In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed down the river in present-day New York that would one day bear his name. The Englishman was an emissary of the Dutch and had been dispatched to chart a new passage to Asia, where the Dutch West India Company wanted to expand its trade. Hudson ultimately failed at that task, but his journey laid the groundwork for the Dutch colonization of New York. 

“It would have been so beautiful,” said Eric Sanderson, a landscape ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. “From the water, Manhattan would have been this long, thin, wooded island with sandy beaches on the shore, growing up to taller hills and cliffs on the West Side. You probably would have seen a little bit of smoke from the Lenape people in lower Manhattan.” In the autumn, you might have spotted hawks migrating down the Hudson River, whose waters would have held an abundance of porpoises and whales, Sanderson told Live Science. Sanderson is known for his work combining historical accounts with maps of New York City, to build up detailed pictures of the metropolis’s historically lush landscape, before colonists arrived.