Archive for the ‘Henry Hudson’ Category

((Editor’s Note: Although Henry channeled this logbook installment some days back, we’ve lost the artwork–water color–several times, owing to the splash of the North Sea washing the tint off the medium.  Be assured that Bowsprite and I are consulting  the best 17th-century telecom specialists still around to assist with technical onshore aquarelle dehydration aka TOAD.))

Half Moon, my equus maritimus, has been riding the North Sea well, galloping happily away from the wharf in Amsterdam.  Our course has taken us close enough for brief landfalls at Peterhead in Scotland and Lerwick in the Shetlands.  From there we make for the Lofotens, which the high mountains will reveal some distance out at sea.  We follow that over the top of Nordkap and east to Cathay.  Except for Cathay, these landfalls are nothing new;  we were here only 12 moonths ago.

Spirits are high on board;  the crew seem as elated as I am to leave our beloveds and our places to seek out and discover.  Each landfall conjures up ideas of adventures deferred.  How might Peterhead girls sing?  What grog can be bought in the Shetlands?  What savory fish permeates Lofoten kitchens?  I’d love to know, but not now.  Nordkap beckons and Cathay awaits with its own girls, grog, and grub.  Spirit us there, equus maritimus aka half moon, a name I despise as it associates closely with halfs like half-hearted, half-baked, and a farmer’s term I recently learned from the bawdy Dutch … half-assed.

And if the privacy of the journal allows–I pray you speak to on one of this–a word about contingencies:  a map came into my possession one moonless night on the Amsterdam wharfs, a map copied from John Smith.  Virginia, he suggests, is but a thin isthmus beyond which lies the great Ocean that laps on the shores of Cathay.  If no Northeast Passage opens, then Smith’s map will present an alternative.

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As the vernal equinox approaches, so grows my awareness that by this month’s end I hope to be at sea.  At sea and Cathay-bound!    My new crew seems more excited about this departure than my two previous commands.  Maybe it’s their chemistry, as we have some English, some Hollanders, even some Frisians, and possibly the Javanese Pernomo—who quickly became adept at skating—although by now the canals are free of their ice.  He’s eager to get past NordKap so he might there skate again.

Labors ongoing on the wharf have increased in frenzy, as there is much much to getting Half Moon shipshape.  Riggers reinforce the lines and stays.  Gunsmiths work out the most favorable array of cannon and other arms.  Carpenters attend to dozens of repairs and  modifications for the cold voyage.  And VOC wharfmen provision the ship with casks of flour, cheese, salted meats, and of course grog.  The crew with families spend as much time as possible with their loved ones while the crew with no families seek Amsterdammer fellowship in the drinkhouses.   My son John will again sail with me, and he has spent much time with his mother Katherine and siblings.


It will thrill my soul to have him beside me as we sail into Cathay, for I know on this voyage we shall.  I’ve told him that as ship’s boy, he will do the honors of drawing the spirits from the juniper grog cask as we enter the port of Cathay.  He will offer drinks to the wealthy Cathaynese merchants there.

*Art modified above was by Jan Karel Donatus Van Beecq (1638-1722).

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So now I have a ship, and I’ve started working with VOC to hire a crew.  Yope, as usual, has been an enormous help, sending letters across the Channel up to Van Meteren in London, and we’ve started getting English sailors applying to sail.  Robert Juet from last year’s trip has responded already, for example.  A good sailor/mate he,  but I’ve never gotten along famously with him.

Then there’ve been the Dutch who applied, and one of those named Bram brought with him his  Javanese assistant Pernomo.


But Pernomo seems wretched in the cold of Amsterdam putting on sarong after sarong and many turbans to seek warmth.  How would he get on if we sailed over the Nordkap looking past the icebergs for the Northeast Passage, I wondered.  And I’ve hit on hiring requirement:  I’ll list ice skating as an essential skill.   We are, after all,  sailing north to a place where ice and snow might bar our passage,  so if Pernomo can learn to iceskate, then surely I can hire him.  And now that I think further on this, Bram mentioned that from sailing the Eastern ports and transacting on those faraway docks, Pernomo can speak many languages of the East, including some words from Cathay!

Pernomo may be a valuable crewman even if he can’t skate well, for he can interpret once we arrive later this year in Cathay!

*Art modified above was by Bart van Hove (1856-1914).

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Yope took me to the docks on the Amstel, where wharf cats feasted on rats and herring.  Of course, none of these cats seemed so intelligent as my Cathay.  He had something to show me, he said.

A large ship called Batavia had just arrived from Java (“YA vah” as Yope pronounces it).  The crewmen tanned from the tropical sun, their hair bleached.  And Batavia , a heavy laden treasure vessel, its cargo a heady perfume of  cloves, nutmeg, and pepper.  And doing some of the work on deck were Javanese, small but powerful dark-skinned men shouting at each other in some musical language.  Some crew still on duty aboard ship  called out to friends on the dock, and in my best (cough!) Dutch writing, let me transcribe what I heard.

“Yope, hoe gat het?”  I guess that means “how are you?”

amsteldockAnd so a dialogue went on awhile, with Yope seeming as excited as the mariners, “Yope, wij zijn blij terug de komen.”
Then another sailor might see him, and being here now almost two months, I could recognize a repetition.  “Yope jongen, hoe is het?”

Yope had something to show me.  Beyond the great Batavia was a smaller ship, the Halve Maen, my ship he said.  Frankly, seeing its size, so dwarfed by Batavia disappointed me.  Rather than Half “Moon, I thought it should be called “last quarter,” as that would describe.  Still, a ship means that soon I might sail again, sail into Cathay.

*Art modified above was by Ludolf Backhuysen (1630-1708).

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“The directors shall equip . . . a small vessel . . . well provided with men, provisions, and other necessaries. Hudson shall sail . . . search for a passage by the north . . . north of Nova Zemla—-hmm, thinks I, I’m not going to die there “king of the ice” like Barents—-obtain knowledge . . . without any considerable loss of time . . . return immediately . . . make a faithful report . . . deliver over journals, log-books, and charts . . . without keeping anything back . . .”


I wonder how much VOC directors van Os and Poppe do me trust. Truth be told, intrigue is the norm here. Yope introduced me to Petrus Plancius . . . er “flatfoot” Yope calls him. Petrus says not to talk to LeMaire, the Dutch “Frenchman,” who was telling about Champlain’s explorations up the big river. Petrus also says my friend John Smith knows not what he suggests, that he has fantasies on the brain like his rescue from princesses like Tragabigzanda and Pocahontas. Smith, on the other hand, assures me in private letters, of credible stories he’s heard tell of large seas maybe leading to Cathay lying northwest of his Virginia colony.

Intrigue!! Social networking in 1609 Amsterdam. Dam! Yope just laughs and refills my glass with beer.

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Greetings from Holland, where I’ve been for almost a month already, thanks to Mr van Meteren.  He’s introduced me to Josse de Hondt, or Jodocus Hondius.  Van Meteren writes history and makes it happen;  Jodocus makes maps and translates for me, except when we speak Latin.  After copious sips of Dutch beer, I’ve even started slipping from Latin into Dutch.  When no VOC officers linger,  he asks I call him Yope, and he addresses me as Henk.


The most useful Dutch word I’ve learned so far is goeie dag, which means hello and good-bye and in the pronouncing sounds like a rude throating-clearing. Actually, it’s pronounced like goo ya DOG, but with both g‘s scraped.

Otherwise, I truly love Amsterdam, where people from beyond the seven seas walk the docks and sit down together to break bread and spill beer.

I’ve stayed in Yope’s house in Den Hague in between trips to Amsterdam to meet with officers of the VOC.  He entertains a wide range of people, many of whom are exiled from Antwerp, a less tolerant place;  I’ve met some French, including Isaac le Maire, which seemed to trouble my hosts as soon as Monsieur leMaire suggested I sail for le bon roi Henri.

Today they offered me a contract.  Yope is translating the terms as I write this note.  Good money for me, but it seems they want to keep my wife and children in Amsterdam as guarantee that I return here.

More later when Yope finishes his translations.

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Who am I?  Grandson of the wealthy founder of a merchant company?  unemployed captain of a discovery vessel sans discoveries much appreciated?  undaunted, intrepid seeker of  new routes and fortunes on the cusp of fabulous opportunity?

The dark, cold solstice compounds my self-doubt;  and kith and kin team together to torment me, hurling terms like “failure” and “fait-neant.”  Such is the plight of us the obsessed.  I am so confident that my destiny is intertwined with Cathay that I care not a whit which flag flies from my topmast . . . be it tri-couleur of “le bon roi henri” or the “drie kleuren van de VOC.”

Dear reader, come hither so I may whisper secrets in your ear . . . I’ve entered discussion with agents of both le bon roi and the menheers van de compagnie.  and come the balmy breezes of the spring equinox, sail I shall.  I’d even fly the flag of Cathay from the mast tops . . . although I suspect their literati recluses sitting atop mountains of gold know better and fly kites.    Now there’s an idea for ship propulsion too.

My deepest secret:  on Christmas morning my family and I embark for Amsterdam;  my dilemma is that my wife and children, though excited, think it’s to visit our friend Emanuel van Meteren, and it is that but also more.

Later messages from Amsterdam.  Happy new year.

All art on this site copyright Christina Sun.

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This dark time always sends me back to this log page:

15 June 1608: All day and through the night there was sunshine,


with the wind out of the east; latitude at noon was 75 degrees 7 minutes. This morning crewman Thomas Hiles and Robert Rayner while looking overboard saw a mermaid, calling the rest of the crew to see her. One more came up; by that time she was close to the ship’s side and looking earnestly at the men; a little after, the sea came up and overturned her. As they saw her from the navel upward, her back and breasts were like a woman’s, her body as big as ours, her skin very white, and she had long, black hair hanging down behind. In her going down they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel.

16 June 1608: Clear weather with an east wind.

Now in the obscurity of the advent or solstice, even the roaring fire in the hearth beside my desk fails to warm me, illuminate me, or block out recall of this event from six months back. Where our manly crewmen Hiles and Rayner saw a beauty, I feared the appearance of Sedna, reputed to be the ruler and regulator of the northern regions. What if she had claimed a life to spare ours?


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My brilliant navigation succeeded again in 1608 no matter the drivel about my “twice-failed voyage to Cathay” as scuttlebutt has it amongst certain detractors.  Jealous they are, those certain scalawags with the Muscovy Company.   I have now successfully concluded that the Northeast Passage to Cathay is not.  We cast off in late April of this year 1608 in our good vessel Hopewell and sailed north to where the summer sees no night.  By early July, we found ourselves farthest east . . . about 52 degrees . . . and we were pinned against the rocky headlands of Nova Zembla.


I am now more assured than ever that just as ice and cold forbid us the northern and eastern routes,  and pirates and distance discourage the southern and southeast passage, that the future routes to Cathay’s charms and riches lie will be found through the northwest and the furious overfall there awaiting.

Finally, dear reader, I prithee not to be impatient in my halfmoonthly story-telling pace.  Seeking another ship occupies much of my time, as I’m restless to return to sea in spring.  But, sometimes after too long napping, I do hear voices from the future and find I can answers questions there-posed.  See the “right sidebar,” whatever that is.

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Let me explain about my first voyage.  I had learned from Captain Knight—the late Captain Knight, bless him—who had the right idea but lost his nerve when the shrouds and sails glazed over with ice.  He lost his judgment, and let the men eat frozen but rotten ice bear meat.  He went mad the days last far longer than they should have.

Then Muscovy made me Hopewell‘s master, and, armed with the maps of Robert Thorne and Barrents, we sailed Hopewell straight north for Tabis.  We saw sunlight at midnight and then some.


My critics say I failed when I first sailed for Cathay through the Scylla and Charbdis of Tabis . . .  but no–they delude themselves!!   Those scoundrels blind themselves to the fact that I discoved Thorne’s map was wrong.  To those chthonic rapscallions I say that to disprove a cartographer’s theory is to succeed at updating guides into the unknown, into the future, toward Cathay!

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