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Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 Hardcover – November 10, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 460 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The expeditions of Magellan, Columbus, and Lewis and Clark have been well documented and are instantly familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in world history. But the average person is likely unaware of the U.S. Exploring Expedition or its mercurial leader, Charles Wilkes. This despite the numerous accomplishments and lasting legacy of the massive four-year project that involved six ships and hundreds of men. The "Ex. Ex.," as it came to be known, is credited with the discovery of Antarctica, the first accurate charting of what is now Oregon and Washington, the retrieval of thousands of new species of life, and the foundation of the Smithsonian Institution. Yet when Wilkes returned, instead of being hailed as a great man of science or a national hero, he was shunned by the President, ignored by the press, and was the subject of so much ill will on the part of his men that he was ultimately put on trial for a variety of offenses. In the portrayal presented in Nathaniel Philbrick's Sea of Glory, Wilkes is a passionate man, brash and enthusiastic, driven by seemingly impossible goals, many of which he actually accomplished. But he's also a petty, mean-spirited loner, egotistical enough to unilaterally give himself a promotion in the middle of the expedition. Without Wilkes' singularity of purpose, it's hard to imagine the mission being as successful as it was, but it's also hard to conceive a personality more poorly suited to leadership than the near-universally-despised Wilkes. Philbrick also skillfully reveals the insecurity behind the tyranny in excerpts from letters to Wilkes' wife, Jane. The accounts of the expedition's adventures are at various times exhilarating and tragic as the crew scales the volcanoes of Hawaii, becomes involved in a bloody war with Fijian natives, and struggles merely to stay alive while at the same time not killing Wilkes. Philbrick's compelling narrative and meticulous research provide a vivid picture of the triumphs and hardships of the exploration age. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

After chronicling the sinking of the whaleship Essex in In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick attempts to rescue from obscurity the U.S. Exploring Expedition's 1838-1842 circumnavigation of the world and its cartographic and scientific accomplishments. With a strong narrative pull but an anticlimactic story arc, he chronicles the six-vessel squadron's Pacific escapades. Instead of a grisly page-turner, however, Philbrick follows his bestselling tragedy with a drawn-out success story. More than a tale of the Ex. Ex's journey, the book also profiles the expedition's egomaniacal commander, Lt. Charles Wilkes; the psychological warfare he waged against his officers; and the near-miraculous survival of the squadron despite Wilkes's perverse leadership and lack of nautical experience. Wilkes was, however, an accomplished surveyor, and the Ex. Ex. mapped hundreds of Pacific islands, 800 miles of the Oregon coast, 100 miles of the Columbia River and 1,500 miles of Antarctic coast. The expedition's scientists made groundbreaking contributions in ethnography, biology and geology (their collections formed the basis of the Smithsonian Institution). Particularly noteworthy among Philbrick's gripping passages are his descriptions of brash navigation in the Antarctic-but too much of the book bogs down in Wilkes's petty politicking, as he degraded talented men and promoted incompetent ones so as not to be outshone. After four years at sea, he had alienated nearly every officer and returned home to a court-martial. "Instead of a thrilling tale of discovery and incredible achievement, [America] heard more about the flawed personality of the Expedition's commander than anyone wanted to know," Philbrick writes of Wilkes's 1842 trial, in which he was acquitted. Unfortunately, this spoils the retelling, too. Maps not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Viking; 1st edition (November 10, 2003)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 480 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 067003231X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0670032310
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 18 years and up
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.49 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.26 x 1.51 x 9.34 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 460 ratings

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Nathaniel Philbrick

Life at a Glance

Born

1956 in Boston, Mass.

Educated

Linden Elementary School and Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, Pa.; BA in English from Brown University in Providence, RI, and an MA in America Literature from Duke University in Durham, NC

Sailing

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.

Married

Melissa Douthart Philbrick, who is an attorney on Nantucket. They have two children: Jennie, 23, and Ethan 20.

Career

After grad school, Philbrick worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during which time he wrote/edited several sailing books, including Yaahting: A Parody (1984), for which he was the editor-in-chief; during this time he was also the primary caregiver for his two children. After moving to Nantucket in 1986, he became interested in the history of the island and wrote Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People. He was offered the opportunity to start the Egan Maritime Foundation in 1995, and in 2000 he published In the Heart of the Sea, followed by Sea of Glory, in 2003, and Mayflower, due in May 2006.

Awards and Honors

In the Heart of the Sea won the National Book Award for nonfiction; Revenge of the Whale won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; Sea of Glory won the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize and the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society. Philbrick has also received the Byrne Waterman Award from the Kendall Whaling Museum, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for distinguished service from the USS Constitution Museum, the Nathaniel Bowditch Award from the American Merchant Marine Museum, and the William Bradford Award from the Pilgrim Society.

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
460 global ratings

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Ed O'C..
5.0 out of 5 stars Good American history & Drama
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