Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage That Redrew the Map of the New World

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A bold new account of explorer Henry Hudson and the discovery that changed the course of history.

The year 2009 marks the four-hundredth anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the majestic river that bears his name. Just in time for this milestone, Douglas Hunter, sailor, scholar, and storyteller, has written the first book-length history of the 1609 adventure that put New York on the map.

Hudson was commissioned by the mighty Dutch East ...

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Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage That Redrew the Map of the New World

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Overview

A bold new account of explorer Henry Hudson and the discovery that changed the course of history.

The year 2009 marks the four-hundredth anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the majestic river that bears his name. Just in time for this milestone, Douglas Hunter, sailor, scholar, and storyteller, has written the first book-length history of the 1609 adventure that put New York on the map.

Hudson was commissioned by the mighty Dutch East India Company to find a northeastern passage over Russia to the lucrative ports of China. But the inscrutable Hudson, defying his orders, turned his ship around and instead headed west—far west—to the largely unexplored coastline between Spanish Florida and the Grand Banks.

Once there, Hudson began a seemingly aimless cruise—perhaps to conduct an espionage mission for his native England—but eventually dropped anchor off Coney Island. Hudson and his crew were the first Europeans to visit New York in more than eighty years, and soon went off the map into unexplored waters.

Hudson’s discoveries reshaped the history of the new world, and laid the foundation for New York to become a global capital. Hunter has shed new light on this rogue voyage with unprecedented research. Painstakingly reconstructing the course of the Half Moon from logbooks and diaries, Hunter offers an entirely new timeline of Hudson’s passage based on innovative forensic navigation, as well as original insights into his motivations.

Half Moon offers a rich narrative of adventure and exploration, filled with international intrigue, backstage business drama, and Hudson’s own unstoppable urge to discover. This brisk tale re-creates the espionage, economics, and politics that drove men to the edge of the known world and beyond.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Although not the first mariner to explore North America, Henry Hudson (1565-1611) left a powerful legacy, vividly described in this richly detailed biography 400 years after his journey up what became the Hudson River. Canadian historian Hunter (God's Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery) reminds readers that 16th- and 17th-century European entrepreneurs remained obsessed with finding a shortcut to Asia. An experienced English seaman, Hudson was hired by the Dutch East India Company in 1609 to sail east above Russia. Having already failed at that route, Hudson departed with other ideas. He quickly found his way blocked by ice, but instead of returning to Holland sailed west across the Atlantic, eventually stopping near Manhattan and sailing up his eponymous river as far as present-day Albany. Hunter has clearly immersed himself in the period, producing a meticulous account of Hudson's three months in the New World. Readers may prefer to skim precise descriptions of his navigational difficulties, but few will resist the colorful personal conflicts, tortuous politics and alternately friendly and vicious encounters between Europeans and Native Americans. Photos. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Hunter (God's Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery) presents an exhaustively researched and highly detailed history of the discovery of the Hudson River by English explorer Henry Hudson in 1609. Hunter's sprawling and complicated tale almost overflows with a dizzying array of historical data and a vast cast of characters, yet somehow this potentially unwieldy wealth of information is successfully shaped into a deftly organized and balanced portrait of the unpredictable Hudson, his volatile crew, and their voyage aboard the Dutch ship Half Moon. Complete with mutiny, political maneuvering, spying, and conflict with natives, Hudson's sometimes bloody adventures are full of incident and accident brought to vivid life in Hunter's nuanced prose. VERDICT This work is a somewhat dense and complex historical narrative that is best suited to history buffs and researchers, or patient readers with a strong interest in the early exploration of the Hudson River and of what became the New York City area. Recreational readers may prefer Tom Lewis's The Hudson: A History.—Ingrid Levin, Salve Regina Univ. Lib., Newport, RI
Kirkus Reviews
Canadian sailor and scholar Hunter (God's Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery, 2007, etc.) returns to the subject of British explorer Henry Hudson. The author's previous work addressed Hudson's rivalry with French explorer Samuel de Champlain, but here the focus is on Hudson's 1609 trip to the New World, where he and the crew of the Half Moon charted unexplored coastline from Florida to the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland. Hunter provides valuable insights into the explorer's enigmatic motivations. Why did Hudson-who was commissioned by the Dutch East India Company to find an Artic route to China-venture so far west, conducting a long, wandering sojourn into mysterious and potentially dangerous territory? It's a mystery that has long puzzled historians, but Hunter convincingly argues that Hudson may have been more than a mere employee of the Dutch. He may have also been acting as a spy for business interests in his native England, which had claims on land that Hudson explored and mapped for the first time. Hunter ably chronicles Hudson's daily progress on his voyage-which included conflicts with, and abductions of, Native Americans-and he skillfully establishes the global context, involving Dutch, Spanish, English and French interests. Poring over hydrographic charts and picking through often-sparse historical material, Hunter assembles a comprehensive timeline of the 400-year-old voyage, but his firm grasp of the politics and history of Hudson's time make the book stand out. Insightful look at Hudson, his pivotal achievement and the world events surrounding it. Agent: Sally Harding/The Cooke Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596916807
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas Hunter is the author of the acclaimed God’s Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery, named a finalist for the 2008 Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction in Canada. He lives with his wife and family in Port McNicoll, Ontario. Hunter is also an experienced sailor and coauthor of Yacht Design Explained.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating Read!

    Henry Hudson was was hired by the Dutch Trading Company in 1609 to find a northeastern passage around Russia to more easily access China. Hudson started his voyage aboard the Half Moon with a mixture of English and Dutch crewmen. Part way into his voyage, he decided to turn his ship around and go west to America where he would discover the Hudson River and other uncharted territories. Hudson found himself with his hands full, wondering if there was mutiny brewing and also wondering how he would be received by the Dutch when he finally decided to back. When he did go back, he found himself on another mission to find a northwestern passage to China. That was his last voyage.

    When I closed the book after reading the last paragraph, I had to just sit in thought for a bit. Douglas Hunter, who is a sailor himself, wove such an intricate story of Henry Hudson. The amount of research that went into this book is amazing, and to present it like Hunter did was even more amazing to me. From the start I was drawn in, and felt like I was reading a puzzle with pieces being put together from all different sources, a little at a time, until the picture became clear. Who was Hudson? Where did he come from? Why would he blatantly disregard his orders and sail the opposite way?

    Since there was no journal of Hudson's to go by, many of the notes about the voyage were taken from Robert Juet's journal. Reading some of the thoughts and feelings of an actual crew member was a real treat and very insightful. I had no idea what exploration was like in the 1500 and 1600's besides the basic textbook "stuff" I received in school. I had no idea of the amount of espionage, threats of mutiny, and pirating that went on. Most of all, I had no idea how much history was re-written for gain, both financially and politically. Hudson ended being a totally different man than the explorer that was captain of the Half Moon.

    This book was a fascinating read, and now that I'm done, my family will be able to go back to normal dinner banter, instead of listening to me rattle on about what I found was amazing in the book. Both of my teens are now wanting to read Half Moon and I know they'll enjoy it as much as I did!

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    Posted August 14, 2009

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