Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Assume that ...

Assume that you're 12 years old and bright as a collection of fire flies on a moonless night, would this keep you reading?

More of "Henry Hudson" in rough draft:

The London Company – English merchants – wanted Hudson to look for a Northwest Passage through or above North America. Early in the spring of 1610, the ship Discovery, of fifty-five tons, was equipped. It had a crew of twenty-three men. Robert Juet, who had sailed with Hudson before and John Hudson, Henry’s son, were part of the crew. And so was a man named Henry Green, a bad ‘un.
Green was a young Englishman from a respectable family, but with “extravagant and wicked habits.” None of the records clearly say what his wicked habits were, but they all emphasize his bad behavior. Because of his conduct, his friends and family abandoned him, and he was almost a beggar when he met Henry Hudson who felt pity for him and wanted to, one historian says, “reclaim him from his worthless ways.” We don’t know what Hudson’s motives really were, but Henry bought him clothes and fed him. He invited Green to accompany them as his companion and secretary. He promised Green wages and that on their return he would help Green become one of the Prince of Wales’ Guards. Henry Hudson sent someone to Green's mother to ask for money to purchase clothes for the voyage. She was reluctant to fund more bad behavior, but finally gave five English pounds, telling Hudson’s messenger not to give it to her son but spend it in his behalf.  
The Discovery set sail on the April, 17 1610. On the 11th they were off the shores of Iceland where they saw Mount Hecla, a volcano, spewing fire. They struggled against winds and icebergs for more than two weeks, finally anchoring in a harbor on the west of Iceland. Here his men bathed in a hot springs, and here Hudson discovered, probably with little surprise, that some of his crew were rebellious. Juit, who had been mutinous on previous voyages, tried to shake their confidence in Hudson. He told two of the men “to keep their muskets charged and swords ready in their cabins, for there would be blood shed before the voyage ended.” The ship’s surgeon and Henry Green quarreled, and Juet took part in it, using the argument to undermine Captain Hudson. Henry didn’t learn the full story until they were forty leagues away from Iceland. (About 140 miles.) He wanted to return to Iceland and send Juet home in a fishing boat but was persuaded not to do that.
They were away from Iceland on July 1st, but a thick fog surrounded the ship. When they neared Greenland they found the sea full of mountains of ice. One turned over near The Discovery causing huge waves and terrifying the crew. Soon the ocean was full of icebergs. While struggling to avoid one they met others more “numerous and terrifying.” They reached a bay, but a storm drove ice against their small ship. Their only escape was to run The Discovery “into the thickest of it, and there leave her,”  using the large icebergs as a shield against others. Many of the crew were frightened, and some fell sick. Hudson’s journal tells us that he believed it was not sickness of the body but of the mind. He did not know what the effects of deep cold were. “Some of our men fell sick,” he wrote. “I will not say it was of fear, although I saw small sign of other grief.”
When the storm ended, the sea was covered with the huge masses of floating ice. They moved from one clear spot to another as if in a maze. They were trapped. In secret Hudson told one of his men that he thought they would die. But to the crew he tried to appear cheerful and confident. When the ice cleared enough to sail on, he called the crew together and showed them his chart. They had gone three hundred miles farther than any Englishman had gone before, he said. He gave them a choice. Should they go forward or turn back? They argued but could not reach a clear decision. One said that “if he had one hundred pounds, [money, not weight] he would give four score and ten to be at home.” That’s like saying “If I had a million dollars, I’d give nine hundred thousand of it to be home.” The carpenter, who had some courage, said “that if he had a hundred he would not give ten upon any such condition: but would think it to be as good money as any he ever had, and to bring it as well home by the leave of God.” Most of them did not care which way they went as long as they were clear of the ice. Some were angry with Hudson. He’d expected that. He knew that the crew was unhappy, but he didn’t argue. He wanted to pacify them. A biography says he “reasoned with them, trying to allay their fears, rouse their hopes, and inspire them with courage, until at length, they all again set resolutely at work to bring the ship from the ice, and save themselves. After much labor, they succeeded in turning her round. They now worked their way by little and little, until at length they found themselves in a clear sea, and kept on their course north-west.”
They still occasionally saw ice, but the men were now familiar it. They charted new places, sometimes chasing bears caught on the ice for sport. Eventually he entered a strait, a passage between two landmasses.  Hudson hoped he had found the passage to Asia. He sent men ashore to climb the hills and see if the Pacific Ocean lay beyond. They found a land rich with grasses including Cochlearia, an herb rich in Vitamin C. Sailors called it Scurvy Grass, eating it to cure that disease.[1] They saw herds of deer and many birds. A storm prevented further exploration, so they turned back. Fog made it difficult to reach the ship. Hudson had cannons fired so they could find their way. The men wanted Hudson to stay for a few days and resupply the ship. Henry Hudson’s eagerness led him to a bad decision. He pressed on. A storm and rocks brought danger, and they reached a dead end. They had found a great inland sea, now called Hudson’s Bay, but it was not the way to Asia.
His crew was angry.  Robert Juet who had caused trouble in Iceland and Frances Clement the boatswain[2] led the complaints. When challenged over his behavior, Juet pretended to be innocent. Hudson reached his limit. He organized a ship’s court, called a Court of Inquiry that uncovered Juet’s bad acts clear back to Iceland. Hudson removed Juet as First Mate and replaced Clement with another. Hudson told them both that if they behaved will in the future he would forgive them and “do them good.” Hudson seems to have been a poor judge of character.
Hudson spent most of September and all of October exploring the great bay that is now named for him, still hoping for an eastward passage. There were storms. During one of them they had to cut their anchor cable. During another the ship ran onto rocks and was stuck there for half a day. By the end of October “the nights were long and cold, the land covered with snow.” Hudson sheltered the ship in a small inlet, sending two men ashore to find a place they could safely spend the winter. They found a place and hauled the ship partly onto the beach. By November 10th the ship was frozen tight.

[1]              Scurvy is caused by a lack of Vitamin C. Symptoms are tiredness, spots on the skin, bleeding gums, open sores, mental issues, and if not treated death is the result.
[2]             A Boatswain was the ship’s officer in charge of equipment and responsible for the Ship’s hull or body.


  1. It's sort of late now. I may have more comments on this tomorrow. For now if you are looking for words to cut, I think "ship’s court," and "Court of Inquiry" is somewhat redundant.

  2. Thanks Harry. I've already made changes, but I always welcome your comments.