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Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 26. Oktober 2004

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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 -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe .


Fascinating and meticulous... A wonderful retelling. (The New York Times Book Review)

A breathtaking account of one of historyÆs greatest adventures. (Entertainment Weekly)

A worthy successor to In the Heart of the Sea. (The Wall Street Journal)

Sea of Glory is a grand saga of scientific and nautical accomplishment. (Newsweek)

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46 von 48 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Rescued from His Own Obscurity 7. Januar 2004
Von Rob Hardy - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
You have heard of Lewis and Clark, but you probably never heard of the US South Seas Exploring Expedition of 1838. If its leader, US Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, had had his way, the Ex. Ex., as it was known, would still have been sung internationally for the inarguably tremendous contributions it made to geography, biology, and simple adventure. In addition, it started the still-lasting partnership between the US government and the sciences that, say, does the exploring upon Mars. Wilkes, to a large extent, made the expedition successful, and also defeated himself by preventing it from being universally celebrated. _Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U. S. Exploring Expedition 1838 - 1842_ (Viking) by Nathaniel Philbrick tells an amazing adventure yarn of real explorers, and real human flaws that by turns endangered and enabled the exploration efforts.
There were unprecedented logistical tasks in assembling the expedition, which at its start consisted of six ships and 346 men (including nine scientists). Senior officers had trouble putting the expedition together, and the Navy gave the task to the forty-year-old Lieutenant Wilkes. Philbrick writes, "Wilkes was a great man. But he was also vain, impulsive, and often cruel." He took offense easily, and would not be placated by offenders. He remained aloof from his officers. When things went wrong, he was quick to assume that his men had been incompetent or malevolent. Philbrick concludes that a more self-confident and capable leader probably would not have brought the expedition greater success, although it could have brought greater on-board contentment and post-expedition fame. With his enormous flaws, Wilkes was resilient and resourceful, and the list of accomplishments chalked up by the expedition is long. For instance, they brought back forty tons of biological and anthropological specimens, many of which became the foundation for the collections displayed at the Smithsonian Institution. But upon his return, Wilkes was court-martialed for his many real abuses, and some that were not real, such as a charge that he falsified surveying sightings. While he got off lightly, and became recognized as a naval hero in the Civil War, and even an Admiral, he is not the recognized hero that, say, Scott or Shackleton is.
His flaws brought on his obscurity, which Philbrick's engaging volume will at least partially correct. There are literary theorists who say that Wilkes was the model for Ahab, and Melville did indeed know of the expedition and its outcome. A closer literary fit, because of his distrust of his subordinates, would be Captain Queeg of _The Caine Mutiny_. Philbrick, in _In the Heart of the Sea_, previously made exciting the tale of the doomed whaleship _Essex_, and there is plenty of nautical excitement in his story of this expedition as well. There is less of a tale of men against nature here, though, and more of the conflict of commander against officers, and of a man against himself.
30 von 31 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Excellent 25. November 2003
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This author writes very well and captivates you from the first pages. The history of this voyage is fascinating and was unknown to me. That, combined with the well drawn characters make for a very interesting and enjoyable read. This author manages to write a historical story that keeps you interested without having to "invent" dialogue or enhance the characters to make them more interesting.
I read this author's In the Heart of the Sea (Excellent!), and became interested in the seafaring genre and can also recommend Batavia's Graveyard (riveting) and the Pirate Hunter.
20 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Riveting Adventure 18. November 2005
Von Dianne Roberts - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This book was a very enjoyable read to me, and would likely be so for anyone interested in the age of exploration, nautical adventure, or travels to exotic lands. It tells the complete story of a four year long expedition launched by the U.S. Navy to basically complete the map of the Pacific, primarily told from the point of view of the young officers, most experiencing their first major responsibility and command.

The book is comprehensive and chronological, starting with the intial concepts of the exploratory expedition which were cooked up by some very whacky people, including one who thought that at the south pole there would be a giant cave entrance to the middle of the earth! The tale then progresses in a manner that mirrors the nation's rise in scientific, technological, and military prowess. The exploratory expedition was itself intended to announce to the world that the U.S. could master the domain of the European powers of the day, specifically the naval power, expansionism, and spirit of discovery enshrined in the voyages of exploration to the last ends of the Earth. The voyage itself spurred the nation to develop the scientific and naval capabilities that helped to solidify the national character.

The voyage was headed by a strong willed, intelligent, but ultimately paranoid and cruel martinet. The contrast between his fortitude to keep the expedition moving forward and his capricious capacity for punishment, as told by the junior officers who had to walk the line between following orders and preventing desertion and mutiny among the ranks, was very interesting and well expressed by the author. This was the backdrop for a years long voyage that was at times both gruelling and exhilirating.

The voyage left the Eastern coast of the United States, followed the coast down South America, and spent a huge amount of time in the Pacific, making the first land sighting of Antarctica (beating rival British and French expeditions by mere hours), surveying endless strings of islands particularly around Fiji and Samoa, visiting Australia, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest. After stops in Japan and the Far East the trip was capstoned by a circumnavigation of the world back to the East coast via the Indian Ocean and Africa. The actuality of going straight from the extreme cold and desolation of Antarctica to the heat, humidity, and foreign, warlike cultures of Fiji must have been quite an experience.

After four years of reeling under the boot of their commander the expedition ended in political turmoil as a vitroilic and lengthy court martial ensued. Unfortunately this court martial left the nation with a bad taste in its mouth, which probably explains why the exploratory expedition, despite its significant scientific and navigational successes, remains an unfortunately poorly known chapter in U.S. history. Hopefully this very readable book will start to correct this oversight.

Highly recommended!
15 von 16 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Brilliant work by Philbrick 6. März 2004
Von Jared M - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
It was a review of this book in the National Geographic Adventure magazine which first caught my eye, and prompted me to purchase Philbrick's excellent narrative of the US Exploring Expedition. The Expedition sailed from Norfolk, USA, carrying the scientific and exploratory hopes of the United States on a trip to South America, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Asia that encompasses nearly 5 years. Over 500 men, in 6 ships left in 1838, to return in 1842, much reduced in number, but with enough scientific specimens (over 4000) to form a large portion of the Smithsonian collection. Commanded by Lieutenant Wilkes, the story of the US Ex. Ex has largely been forgotten, but Philbrick has produced a book which hopefully will bring to the forefront the achievements of the US Ex. Ex and its' men.
"Sea of Glory" is truly a spectacular rendition of events, as Philbrick portrays the deterioration of the relationship between Commander and his men, while journeying through some of most inhospitable seas in the world. Wilkes comes across as a near megalomaniac and odious character (almost immediately after beginning the expedition, he promoted himself Captain!), belittling the achievements of his underlings and inflating his own. It is a miracle that he was succeeded in bringing the expedition home largely unscathed. Nor does the story end there. The final chapters reveal the trials and tribulations of Wilkes (and other members of the expedition) as he realizes that he may be held accountable for his actions. Upon return of the expedition, there were no fewer than 5 court martials involving Wilkes and officers of the vessels comprising the expedition, largely petty incidents raised by Wilkes as revenge for perceived slights by the officers.
Philbrick writes extremely well, in a very fluid and easy manner, and it takes little effort to read. Large portions of the book are based upon the journal of Midshipman Reynolds, once an ardent admirer of his commander but by the conclusion of the expedition despising him. Philbrick superbly brings this out, contrasting parts of the journal from early on in the voyage to sections of the journal written much later, the journal's author much jaded and embittered by the actions of his commander. But Philbrick does not focus only on Wilkes; the achievements of the expedition are also discussed, and the sometimes incredibly imposing situations the expedition faces, such as the attack by natives on the expedition in the Fiji Islands which resulted in the death of Wilkes' nephew. A book of this type benefits from having illustrations and maps, and on neither account does it fail. There are a number of maps produced in the book, although I have to say the main map (in the preface), which traces the voyage of the expedition throughout the 5 years it spent abroad, is a little hard to follow due to the back and forth nature of parts of the expedition, and also when the expedition split up for short periods of time. There are two sections of very nice illustrations which show the main characters involved and some events that occurred.
"Sea of Glory" is a true story that ranks alongside the best of adventure books, and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. A worthy addition to the library.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Government Science! Read Carefully, Congress! 1. Februar 2008
Von Reviewer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
A little crankish determination, a little sordid bickering, a heroic cruise on a sailing ship to the ends of the Earth, betrayal and exoneration - all elements of a great adventure book, written with verve and yet with careful scholarship. I'm amazed that so many other reviewers have given this eminently readable book only four stars. The publisher's marketing director made some terrible mistakes.

The saga of Captain Wilkes - his triumphs, his shortcomings, his political court-martial - form the narrative backbone of this book, but there's more to it. There's a lot of fascinating history of the paradigmatic changes in science and technology that occurred during the first half of the 19th Century, the era that Paul Johnson describes as The Birth of the Modern. There's also an insightful depiction of American politics in that period, focusing for a change not on the issues that led to the Civil War but on the still-urgent question of the role of the federal government in funding infrastructure and development, in this case of scientific knowledge.

The US Exploring Expedition was the federal government's largest investment of public money in scientific research before the space program, in adjusted dollars more expensive than the geological surveys after the Civil War - those of Clarence King and John Wesley Powell, which committed those fellows in Washington to subsidizing the "opening of the West" - and it was, though plagued with problems and disappointing to some of its advocates, a monumental success, an enormous contribution to the world's knowledge of itself. Without federal funding, it would never have occurred. That's the subtext to all the glory of exploration, isn't it? Without Isabela, no Columbus! The closest comparison to the US Exploring Expedition is the US Space Program, so fearfully politicized and handicapped by Republican administrations and congresses. Foresightful and generous support of the sciences is one of the justifying functions of government - democratic, oligarchic, monarchical - and since science, even as early as 1838, has become big and expensive, government can be of greatest value to humanity on a proportionate scale. The difficulty that its promoters had in getting the EE funded tells much about the inadequacy of capitalism, also; the "business" interests who insisted on immediate profitable returns from the scientific expedition came close to destroying the whole project.
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