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Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,099 ratings  ·  233 reviews
America's first frontier was not the West; it was the sea;and no one writes more eloquently about that watery wilderness than Nathaniel Philbrick. In his bestselling In the Heart of the Sea Philbrick probed the nightmarish dangers of the vast Pacific. Now, in an epic sea adventure, he writes about one of the most ambitious voyages of discovery the Western world has ever se ...more
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Turtleback Books (first published January 28th 2001)
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When I was in college, I became very good friends with a German guy from Stuttgart named Tobias. He was six-foot-eight, spoke perfect English, and had been a model. We made for an odd sight on campus, since I am not six-foot-eight and am not a Euro model (I did, however, speak passable English).

After graduation, and before Tobias set out on his life as a globe-trotting international banker, I took him up to Minnesota to visit my folks. Along the way, I kept seeing signs along the highway markin
I never heard of this expedition, which over four years charted large swaths of Antarctica, hundreds of Pacific Islands, the U.S. Pacific Northwest, and collected sufficient thousands of new ethnographic and biological specimens to initiate the founding of the Smithsonian Insitution. I was glad to be enlightened and to be charmed again by Philbrick’s skill in synthesizing so much historical fact into a narrative that reads like a novel. The tale blends an epic of scientific discovery on the orde ...more
Carl R.
Nathaniel Philbrick gets a WriterWorking prize for the best epigram ever to frame a book for this quote from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII: “I have ventured this many summers in a sea of glory but far beyond my depth.” Sea of Glory is the story of Charles Wilkes and the voyage of the great American Exploring Expedition of 1838-42. It was America’s first great effort to stake a place in the annals of world science and exploration. It gave this country a share in the discovery of Antarctica as a conti ...more
Austin Collins
I really love and appreciate non-fiction that brings history vividly to life. Using plenty of original source material (personal journals, ship's logs, government records etc.), Nathaniel Philbrick's rigorously researched story of the United States Exploring Expedition -- a scientific surveying mission conducted from 1838 to 1842 -- puts the reader right on board with the crew.

Reading this book, you can't help but feel the excitement, suffering, astonishment and frustration of the men who embark
This book is about the American expedition that was created to chart the seas. See my complete review on my bookblog:
Nancy Oakes

The US Exploring Expedition (the Ex.Ex. as it is referred to throughout the book)was at the time one of the most extensive projects undertaken by the United States. However, it went largely uncelebrated at its conclusion for many reasons -- changes in politics in Washington DC; the drive west by settlers for gold & land; changes in the purpose and scope of the Navy itself -- but largely because of one man, Charles Wilkes, the leader of the expedition.

Wilkes was somewhat arrogant, cr
As a work of naval history, I prefer In the Heart of the Sea, but as a study of the effects of deep-seated psychological defects on leadership, Sea of Glory is a fascinating study. I struggle with Lt. Charles Wilkes, commander of the U.S Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842, charged with mapping previously unexplored portions of Antarctica, Polynesia, and the Pacific Northwest. He's a man beset by his own demons. But to his credit, Philbrick gives us a nuanced portrait of a man out of his depth, bu ...more
Sea of Glory is a very good read, not only as an exciting tale of seafaring and exploration, but also as a cautionary tale. It tells the story of the US Exploring Expedition to Antarctica and the Pacific in 1838-42. The head of the expedition, Commander Wilkes, was a classic toxic boss, and was the storm center of a mass of intrigues and infighting that plagued the expedition from Day 1. I strongly recommend it, not only for people in the military, but for corporate executives. Wilkes' massive m ...more
It’s amazing that American history has lost track of the U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838-42) or the “Ex. Ex.” As a journey of discovery, the expedition is incredibly significant – it’s like Lewis and Clark at sea. Six wooden ships sailing the vast watery wilderness for science, the Stars & Stripes and the future Smithsonian Institution. Along the way, it confirmed the findings of Charles Darwin and established Antarctica as a sixth continent. Four years of exploration and challenging seamans ...more
After many fits and starts, Congress ended a decade(s) long debated and funded the US Exploring Expedition. The US needed to map the world to keep up in the whaling business. Originally under Jones, the expedition was reassigned to Lt. Charles Wilkes, a book-smart officer with very little sailing experience. In their four year, around-the-world voyage, they mapped many Pacific Ocean islands, the Columbia River, 1500 miles of Antarctica, and brought back literally tons of ethnographic materials, ...more
Betty Confetti
I found this book riveting, as Philbrick initially lays the groundwork in his opening for the final chapters focusing on the court martial of the Wilkes and some members of his crew. The portrayal of Reynolds was fascinating, as we come to understand how deeply he despised Wilkes and essentially lost his sense of reason when he claimed many years later that the entrance to the Columbia River was a piece of cake. The structure of the book held my attention in that it focused on the voyage from a ...more
Todd Stockslager
Review title: How to fail at success while really trying
In 1838, America was a young country, struggling to strengthen its internal economic, social, and political bonds while securing its tenuous place on the world stage beneath but separate from England and France, the empires of the age. In this setting the U. S. Exploring Expedition described in Philbrick's history struggled for life as it was being approved, funded, and assembled, struggled for survival as it launched and sailed around the
For the most part the author does a good job of not over glorifying the expedition despite the book's front and back cover descriptions. It tells the story of despotic American naval leader of a expedition to Antarctica, Fiji, Hawaiian Islands and Pacific North West. It is mostly about the leader and his group of spoiled naval officers that came from upper class Boston, New York and Washington and behaved in privileged back biting manners. They did some worthwhile charting and surveying but did ...more
Jim Murphy
Took a while to get going with this one. I mean, for the first 100 pages or so I kind of slog through it. It's the expedition got underway, however, things got more interesting. There were times when I was confused with all the names and the islands.this would've been great as an an interactive experience. The iBooks addition that I read had maps, but the locations of the ships in the fleet were difficult to follow. Yes, of course it's a history, and one of the best things of the book is it told ...more
More great beach reading from Nathaniel Philbrick. This time he tackles a now mostly forgotten expedition known as the United States Exploring Expedition (or US. Ex. Ex.) which took place between 1838 and 1842. Led by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes the expedition consisted of six ships whose charge was to explore and survey the Pacific Ocean. Consisting of Navy officers and seaman, and a corps of scientists, the expedition was one of the most successful in terms of discovery, in American history. Amo ...more
Well, this book was very well written, but the story itself was depressing. No wonder nobody wanted to remember this expedition. Basically Wilkes was a lieutenant who got command of the US Exploring Expedition because everybody else turned it down. He was best buddies with the other officers until he suddenly started being a martinet, which made everybody hate him more than if he had started out by being a martinet. He insisted on being called "captain" and flew a commodore's pennant even though ...more
Annika Hipple
This book tells the story of one of the most ambitious exploring expeditions ever launched by the United States, and the one of the most successful in terms of the volume of information and artifacts it accumulated. The cultural and natural collections the expedition brought back formed the basis for the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Botanic Garden, and inspired many later scientific investigations and theories. Yet unlike the journey of Lewis and Clark or the voyages of Captain James Coo ...more
This book was very interesting, but it was also very long and very slow. It just didn't have the same life to it as Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea, and it reads more like a long historical narrative rather than an exciting adventure at sea. I wish the book had focused more on the expedition itself rather than on Wilkes and his leadership problems. I learned a lot so I'm glad I read this one, but I am also glad that I am finally finished.
Oct 02, 2014 Charly rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone especially history fans
This is a tale of a four year voyage of a squadron of vessels charged with surveying various areas in the Pacific including the US west coast. An ambitious leader of the project who assumed ranks not awarded and inflamed nearly all of his crew led these sailors in what became the greatest collection of data and materials in history to that point. The materials gathered were the foundation of the materials that would begin the Smithsonian Institute. The evolution of the American west and the onse ...more
Joel Neff
Mar 02, 2014 Joel Neff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history buffs
Nathaniel Philbrick's "Sea of Glory" is a fascinating look at what should have been a shining jewel in the history of the young United States. Instead, "America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842", the subtitle of the book, is a largely forgotten, or unknown, piece of early American history.

Philbrick's narrative focuses on the leader of the expedition, Charles Wilkes, a troubled, emotionally unstable man who drove his crew to accomplish enormous feat after enormous f
Jun 14, 2015 Joe added it
OK, let's go on an exploring expedition. We'll sail around the world; sail, no motors or engines. It will take 4 years. Along the way, we will pass through The Horn to discover Antarctica. We'll dodge 100 foot icebergs that almost smash us to smithereens. If we don't freeze to death, we'll come out and survey 100s of South Pacific islands and hope the cannibals don't fry us for dinner. Next we'll climb to the top of Mauna Loa (another feat that, for good reason, no man has ever done before) to m ...more
Story of the pacific ocean exploration by US in the 1800s. Captain Wilkes was egomaniac with control issues that led to widespread discontent during the four year journey. Great accomplishments during a time of worldwide exploration of the seas.
I really didn't like it so much. I was expecting more of an adventure story, and parts were, but their was too much on the bad leadership, and bad feelings, and bickering between the officers. So no, it was not for me.
Tekes Kochteeyni
Amazing account of the greatest American nautical exploit you've never heard of. Much more than just "explorer porn" - a self ascribed term to the type of non-fiction I like (funny joke, or cry for help)- this chronicles Captain Wilkes' journey around the world on one of the most ambitious nautical surveys ever undertaken.

Part epilogue, part narrative it covers more than what was done by the officers and crew of the Exploring Expedition (Ex. Ex.), but what the brave men themselves felt while the
John Daly
This is a page turner with some real value as a history of an important event in American intellectual history. The U.S. Exploring Expedition (1938-1842) provided charts of lasting value to sailors for large areas, helped demonstrate that Antarctica was a continent, and provided scientific insights of lasting value. It led to the creation of four important U.S. scientific institutions, and perhaps marked the emergence of the United States as a player in international science. The book by Nathani ...more
Robert Jones
Nathaniel Philbrick is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors of all time. Once again tackling a subject that normally only exists in the footnotes of American history books (and, like In The Heart of the Sea, it's an early 17th century maritime adventure), Philbrick presents his readers with a story so detailed and fascinating it awakens a love for American history - all of it. You don't need to be interested in the American Exploring Expedition - or even have heard of it - to appreciate t ...more
David Kessler
Philbrick is the master story teller. He writes the bio of Charles Wilkes, a lieutenant, who headed of flotilla of 6 ships and 150 men to map the globe for the U.S. Wilkes had onboard 50 scientists so this mission was all about gathering samples to bring back to the US and also to do a lot of cartography for the economic expansion of United States trade. This book is wonderful and full of action. It is a shame that Wilkes, midstream on the voyage, should change personality and from then on his " ...more
Ando Mando
Phew! What an epic! I first heard of this book after reading Philbrick's astonishing 'In The Heart Of The Sea' and luckily my local library had a copy, so I thought "why not?" It was a gruelling read but utterly fascinating, if a little too detailed in areas that I thought didn't need as much attention.

It focuses mainly on Charles Wilkes, a controlling and despicable captain of a six vessel expedition from 1838-42 which charted most of the Pacific Ocean and beyond. His main nemesis was William
I'd heard of Lewis & Clark, and even learned a little about them in school, but had never heard of the U.S. Exploring Expedition (the Ex. Ex.). But after reading _Undaunted Courage_ by Stephen Ambrose (which I loved) I thought this might be interesting since it was in the same vein of exploration and discovery. But how interesting can a story be if the event has been almost completely forgotten? Maybe there's a reason no one bothers to remember it anymore.

The Ex. Ex. confirmed the presence
Last Ranger
The Unreasoning Mask.

Let Nathaniel Philbrick take you back to the days of high adventure when the world was a blank slate of unknown lands and mysterious places waiting to be explored by men of undaunted courage and limitless fortitude. In the early 1800s one of the worlds newest countries, The United States, wanted to join the ranks of world explorers and stake their claim on foreign lands and exotic markets. There was a new kid on the block and he would not be bullied or intimidated by anyone.
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Philbrick was Brown’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978; that year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI; today he and his wife Melissa sail their Beetle Cat Clio and their Tiffany Jane 34 Marie-J in the waters surrounding Nantucket Island.

After grad school, Philbrick worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during whic
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