Whale sightings in New York Harbor and Hudson River

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    • #1813
      ndembowski
      Keymaster

      I received a question from a member asking if Henry Hudson saw whales in the Hudson River.  The recent whale sightings in New York Harbor prompted the question.

      I scanned Robert Juet’s log from Hudson’s 1609 voyage and did not see any references to whales in the river (although it was apparently teeming with fish).  Possibly, Hudson wrote about whales in his report to the Dutch West India Company.  He did see many whiles on other voyages such as his 1607 expedition.

      However, our neighborhood’s first colonist, Adriaen van der Donck, wrote this in his 1655 Description of New Netherland:

      In March, 1647 . . . two fairly big whales swam more than forty miles up the river.  One turned back and became stranded, later freeing itself at a spot eleven or twelve miles from the sea where four others were stranded in the same year; the other beached itself not far from the great Cohoes Falls, forty-three miles from the sea.  The animal turned out to be quite blubbery, and the people of Rensselaerswijck boiled off a good quantity of train oil.  Even so, the whole river, though flowing strongly at the time, remained oily and covered with grease for up to three weeks afterward.  Moreover, as the carcass lay rotting, the stench infected the air to such an extent that it was noticeable nearly two miles to leeward.

    • #1814
      Peter Ostrander
      Moderator

      There was another whale sighting in the Hudson River in 1647. Long before Melville wrote Moby Dick there was a white whale spotted in the Hudson River at Beverwyck, present day Albany by Anthony deHooges. Antony de Hooges arrived in 1641 to served as business manager of Rensselaerswijck, the patroonship owned by Kiliaen van Rensselaer.   De Hooges recorded the colony’s business and some personal observations in the Memorandum Book. This same person would be remembered  by mountain named  Anthony’s Nose. The mountain is located at the East end of the Bear Mt bridge.  This same Anthony also happens to be my 8th Great Grandfather.  I am happy to state this is one physical characteristic  was not passed along to me.

      Earlier in 1641 Van Rensselaer also hired Adrian vander Donck, a young man from Breda who had studied law at Leiden. Van der Donck would serve as officier or schout in the patroonship.  A schout was a man who enforced patroonship policies and regulation. He too as noted earlier saw whales in the Hudson River.

      Anthony DeHooges wrote in his papers   that

      “A certain fish appeared snow-white, round
      of body, and blew water up out of his head.”  – From the memorandum book of Antony de Hooges, 1647

      In the early spring of 1647, an unusual sight startled the inhabitants of Rensselaerswijck. As they watched from the shore in “great amazement,” a mysterious creature of “considerable size” made its way up the river and back whence it came. Several weeks later, a similar creature appeared, “[blowing] water out of its head like the one before.” Eager to document the unusual events, Antony de Hooges, secretary of the patroonship, recorded his thoughts in his memorandum book among the humdrum proceedings of ordinary business. De Hooges speculated about its meaning, only God knew, and the possible connection to the first thunder and lightning of the year, which occurred on the evening of the second sighting. The memorandum book is in box 31 of the “Van Rensselaer Manor Papers” held by Manuscripts and Special Collections of the New York State Library.

      You can read the full text on the New Netherland Institute website -https://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/files/2713/5543/9527/DeHoogesTranslationFinal.pdf

    • #1815
      Thomas Casey
      Participant

      Interesting…I am down the block from where Herman Melville was born at 780 Holmes Rd, Pittsfield, MA 01201 and later down the block from where he is buried ( Woodlawn Cemetery )  at W. 259thMelville Tombstone

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