How did the Hudson River in New York and New Jersey get its name? On the misty morning of September 3, 1609, explorer Henry Hudson and his crew aboard the Half Moon sailed into the majestic river off the Atlantic coast by chance. Strong head winds and storms forced them to abandon the northeast voyage they had been assigned. Rather than return to Holland with nothing to report, the crew voted to look for the Northwest Passage, a legendary waterway that would carry a ship all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. They passed by the island we know today as Manhattan and sailed up the river.