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

Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick
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's review
Aug 27, 2016

really liked it
bookshelves: history, non-fiction
Read in November, 2005

Sea of Glory tells the story of the United States' Exploring Expedition (US Ex. Ex. for short) of 1838-1842. This expedition charted, surveyed, and studied much of Antarctica, the South Pacific islands (especially Fiji), and the Columbia River at a time when little, if anything, was known about such places. In fact, the US Ex. Ex. can really be credited with the discovery of Antarctica as a continent since prior to this voyage only the long Antarctic Penninsula was known--which by itself would not be considered a continent. Furthermore, the scientific specimens this voyage collected became the basis for the Smithsonian Institute.

I have long contended that very often the more obscure and unknown a historical event is the more interesting it becomes. This book is a perfect example. Even though I am a bit of a US history buff, I had never even heard of this expedition until a friend recommended this book to me. No one I have talked to since had ever heard of it either. But the story is fascinating. Reading this book was a thrilling adventure in itself.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this story is the unfolding of the reasons why such a noteworthy and eventful expedition became such a minor footnote in our nation's history. This is the story of the expedition's under-qualified yet devoted and driven, ego-maniacal yet paranoid leader -- Charles Wilkes.

A great read for anyone interested in adventure and history.

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