Friday, October 2, 2009
Henry Hudson 'discovers' Manhattan Island
Henry Hudson (1565-1611), the famed English explorer with the Dutch East India Company, was on a mission to find a Northwest Passage to the Far East in 1609. The river that now bears his name had been found earlier, by Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524.
In 1609, Hudson and company founded a settlement at the harbor at the mouth of the river. Hudson recorded a name for the island, “Manna-Hata,” on his map. Various derivations of this name have been offered. One is that Manna-hata is Lenape for "many-hilled land." [Manah= "island" / Atin= "hill.") However, the native Lenape and Delaware Indians often gave a different (some argue incorrect) account of the name, calling the island “Manahachtanienk,” meaning "the island where we all got drunk." A legend has it that their encounter with Hudson was the first time they tasted alcohol and they all got completely plastered, as do many modern-day inhabitants of the isle.
Pictured below is a commemorative coin, issued just this year, by the Dutch Royal Mint in honor of the 400th anniversary of Hudson's contact. The front of the new 5 euro coin shows lower Manhattan. The inscription reads:
The Half Moon, 2 October, 1609
It Is On That Side Of The River That Is Called Manna-Hata
Concerning the date
Other accounts of Henry Hudson's landing at Manhattan give various dates in September 1609. I have gone with the date featured on the Dutch coin. The problem, as always, is the disparity between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. England did not adopt the new system in 1582. Parts of the Netherlands (Catholic controlled) did adopt the system that year, while Protestant areas kept the Julian calendar, as did the British, until the 18th century. Because Englishman Hudson's voyage was a Dutch enterprise there are multiple sets of dates in the various histories of his voyages.
Below, an image of Hudson on the river between upper Manhattan and the Pallisades.