Mutiny on the Discovery
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Mutiny on the Discovery

In June of 1611, after Henry Hudson and his crew aboard the Discovery had spent the winter locked in a northern bay, the ice broke into a maze of floes and open water.

It would have been open enough to sail clear of the bay and go home, but Hudson was determined to stick to his orders. He was supposed to find the Northwest Passage and he had every intention of doing so.

The crew turned to plans of mutiny.
The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson (exhibit 1881) Tate Gallery, S0142851
The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson (exhibit 1881) Tate Gallery, S0142851

Crew member Abacuck Prickett continued in his diary:

"Wilson the Boatswayne and Henry Greene came to me... and told mee that they and the rest of their Associates, would shift the Company and turne the Master (and) all the sicke men into the shallop (a small boat) and let them shift for themselves.

"When I heard this, I told them... that for their sakes they should not commit so foule a thing in the sight of God and man... Henry Greene bade me hold my peace, for he knew the worst, which was, to be hanged when he came home, and therefore -- of the two -- he would rather be hanged at home then starved abroad.
Beothuk Drawing, 1829 Artist: Shawnadithit, National Archives of Canada C-28544
Detail of Beothuk Drawing, 1829 Artist: Shawnadithit, National Archives of Canada C-28544

"The Master came out of his Cabbin... Wilson bound his armes behind him. He asked them what they meant? They told him, he should know when he was in the shallop...

"Then the shallop hauled up to the ship side and the poore, sicke and lame men were called upon to get them out of their Cabbins into the shallop."
Henry Hudson's ship 'The Discovery' became trapped in arctic ice as he searched for the Northwest Passage. (Digitally composited scene from Canada: A People's History)
Henry Hudson's ship 'The Discovery' became trapped in arctic ice as he searched for the Northwest Passage. (Digitally composited scene from Canada: A People's History)

The remains of the loyal crew -- including Hudson's son John -- helped their captain keep pace with the Discovery for a few days, before falling back, over the horizon and out of sight. The mutinous crew made it back through Hudson's Strait and limped home, fortified by scraps, bones and candle wax.

Back in England, four men were tried for the murder of their captain, but they were acquitted. They blamed the mutiny on those who had died.

No trace of Hudson was ever found. And the Northwest Passage -- if it was out there -- still saw no traffic of jewels and spice from the far-off Orient.


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Colonization and Settlement: 1600-1830 from Memorial University of Newfoundland

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