Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842” as Want to Read:
Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  3,785 Ratings  ·  267 Reviews
In this New York Times Notable Book and bestseller, the National Book Award-winning author of In the Heart of the Sea writes about one of the world's most ambitious voyages of discovery--the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842 that included six sailing vessels and a crew of hundreds who set out to map the Pacific Ocean.
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published November 1st 2004 by Turtleback Books (first published January 28th 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sea of Glory, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sea of Glory

John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinA People's History of the United States by Howard ZinnBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
Best Non-fiction American History Books
167th out of 1,257 books — 1,758 voters
Life of Pi by Yann MartelThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest HemingwayMoby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleTreasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonThe Odyssey by Homer
Boat Books
86th out of 540 books — 404 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maritime-history
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 ...more
Carl R.
May 07, 2012 Carl R. rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Austin Collins
Nov 29, 2013 Austin Collins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 19, 2015 Quirkyreader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is about the American expedition that was created to chart the seas. See my complete review on my bookblog:
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Nov 16, 2016 Jeanette rated it it was amazing
Nathaniel Philbrick writes intrinsic insightful, depth of minutia factual, and psychologically framed to perfection non-fiction. It's incredible. And for the time frames, numbers of key characters, epic in scope missions and goals! Well, for the seas of the Earth especially those tales- he's a 6 on a 5 star scale.

Never believing he could surpass his record of the Essex- this Sea of Glory which finely details the 1838-1842 explorations of the U.S. Ex. Ex. equals or does just that.

This book was de
Mar 23, 2009 Matthew rated it really liked it
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, ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Tneeno rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 12, 2014 Michelle rated it liked it
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.
Jan 03, 2013 Dugger rated it liked it
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.
Apr 11, 2014 Corey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Greg Bailey
Nov 02, 2016 Greg Bailey rated it really liked it
The U.S. Exploring Expedition was an amazing exploit. A squadron of six U.S. Navy vessels was sent to explore and chart sites all over the Pacific Ocean, from Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America to Antarctica to the Fijian and Hawaiian Islands to the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. It produced hundreds of charts, some of which remained in use for more than a century, and brought back a massive quantity of scientific specimens that formed a large percentage of the holdings of ...more
Oct 23, 2016 Micki rated it really liked it
Do who knew about the Ex.Ex.? Not I. The 4-year adventure was a major undertaking in its day but soon forgotten as Americans were drawn West. The leader, Charles Wilkes, is a fascinating character and much of the book focuses on his foibles. Maybe there should be more emphasis on the adventure itself.
Rick Cheeseman
Solidly written, but had just couldn't keep my attention.
Last Ranger
Jul 19, 2014 Last Ranger rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 28, 2009 Linda rated it really liked it
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
Oct 08, 2016 Jan marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Oct 07, 2016 Lavender rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, epub
Detailed account of the lives of the men of the U.S. Exploring Expedition. This is a captivating story that is of interest to anyone with an interest in the history of sea travel or scientific expeditions.
Sep 29, 2016 Adrienne rated it it was amazing
I was fascinated. Anyone interested in history, I think, would enjoy the author's use of primary resources delivered in a narrative that kept me captivated. I began only being interested in Antarctica when I scanned through Hawaii and was suddenly caught. Philbrick's descriptions of scientific processes used at the time were put into today's context so we could see how they fit, and using many journals and letters he also shows the major problems with the personnel. Another interesting aspect is ...more
Jul 18, 2011 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Marc E
Sep 29, 2016 Marc E rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, history
A good read for Naval history and science buffs; especially those with any connection to Wilkes. Interesting, sad, disappointing, and frustrated to see such personal dysfunction overshadow amazing accomplishments.
Annika Hipple
Nov 23, 2015 Annika Hipple rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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 ...more
Sep 21, 2014 DW rated it really liked it
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
Aug 05, 2015 J.S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2010 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
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
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
Joel Neff
Mar 02, 2014 Joel Neff rated it really liked it
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
Jan 25, 2013 Neil rated it really liked it
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
Dec 22, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
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. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty
  • The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909
  • The Darkest Jungle: The True Story of the Darien Expedition and America's Ill-Fated Race to Connect the Seas
  • A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier
  • Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe
  • The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage
  • Resolute: The Epic Search for the Northwest Passage and John Franklin, and the Discovery of the Queen's Ghost Ship
  • Barrow's Boys: The Original Extreme Adventurers: A Stirring Story of Daring Fortitude and Outright Lunacy
  • Cook: The Extraordinary Sea Voyages of Captain James Cook
  • Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America
  • Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition
  • Demon of the Waters: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Whaleship Globe
  • Brutal Journey: The Epic Story of the First Crossing of North America
  • Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign
  • The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name
  • Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
  • Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon
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 about Nathaniel Philbrick...

Share This Book