ON the day that Henry Hudson eased his ship the “Halve Maen” (Half Moon) gingerly into the shoal-strewn Delaware Bay in 1609, he could not have dreamed he was sailing past what would one day become one of the premier vacation resorts on the Atlantic Seaboard. Playboys and presidents would relax and spend oodles of money in refined elegance. It would become one of the greatest collections of Victorian architecture in the country giving the entire town the designation as a National Historic Landmark.
Hudson, an English navigator and explorer was not concerned with the possibilities of land development. He had been hired by the Dutch East India Company because he convinced them of his certainty of finding a passage to the Orient that would ensure a direct and lucrative trade route to the spice islands.
This would happen over and over again during the next three hundred years; many failed expeditions and many lives lost trying to locate an elusive “northwest passage”. Hudson himself would eventually become one of the casualties on a later expedition when his crew mutinied and set him adrift in what would become known as Hudson’s Bay.
It wasn’t until Roald Amundsen actually discovered a northern route to the Pacific Ocean in 1906, but it proved impractical for commercial navigation.
The directors of the VOC (de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) had ordered Hudson to find a northeastern route, but Hudson ignored them completely, setting a course for Newfoundland. He hugged the coast southward as far as the Chesapeake Bay, then abruptly turned around and headed north, concerned that the English at the Jamestown colony might not appreciate an exploratory visit on the part of the Dutch. August 28, 1609 found Hudson in the mouth of the Delaware Bay where he spent the night grounded on a sand bar. The next morning, a nasty storm blew in and battered the Half Moon, but also dragged it from the sand and back out towards the Atlantic. Convinced that this could not be the illusive route to Cathay, Hudson continued north. Hugging the coast again, he came to another large bay that also proved a false passage across the continent. It would eventually become known as New York Harbor.
One year later, on almost the exact same day, another English navigator, Samuel Argall stopped by the bay for a brief visit. He was actually on a foraging expedition for the starving Jamestown colonists. Believing he was at the northern edge of the English invested Virginia territory, he named the bay and river for his superior– Thomas West, Baron De La Warre, the brand new governor of Virginia. But the name was not to stick–just yet.
Six years later, another European navigator, a Dutchman this time, entered the Delaware Bay with the intent of surveying the area and establishing trade with the Indians. He was in the employ of the New Netherland Company, which in turn was under control of the Dutch West India Company (not to be confused with the VOC). His name was Cornelius Jacobsen Mey. The area appealed to Mey, reminding him of Holland. He named the northern cape of the bay after himself and the southern cape after Hindloopen in in his native land. Mey would later bring the first immigrant families to what would become New Amsterdam, and for about a year he was its director. His name was eventually anglicized and it is because of him that we now have the city of Cape May, Cape May County, Cape May Point, Cape May Court House, Cape May Diamonds, etc.