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Exploring a whole new world

Map of Americas, Mercator, 1607The early 17th century was an era of expanding horizons and new ideas, of intense competition and religious ferment, of ruthless treatment of people, but also a time of exploration and opening new channels of communication. Americans discovered Europeans landing on their shores, and European civilization learned there was a "new world" across the Atlantic.

In 1609, a decade before the Mayflower landed in New England, two European explorers simultaneously explored the northern and southern waterways of what is now the state of New York, and the history of America began to take shape.

In July French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who had founded the city of Québec the year before and earned the title "Father of New France," journeyed into another area of incredible splendor with a lake as its centerpiece, now known as Lake Champlain, where he also encountered Native American people.

In August explorer Henry Hudson, an Englishman serving the Netherlands, sailed into New York Bay in the Half Moon and traveled up the river later named for him to a point near the site of present day Albany. Hudson noted the region's beauty, natural abundance and commercial advantages, and traded goods with the Native Americans who lived there.

The start of something big.

These simultaneous journeys would change the world forever, coming within miles of meeting and merging two major waterways into one vital corridor at the epicenter of global commerce, politics and ideas.

Hudson and Champlain set the stage for the settlement of the Hudson Valley by the Dutch West India Company and of the Champlain Valley and Canada by French colonists. The European settlers who followed realigned patterns of commerce not only with each other but also among Native American peoples.

The region soon became a center of world trade and spawned North America's major route into the heart of the continent when New York State built the Erie Canal west from the Hudson-Champlain corridor. For 400 years this confluence has been a dominant route for commerce and prosperity.