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Early Exploration
The Arctic
Foreign Adventure
Aboriginal Perspective

The Beaver and the Bay

Image of an old, artistic map of Hudson Bay next to image of a map showing different explorers’ routes

A long voyage, over too wide a sea, separates us from China, and in my heart I cannot endure so great a delay.

“Thus spoke Hudson, and intrepid, he set course from the West Indies to seek a shortcut. And he had already begun to conquer the unexplored strip, to promise success to the King, but to neglect his men, when the crew put a stop to his great enterprise. But Hudson carries on, determined either to overcome this check, or (God forbid!) to die in the attempt. Lord, hear our prayers, and mark this day in the British calendar, know that our Master has been gloriously preserved.”

So reads a Latin inscription on a map drawn by explorer Henry Hudson and published by Dutch cartographer Hessel Gerritsz in 1613. Hudson, a mariner who had attempted to find a route to China via the North Pole, was sponsored by English courtiers to find the Northwest Passage in 1610. He was one of a slew of explorers who sought the Passage that would mark a new era for trade by sea between Asia and Europe. The unfinished lines show how little early explorers knew of the oceans, ice and land west of Greenland. Today, that same Northwest Passage is still a highly sought-after prize for commercial ships seeking a fast route to Asia.

Map from "The Beaver and the Bay", Canadian Geographic, August/September 1989