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Friday, October 2, 2009

Manhattan Gets Its Name

The celebration of New York's 400th anniversary is winding down, but today -- October 2 -- marks a significant moment in the city's history: the 400th anniversary of Robert Juet (Henry Hudson's first mate) writing down the name Manna-hata for the first time.

The 1609 voyage was Juet's second with Hudson and there was no love lost between the two men. On their previous voyage together, Juet had organized the crew against Hudson, but it had stopped short of mutiny. Why exactly Hudson re-hired Juet in 1609 is unclear, but Hudson clearly recognized the mate's talents, including that of a diarist. Juet kept a clear and concise record of their trip -- still grumbling in places about Hudson's leadership -- and his chronicle of their trip up and down the Hudson River is the first European account of the area.

As they voyaged back from the Albany area, the Half Moon anchored on October 2, 1609, near the palisades. In his log, Juet wrote:

[W]e saw a very good piece of ground; and hard by it there was a cliff that looked of the colour of white green, as though it were either a copper or silver mine; and I think it to be one of them by the trees that grow upon it; for they be all burned, and the other places are green as grass; it is on that side of the river that is called Manna-hata.

Thus, on October 2, 1609, Manna-hata had its name written down by Europeans for the first time and Manhattan was born.

(Hudson sailed one more time, in 1610, looking -- as always -- for a northwest passage to the Pacific. On this voyage, Juet finally led the crew in an uprising and Hudson was cast out of the ship in a small boat, never to be seen again.)

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