Half Moon

Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World | Bloomsbury Press 2009

cover_med_hrFrom the publisher: 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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“Buy it.” —National Post

“Although not the first mariner to explore North America, Henry Hudson (1565–1611) left a powerful legacy, vividly described in this richly detailed biography…a meticulous account…few will resist the colorful personal conflicts, tortuous politics and alternately friendly and vicious encounters between Europeans and Native Americans.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Hunter is] an experienced sailor, and his observations of nautical life are astute…a picture emerges of Hudson as a wily operator who knew what he wanted to find, and where he wanted to go to find it – and wasn’t about to tell his merchant backers any more than they needed to know so they would give him a ship. Hunter provides a fine account of Hudson’s wheeling and dealing, and the hoodwinking of the Dutch and English backers of his various voyages.” —Boston Globe

“riveting reading” —William and Mary Quarterly

“Douglas Hunter has done a commendable job in ferreting out rare charts and maritime documents of the time from archives all over Europe, not only to track the Half Moon‘s course across the Atlantic, but to discern Hudson’s motives in assuming the risks and challenges of this voyage…This true adventure story of 17th-century seafaring life is well-documented and exciting to read.” —The Post & Courier (Charleston)

“If you want to read about Englishman Henry Hudson’s 1609 New World voyage in the Dutch ship, Half Moon (Haelf Maen), this is by far the best iteration, measuring well above the myriad other offerings that commemorate the 400th anniversary of the explorer’s jaunt up the Hudson River. Drawing on new primary research materials, Douglas Hunter recounts the voyage and delves into its purported purpose in this colorful and reasoned narrative.” —The Explorers Journal, The Explorers Club, New York

“From the flimsy historical record, the author synthesizes a plausible, and jaunty, version of [Hudson’s] voyage.” New York Times

“Douglas Hunter tells a fascinating story that has been largely neglected. The final result is a work worthy of the 400th anniversary of the historic voyage. It is part scholarly history, part sailing treatise and part fast-paced political thriller. No-one who reads this book will ever look at the [Hudson] river the same way.” —The Book Web

“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 Arctic 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.” —Kirkus

“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.” Library Journal

“Hunter delivers a vivid rendition of Hudson’s entrance into New York Bay, ascent to the future site of Albany, and peaceful and violent encounters with the native peoples. Fans of the era of discovery will delight in Hunter’s history of Hudson’s famed expedition.” —Booklist

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