1. Introduce the painting of Henry Hudson.
Tell students that Henry Hudson was a 17th century English explorer working as a ship captain for the Dutch East India Company. Display for students The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson and explain that the painting depicts Henry Hudson, his son, and a shipmate after the rest of the crew set them adrift on a small rowboat during a mutiny on ship. Point out each person in the painting as you identify them. Ask: What is a mutiny? Elicit from students that a mutiny means that the crew members have worked together to take control of the ship from the captain.

2. Have students analyze the painting.
Ask students to identify details from the painting that may provide more information about what has happened. Use prompts to get the discussion started. Ask:

  • What is the setting of the painting?
  • What do you see in the foreground? In the background?
  • What do you notice about the people in the painting? Their attitudes? Their dress?
  • What questions do you have about what has happened?

Encourage students to look for details about the surrounding environment and about the people depicted in the painting. Write students' ideas on the board.

3. Have students make predictions about the circumstances shown in the painting.
Explain the following to students as they continue to look at the painting: Henry Hudson was trying to find a passage to Asia by sailing around the northern part of North America. Explain that the Dutch East India Company was paying Henry Hudson to find this route. They thought the route would provide a shorter and easier path to Asia. There they could trade European goods for specialty goods from Asia like spices, tea, and silk. Ask students to think about the goal of the crew, the meaning of the word mutiny, and the details they identified in the painting. Have them make predictions about why Henry Hudson, his son, and shipmate found themselves set adrift from the rest of the ship. Add students' ideas to the board.

4. Trace Henry Hudson's route on a map and reveal the story behind the painting.
Project the MapMaker Interactive world map. Use the line tool to mark the path and measure the distance that one would take from the Atlantic Ocean to Asia by passing north of the North American landmass. Explain to students that much of this region is covered in ice during the winter and is not passable by a sailing ship. Zoom in to Canada and point out Hudson Bay to students. Explain that Henry Hudson and his crew were sailing in this bay when his crew became angry with Hudson for not finding a passage to Asia and mutinied. The crew set Hudson, his son, and some crewmembers adrift on a small boat and sailed the main ship back to Europe. No one heard from Henry Hudson or anyone on his small boat again.

5. Have students confirm or revise their predictions.
Ask students to look back at the details they noted, and the predictions they made, and confirm or revise their ideas about what is happening in the painting.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • analyze a painting and make predictions about the circumstances depicted
  • trace Henry Hudson's route on a map
  • describe what happened to the historical figures in the painting

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Visual instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

  • Theme 3:  People, Places, and Environments

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 17:  How to apply geography to interpret the past

National Standards for History

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Paper
  • Pencils

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector
  • Plug-Ins: Flash

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction

Background Information

The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson is a painting that tells the story of the disappearance of Henry Hudson after an attempt to find the Northwest Passage. Henry Hudson never found the Northwest Passage, but he was the first European explorer to navigate up the Hudson River in present-day New York.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None



workers or employees on a boat or ship.


person who studies unknown areas.


object or service that serves a human need or want.

Henry Hudson

(died 1611) English explorer and navigator.


large area of land.


to overthrow authority.


path or way.