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage by Hudson’s Streights, to the Western and Southern Ocean of America, 1748-49, From The Library at The Mariners’ Museum, G650.1746.D75 rare.
As the crew tried to survive the harsh winter, scurvy broke out. Hunger and disease began to take a toll on the men, reducing them to eating moss. The discovery of a tonic that could be brewed from a tree bud (probably tarmac), helped with their ailments. When the melting ice signaled the onset of spring, a native appeared. The visit was friendly and the native left with some trade items given by Hudson, returning later with skins and meat. The native concluded after further dealings with the English that they were by nature greedy and untrustworthy. The native never returned, and Hudson and his crew had to once again provide for themselves. As spring advanced, James Bay filled with fish. On the first day of fishing the records show the crew caught over five hundred fish. They never did as well again and food once more became scarce.