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

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  4,117 Ratings  ·  282 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 s ...more
Paperback, 452 pages
Published October 26th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published January 28th 2001)
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May 08, 2013 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 orde ...more
Carl R.
May 07, 2012 Carl R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 16, 2016 Jeanette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Austin Collins
Nov 29, 2013 Austin Collins rated it really liked it
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
Feb 02, 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
Jan 23, 2009 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 23, 2012 Mr rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
John Ledford
Jan 31, 2017 John Ledford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sea of Glory is a fantastic narrative of the largely forgotten U.S. Exploring Expedition of the 1830s. It was not at all the dry and boring "textbook" I was expecting. Rather, it was refined and written almost like a novel using historical sources. It arranges the expedition from start to finish, detailing the political forces that lead to its inception, what perils faced the crew on their journey, and how the political landscape at the time of the expedition's return lead to its fall into obscu ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Tneeno rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Dec 22, 2012 Dugger rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 19, 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  ·  review of another edition
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 t ...more
Feb 05, 2017 Cam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting look at a partially forgotten expedition involved in discovering Antarctica and surveying the South Pacific. It's collections formed a large part of the original Smithsonian Institute and other scientific endeavors that emerged from the 1840s on. Part of the reason it's remarkable achievements are less famous was timing; our westward expansion shifted from sea-based voyages to the "Manifest Destiny" of land-based migration. Another reason - navy and U.S. politics discouraged honoring ...more
May 11, 2017 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful read of a lesser know chapter of American History.

I thoroughly enjoyed this work, even when my lack of understanding of how the specifics of a sailing vessel of the 19th century worked. Philbrick is careful to paint a reasonable portrait of a real, if flawed commander, one who would feel somewhat hollow were he fictional. Wonderful moments of historical intersection abound in this engaging work.
Oct 22, 2016 Micki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
James Empson
Such a complex tale and one is left with the impression that that there are so many elements to the story - adventure, science, tall ship and personalities- that it is difficult to find a theme to hold the narrative together. Full marks to Philbrick for trying, even if it is not his most readable book
Jun 07, 2017 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Forgotten by history, the story of the United States Exploration Expedition is compelling. Philbrick does an excellent job of capturing the period, people and places that encompass the 4 yr voyage
B. Zucker
Well researched, but surprisingly dry, given the subject matter. A reader with more background and interest in U.S. Navy history and sailing ships would get more out of it than I did.
Last Ranger
Feb 06, 2014 Last Ranger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
I registered a book at!
Mar 01, 2017 Al rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the sea & exploration
Shelves: in-my-library
This is another excellent story about American history I was totally unaware. Excellent research and story telling by Mr Philbrick.

Having been in the US Navy and US Coast Guard, it always gives me pause when I read about how sailors were treated in the past by their Captains and Officers. I realize conditions were different then and in Nelson's Navy, but... the harsh life is hard to imagine. Not to say how and what was done, was any worse or better than other Captains.

The story of the actually e
Sam Motes
Mar 04, 2017 Sam Motes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-to-read
What an epic journey the Ex Ex expedition took. Six ships and hundreds of men fought through four years struggling against the elements, competing egos, icebergs, cannibals and other insane adversities always on the verge of mutiny to expand the knowledge of the world. Philbrick once again opens the pages of history and presents it in a edge of the seat thrill ride that fully engrosses the reader in the people and the events of yesteryear.
Jun 27, 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
Scott Lord
Feb 27, 2017 Scott Lord rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nathaniel Philbrick is my favorite writer of U.S. history. The story of the U.S. Exploring Expedition was unknown to me. In 4 years, from 1838 to 1842, this expedition charted over 1500 miles of the coast of Antarctica and proved it's existence, charted many of the islands of the Pacific, the Columbia River and traveled by land from the Columbia to San Francisco. That the leader of the expedition was hated by most of his officers and crew make the story more compelling.
The Expedition was a larg
Annika Hipple
Nov 20, 2015 Annika Hipple rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, us-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 Coo ...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
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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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