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Published on Mar 20, 2014
Nathaniel Philbrick explains for the first time why the US Exploring Expedition vanished from the national memory. Using new sources, including a secret journal, Philbrick reconstructs the darker saga that official reports, which focused on the "Ex Ex"' accomplishments, never told.
The US Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842 was one of the most ambitious undertakings of the 19th century and one of the largest voyages of discovery the Western world had ever seen: six magnificent sailing vessels and a crew of hundreds that included botanists, geologists, mapmakers, and biologists, all under the command of the young, brash lieutenant Charles Wilkes. Their goal was to cover the Pacific Ocean, top to bottom, and to plant the American flag around the world. They discovered a new southern continent, which Wilkes would name Antarctica. This was an enterprise that should have been as celebrated and revered as the expeditions of Lewis and Clark.