Happy Birthday Hudson's Bay Company

Today is a very important day in the history of Canada’s north!

On May 2nd, 1670, a Royal Charter bestowing a monopoly on all the trade from all the lands that drain into Hudson Bay was granted to The Governor and Company of England Adventurers Trading into the Hudson’s Bay, or simply the Hudson’s Bay Company. Its primary business lay in establishing trading posts at the mouths of the long rivers that empty into Hudson Bay where they could exchange European goods with First Nations’ peoples for furs; the most highly valued being beaver fur.

While the fur trade was the economic heart of the Hudson’s Bay Company it was clear from the beginning that exploration and mapping would be an important part of the HBC’s business. In fact, the creation of the Hudson’s Bay Company opened the way to a host of adventurers who would create a name for themselves in the exploration of the north.

Here is just a small sampling of the adventurers and explorers who played a part in the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Churchill area:

  • The current Prince of Wales Fort is built on the wintering site of Danish Explorer Jens Munck, the first European to winter in the Churchill area (1619-20). Ill prepared for winter, he and all but two of his crew of 64  – who were in the area searching for the elusive Northwest Passage, the fabled route through the Arctic to the Orient - perished from the effects of scurvy, trichinosis and exposure.
  • In 1719, at the age of 79, Prince of Wales Fort Governor James Knight was engaged by HBC to lead two ships from Churchill on a mission to find the Northwest Passage. Like so many that went before and after, Knight’s attempt met with disaster. The ships were wrecked on Marble Island, not far from the modern community of Rankin Inlet about 470 kilometers (290 miles) north of Churchill. From found ruins and Inuit stories, the sad fate of the expedition was pieced together about how survivors struggled on for two years waiting for a rescue that never came.
  • Captain Christopher Middleton would sail much of northern Hudson Bay between 1741 and 1742 charting the waters and making observations about the Magnetic North Pole that would aid navigation.
  • Samuel Hearne and the Dene leader Matonabbee would set out from Prince of Wales Fort in 1769 to find the famed Coppermine River. They would be gone for nearly two years and cover over 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) before their return, having found the river and confirmed there is no Northwest Passage out of western Hudson Bay.
  • Andrew Graham studied the flora and fauna of the region between 1767 and 1791 recording them in his book Observations of Hudson’s Bay, greatly adding to the scientific understanding of the Arctic.
  • Even the man who is responsible for the destruction of Prince of Wales Fort in 1782, French naval officer Jean François de Galaup Comte de Laperouse, would go down in history as an explorer to rival James Cook.

These are just a few of the individuals whose lives have become part of Churchill’s history due in no small part to the creation of the Hudson’s Bay Company. You can learn more about the history and heritage of the HBC by visiting their website.

Frontiers North has partnered with the Hudson's Bay Company because we believe that at the core of both Frontiers North Adventures and the Hudson’s Bay Company, we are companies of adventurers. In fact, we've outfitted our Tundra Buggy Lodge with HBC Point Blankets and other items from their iconic HBC collection. We think it’s a great way for our guests to experience part of the history of the north.

Happy 346th Hudson's Bay!

Find out about the rest of Frontiers North's partnerships.

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