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

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  2,433 ratings  ·  198 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Matt
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
...more
Michael
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 Brush
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
...more
Tneeno
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
DR
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
DW
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
Charly
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
...more
Dugger
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.
Corey
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.
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.
...more
Neil
Almost, but not quite five stars. It's not quite as good as In the Heart of the Sea, but better than Mayflower.

Here Philbrick deals with a little known exploring expedition and makes a good case that it ought to be a benchmark in early American history. What makes the story work, however, are the personalities and the political battles that Philbrick captures so vividly. He brings the history to life in a context that I think modern readers can understand.

The Exploring Expedition, America's fir
...more
Tony Taylor
Aug 12, 2011 Tony Taylor rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves to read true historical adventures
I will give this book a well deserved five stars mostly for its being a well written, first-rate history of an exploration adventure that took place in the mid-19th century; one that few of us have ever heard of until now. Who of us have ever heard of the "Ex. Ex.", or more properly known at the time as the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838 - 1842? This was one of the most ambitious undertaking of the19th century and one of the largest voyages of discovery the Western world had ever seen. It is ...more
Matthew
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
Brian
I was pleasantly surprised. I bought Sea of Glory a while back, because the topic looked fun. But then realized the author, Nathaniel Philbrick, was also the author of Mayflower, a book I found very hard to finish. (The best thing about Mayflower is my review). So I punished Sea of Glory by letting it sit on a shelf. But...running out of things to do during Shutdownmageddan 2013, I had to issue Nathaniel Philbrick a pardon, and read Sea of Glory.

Sea of Glory is OK. It wavered between 3 stars an
...more
Aaron Million
I really enjoyed this book. I typically read a lot of history, but not much naval history. Philbrick wound together a wonderful narrative and did a great job of explaining the background leading up to the Expedition. He also is balanced concerning his assessment of the lieutenant who was put in command of the Expedition, Charles Wilkes. There was a lot of things to dislike about Wilkes, some quite a bit. But Philbrick also consistently points out how Wilkes survived and was able to persevere thr ...more
Kathy
Jan 04, 2012 Kathy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathy by: Daryl Thornburg
Exciting true story of the U.S. Ex. Ex., a six ship squadron that sailed around the world, surveying islands in the southern Pacific, Antarctica, and the Columbia River. Featuring a flawed, vain, but ultimately determined and successful commander; an articulate and disillusioned lieutenant's secret diary; cannibals and island massacres; shipwrecks and other near disasters.

Favorite excerpts:

Page 133, from Wm. Reynolds journal observations:

"In the pages of his journal he began to articulate a rad
...more
Mark
This is a great story about a piece of US maritime and scientific history which I had somehow never heard of before. The US Exploring Expedition (1838 - 1842) took place at an interesting time in US history, following the consolidation of US national power with the War of 1812 but prior to the Gold Rush and the Civil War. The country found itself able to look outward and was interested to demonstrate its bona fides with respect to maritime exploration and scientific acumen. The Ex. Ex. was autho ...more
Doug Vanderweide
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pamela
This book was more about personalities at work than a scientific overview of the Ex Ex; It was interesting reading about the people, their personalities and how they inter-played with the often (deservedly) maligned Lt Wilkes. Wilkes, who led the four year survey team of the Pacific, Antarctic region and the Northwest coast of the US was given more responsibility than he was probably equipped to deal with under a highly stressful situation. It most likely didn't help that he was never given the ...more
Tony
Life is full of paradoxes. My life is no different. I wanted to fly helicopters when I was a kid, but, it turns out, I don't actually like to fly (I enjoyed sitting in earth-bound helicopters, though). Even more bizarre, I love and am captivated by the sea, sailing, nautical history, etc., but, I get dreadfully seasick. I'll spare you the deatils of the many trips I have taken at sea, each time prefaced by my father's pronouncement that this time, I would have "outgrown it." Suffice it to say, I ...more
Nancy Oakes

Synopsis:
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
...more
Robert
Once upon a time, the USA saw itself a nation of doers, not thinkers. But that view was changing, and so they decided to go exploring - something Europeans had been doing for a while now, in the name of science and conquest. A bit late to the game, there was only one area of the world left to explore: the far South, where, rumours had it, a continent might be found.

Exploration was not enough: there had to be usable, pragmatic aims. These included charting hundreds of Pacific islands and atolls s
...more
Marv Himmel
I like non-fiction audio books. The Sea of Glory is the telling of one of America's little known epic adventures. By the early 19th century most of the major land masses of the world had been discovered, the American revolution had succeeded, the eastern seaboard was well populated and Americans were pushing westward into and across the plains toward the west. England and France were the major sea going nations of the world, and the U.S. felt the pressure to "get in the game" of discovery. This ...more
Mark
Sea of Glory recounts in detail the trials and triumphs of the incredible U. S. Exploring Expedition, often called the "Ex. Ex." at the time, but now more often identified as the Wilkes Expedition after its tempestuous commander. After reading this book, it is astonishing that this voyage is not better-known in American history; it should rank right up there with Lewis and Clark, and the polar expeditions of Byrd and Peary.

Nathaniel Philbrick ably tells the story of the expedition that succeeded
...more
Linda
The U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842 should be as well known to Americans as the journeys of Lewis and Clark, but it returned to New York amid courts-martial, controversy, and disgrace. Although the expedition accomplished many of its scientific goals, the trip was seriously marred because of its commander, Lt. Charles Wilkes. One of the goals of the Ex. Ex (as it was called) was to map areas of the Pacific Ocean because whalers had to go farther and farther to find whales. They were also ...more
Kathryn
I am almost sorry to have finished reading this book today, as I had a great time reading it. I had read the author’s previous book, In the Heart of the Sea : The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, and had loved it, so when I saw this book in the used bookstore, I purchased it. It deals with a voyage and an era of exploration barely known to the general public, but which was instrumental in bringing science to the attention of the American public. Why the general public did not hear much about the ...more
Nathan
Charles Wilkes was not a name that held any familiarity for me prior to reading “Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842” by Nathaniel Philbrick. Wilkes did, however, provide an incredible service to the early United States and lived a life worth analyzing. “Sea of Glory” is an interesting historical account of the U.S. Exploring Expedition from the early 1800s that included exploration of South America and the Pacific Rim, including the Pacific Nort ...more
Joshua Gates
The son of the revolutionary painter Charles Peale, Titian Peale's scientific background in conjunction with Alfred Agate collaborated to produce art of The 1838 U.S. Exploring Expedition using the recently new technology of photography. Perhaps the earliest photos of a monumental period in American history. Further research of him and his family turned up Titian's decision to not take up his father's profession that made him a wealthy man with portraits of George Washington, and chose instead a ...more
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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
...more
More about Nathaniel Philbrick...
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn Why Read Moby-Dick? Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution

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