Captain Adriaen Block and his men stood in awe at the bow of their ship “The Tiger” when they sailed into the lush and life teeming island world gleaming with the most beautiful colored foliage they had ever seen in the fall of 1611. Striped bass and fish of all kind playfully accompanied the 80-foot vessel gliding through crystal clear water toward the southern shore of an island called Manhattan. The natives eager to greet the Europeans and trade pelts for small trinkets rushed through the soothing late fall air to the vessel from another world, their canoes deep in the water heavy with oysters the size of small chicken, lobsters, and corn. Although there is no reliable source of the details, this is how the encounter can be imagined.
A few days later the Tiger’s vaults were filled to the brim with beaver skins and the crew fastened the battens to set sail back east the next day. That night tragedy stroke. The men awoke from the screeching cries of the seagulls scared by the smoke and the flames climbing up the ship’s mast. Within hours the fire had eaten the whole wooden ship to the waterline and the sloop sank to the bottom of the bay. A jump into the still warm water and a short swim to shore rescued Block and most of his men. Fast and skilled hands of the natives cut the trees for the new ship that was now needed. Within a few month Block was the captain of the first ship ever built by an intercontinental team of Native Americans and Dutch seafarers on the island of Manhattan. They named the ship like they felt, Restless – Onrust in Dutch – but the new ship was much smaller than the Tiger.
Block, a careful master of the sea, decided to sail up the river that had christened his new vessel first before heading out to sea. For days he and his men had observed the cruel swirls of water dancing in the river around the submerged rocks that showed their sharp edges during low tide. Hell Gate called Block that part of the tributary, well aware of the danger ahead of him. A masterful plan and the helmsman’s virtuosity guided the Dutch explorers through what would become the most deadly strait of the newly discovered Eastern Seaboard.
Island after Island past the ships portside and Block well aware that Homer had called the Aegean Sea in his saga of homecoming an Archipelago scribbled that word into his logbook. As he was sailing east the body of water, thought to be a large bay, to his surprise opened up into the beloved Noordzee that would bring him home. The land on the starboard site Block realized was a long island and that is what he named it.
Back in Amsterdam Adriaen Block created the first map of the territory and called it an Archipelago.