On today’s date in 1612, Welsh Royal Navy officer Thomas Button sailed out of London in search of the Northwest Passage.
The aim of the expedition, which was backed by the Prince of Wales and the Northwest Co., was to retrace “the now familiar route,” according to Lincoln Paine’s 2000 book, Ships of Discovery and Exploration.
The previous expedition, which began in 1610, was commanded by English explorer Henry Hudson, who sailed in the Dutch East India Co. ship Halve Maen as far as present-day Albany, N.Y. in 1609.
“Back in the employ of his fellow countrymen, Hudson sailed from Gravesend on April 17, 1610, and Discovery was the first ship definitely to enter Hudson Strait,” wrote Paine. “Hudson cruised south along the east coast of the bay that bears his name and into James Bay, where on November 10, he and his crew were frozen in with scant provisions. Over the harsh winter, the near-starving crew became increasingly hostile to Hudson’s command and on June 22, 1611, they mutinied. Led by Henry Greene, who ‘would rather be hanged at home than starved abroad,’ the mutineers put Hudson, his son, and seven of the infirm crew in the Discovery’s shallop and sailed away.”
“Hudson was never heard from again.”
A NEW DAY…
According to Paine, Button’s expedition of 1612 “included no mention of a search for Hudson or his crew.”
Button eventually reached the mouth of a river, which he named Nelson in honour of a crew member who had lost his life, before wintering at what is now Port Nelson, and in 1613, he and his crew continued searching for the Northwest Passage.
Button would later discover and name Mansel Island before returning home to England in September 1613. He and his men were the first recorded Europeans to roam present-day Manitoba.
2015 GREAT CANADIAN EXPLORERS SERIES
In 2015, the Royal Canadian Mint issued the fourth coin of its Great Canadian Explorers series.
The $200 gold coin features on its reverse—designed by Laurie McGaw—a depiction of Hudson on his final Arctic voyage. The image centres on a full portrait of Hudson, who is gazing to the right through a spyglass. He wears a heavy fur coat and hat as well as long leather boots. To the right side is a stylized map of Hudson Bay with Hudson’s spyglass pointing directly to the bay’s centre. Below the map, Hudson’s ship, Discovery, rests at anchor. To the left side is an Elizabethan-era directional wind rose.
The coin has a diameter of 29 mm with text on the reverse reading “CANADA,” the face value of “200 DOLLARS” and the year-date of “2015.” It had mintage of 2,000 coins.