September 2009


I’m signing up for the World War II reading challenge at War Through the Generations.  You should sign up too and then go read a damn book (about WW II).  I’m going to read at least ten WW II books during 2009.  I’ve already read eight so I only need two more before the end of the year so I think I’ll make it.  I’ll post the books I’ve already read, along with a mini review shortly.

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

Author: Douglas Hunter

Pages: 320

Release Date: September 1, 2009 – Bloomsbury Press

ISBN: 978-1-59691-680-7

 

Half Moon

Just in time for the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River, Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World tells the story of Hudson’s second to last voyage on which he discovered the river that would one day bear his name.  Hudson had been retained by the Dutch East India Company to find a passage to the Orient across the top of Asia.  Hudson was mildly certain this could not be done, so after a short attempt to round the top of Russia he sailed the Half Moon to the east coast of North America, in violation of his contract, in an attempt to find a mid-continental passage to the Pacific.  After ranging up and down the east coast, Hudson entered what would later be called New York Bay.  He soon discovered the mouth of a river he thought would lead him either to the St. Lawrence River or to the Pacific Ocean.  Hudson proceeded up the river as far as it was navigable, then came back down, and set sail for England, not wanting to return to Amsterdam after violating his contract.  There are few surviving records from the voyage.   The primary source was the journal of Robert Juet, one of Hudson’s officers.  In addition to the description of Hudson’s voyage, Mr. Hunter describes previous and concurrent journeys to the New World as well as the European politics of exploration.

I found it interesting that even though by the time of Hudson’s voyage, multiple trips had been made to North America by different explorers, there was no agreement on the shape of the coast line, the locations (or existence) of islands, or the locations of rivers and bays.  This was due, in part, to the imprecise determination of longitude, as well as the inability to determine latitude at all.

I found Hunter’s portrayal of the trip up the Hudson River interesting and engaging.  Unfortunately, the journey up the river doesn’t begin until well past the half way point in the book.  Prior to that, Hudson sailed up and down the coast seemingly at random and I had a difficult time maintaining interest in this portion of the journey.  While Mr. Hunter is obviously very knowledgeable regarding the tidal patterns, salinity, and currents of the New York Bay and its surrounding waterways, I began to feel my eyes glaze over whenever he began to discuss them.

There is a lack of source material covering this voyage and Hudson in general.  Nothing is known of his life prior to 1607, just two years prior to this voyage.  This is obviously not the fault of Mr. Hunter, who made a good effort with what was available.  Perhaps the scarcity of source material precluded this subject from being treated in this format.  Lastly, I continue to have an issue with footnotes, in this case Mr. Hunter did not use any.  I find this unsettling in a book filled with direct quotations.

Overall I would not recommend Half Moon to the general reader. Anyone who already has an interest in Hudson and his travels might find it of interest.

I received an ARC of this book from Bloomsbury publishing.