Our First Visitor
Since the Twin Lights opened to the public in the early 1960s, close to three million people have visited the site. Who was the first? The name of that person is lost to time. However, we do know the identity of the first out-of-towner to visit the area: Henry Hudson.
The English sea captain was employed by the Dutch East India Company in 1609 to find a Northwest Passage to the Orient. It was believed at the time that the polar ice might melt in the summer, exposing a significantly shorter route than the dangerous ones around Africa and South America.
Hudson’s Half Moon left Amsterdam in the Spring with instructions to explore the area north of Russia. When this route was blocked by ice, he turned his ship west and headed toward North America—acting on rumors that the passage could be found there. He sailed as far south as Chesapeake Bay before turning north again toward the New Jersey coast.
Pivoting around the tip of Sandy Hook, Hudson sailed through Sandy Hook Bay and explored the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers, sailing right past the future location of the Twin Lights. From there Hudson explored the Raritan River, and sailed up the Arthur Kill between New Jersey and Staten Island, into Newark Bay. He most likely entered the river that would bear his name from the west, and not through the Verrazzano Narrows, as many assume.
Hudson and his crew returned in the Fall of 1609 without having found the Northwest Passage. The information he collected—particularly on his trip north “up the Hudson”—was quite valuable, and later helped the Dutch to establish claims in Albany and Manhattan Island. The Half Moon docked in Dartmouth, England, where that country’s officials tried to confiscate the ship’s logs. However, Hudson was under the employ of the Dutch and delivered his records instead to the Dutch ambassador. Hudson was hired by English companies for his next voyage in 1610 which, initially, seemed to meet with great success. Captaining the Discovery through the Labrador Straits, he encountered an enormous body of water. He spent months exploring and mapping the shores of what would come to be named Hudson Bay, but was unable to find the passage he sought. After an icebound winter, Hudson wanted to keep exploring in 1611 but his crew mutinied and set him adrift with his teenage son and a handful of loyal crewmates. He was never seen again.