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Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson Hardcover – June 9, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In April 1610, Henry Hudson set sail on the Discovery with a crew of 22 (including his 17-year-old son) on his fourth expedition in search of a shorter route to the Far East. USC historian Mancall (Hakluyt's Promise) vividly recreates the eager anticipation of the voyage, the lust for conquest and for spices, the voyage's risks and the joy and terrors that Hudson and his crew faced. But as winter approached, rather than return to England, Hudson set anchor in the bay named for him. Stuck in ice for seven months, their provisions dwindling, the crew mutinied in the spring, forcing Hudson, his son and seven other sailors into a skiff left floating in the bay. When the mariners on the Discovery returned to England without Hudson, they were tried for murder but never convicted. As for Hudson and the rest, their remains were never found and their fate is the stuff of legend. As Mancall so eloquently points out, the resolute will that had served Hudson so well in reaching this summit of exploration also made him unwilling to abandon his goal and led to his demise. Illus., map. (June)
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“Mancall’s account of the doomed voyage is exciting, tense, and tragic…. This is an excellent re-examination of [Hudson] and his final, sad effort.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[Mancall’s] facility with primary sources is astounding. The story of Hudson’s last voyage becomes, in his experienced hands, a lucid, fascinating lens into early Atlantic explorations. The book bristles with action, details about ship life, insight into British laws (the mutineers were found not guilty), and jaw-dropping accounts of encounters with Americans.”

Seattle Times
“This is a story that stretches the imagination and leaves the reader with a shiver.”

Las Cruces Sun-News
“Mancall [is] a master storyteller and historian…. Any reader of Dr. Mancall’s account will be caught in an exciting adventure and overwhelming tragedy.”

Washington Times
“Mr. Mancall writes with authority in tone and scholarship.”

New York Post
“Rather than speculate, Mancall delivers the story of how Hudson’s crusade put him on a collision course with his men…. But the story is perhaps most compelling in its descriptions of the Northern territory itself.”

Washington Post
“[Fatal Journey] recounts the puzzling episode of a captain overthrown by an enraged faction of his own crew…. [A] short and dependable guide to what befell a great but flawed explorer.”

Newark Star-Ledger
“For fans of Mutiny on the Bounty and The Caine Mutiny, Fatal Journey will only add to the store and lore of desperate actions on the high seas…. [Mancall] combines forensic history with pulsing narrative to achieve a highly credible account of how the mission unraveled.”

Boston Globe
“Bracingly told.”

Boston Globe
“Fatal Journey is a rich, exhilarating narrative of exploration, desperation, and ice-bound tragedy.”

History Magazine
“Mancall places Hudson and the mutiny in the context of their age, a time when economic and cultural forces lured explorers and sailors into the dangers of a new world in search of profit and fame.”

Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
“Mancall, in this fascinating account based on a great deal of research, provides a reasonable explanation of Hudson’s likely fate, after probably surviving for a polar winter or two…. I recommended this excellent book to both armchair explorers and serious students of the history of the Arctic.”

The Working Waterfront
Fatal Journey is both poignant and tragic. Henry Hudson is presented as a dominating, unyielding captain, consumed with an Ahab-like obsession to seek a northern passage.”


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046500511X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465005116
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By C. Pierce on September 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I picked up the book from my library after seeing a mention of it on Glenn Reynolds blog and was fairly disappointed in it.

The structure of the book follows Hudson on four journeys: Two due north, one to the Hudson River area of the Atlantic coast, and then his journey to Hudson Bay ending in James Bay. After the mutiny, the book concludes with the trials of the mutineers.

The author doesn't seem to have enough source material to write an entire book on Hudson's journeys. Hudson's early life is fairly anonymous, the circumstances surrounding his death are completely unknown. Against these book-ends, there's only sketchy narrative pieced together from ship logs and from journals very few of which are his own. If this were a book about mutiny on 17th century English ships or northwest passage exploration, Hudson's tale would make an interesting chapter or three.

Next, get yourself a good map of the Hudson Bay, Hudson River and the Arctic Circle before even cracking the book open.

My copy of the book didn't have any kind of useful map other reviewers have mentioned (I wonder if this was an insert in later printings). Without it, the book is confusing and requires constant trips to an atlas to find out what the author is talking about. The maps included in the text are worthless for following the narrative: illegibly small, blurry, and of course dated. Islands and channels are named, but modern names for these places often aren't given alongside. The players in this story were confused about distance and heading, and the author's descriptive style doesn't clear that up for the modern reader either.

Speaking of narrative: Mancall is not a storyteller.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Janlynn on July 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Henry Hudson is a man mostly forgotten by the history books. People know his Bay and his River, but how many know the man himself disappeared during one of his voyages to find the Northwest Passage. The search for the Passage has sparked many mysteries, the foremost being John Franklin. Almost two hundred years before Franklin, Hudson sought the Passage.

This account of what happened to Hudson is an interesting look into the world of sailing in the early 1600s. At times the book moves slowly, in fact, I skipped a chapter which didn't seem to make much of a difference to the story. It's hard to write an entire book, I imagine, about a man who is most famous for his death and disappearence and about which almost nothing else is known.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Thomas F. Ogle on August 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Basically, the book is a credible account of the efforts to find a Northwest Passage in the early to mid-seventeenth century. Mancall does a good job in establishing the economic importance of finding an Arctic route to the Spice Islands. Mancall's research of journals and accounts appears to be exhaustive, but unfortunately the book is a rather dry read. The author may be excused for lack of drama in some respects since the Hudson's journals and those from his associates apparently were rather cursory--unlike Pigafetta's. Even so, the story could be much more compelling had the author visited Hudson Bay or had first hand knowledge of working a sailing vessel in Arctic waters. Much more vivid are the works of Samuel Eliot Morison and Dallas Murphy because they sailed the routes of the voyages they write about.

The two page map of Hudson's voyages (1607-1611) is very welcome and an essential part to understanding the narrative--particularly the inset map of Hudson Bay. The reproductions of early maps, paintings/drawings from other expeditions scattered throughout the book are generally too small and dark to be useful. The large map itself has mislabeled the Provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. Also, Davis Strait should have been noted as well as the degrees latitude.
Tom Ogle, South Carolina
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on August 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is all about locating the northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean. The early European explorers certainly had to be a hardy group to endure all of the hardships that were presented to them. Henry Hudson made four trips across the north Atlantic including one along the east coast of the present-day United States and then up the river that now bears his name as far as where Albany is now located searching for a route to the Pacific. Hudson's persistence in pursuing a northwest passage led to a revolt by some of his men on his 1610 trip. After spending a horrible winter iced in at James Bay when spring arrived Hudson, his son, and a few loyalists were cast adrift to fend for themselves with the remainder of the group leaving for a return trip to England. Alas, some of those men died fighting local Inuit in the area and never did return. I guess we can say that Hudson's stubborness in insisting on forging ahead in search of the elusive passage led to his, and several others, demise. The author speculates as to what may have happened to Hudson and his remaining crew, but we obviously can't be sure. In any case of the eight men of the original twenty-three who returned to England no one was ever persecuted for their actions towards Hudson.

I feel I learned a lot from this book. I knew that Hudson was cast adrift, but was unaware of many of the details regarding this trip. Also, it was informative to learn about the possibilities that may have taken place. I wasn't aware that the crew may have perished on shore in the James Bay area and not necessarily in the waters. If you look at a map of the area you will find places named not only after Hudson, but also Martin Frobisher, Luke Foxe, and William Baffin. There is a reason places are named as they are, and this book will tell you something about the person behind the name.
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