Author(s): Nathaniel Philbrick
The Epic South Seas Expedition 1838-42
The dramatic story of the largest voyage of discovery in the history of the world, this is an astounding tale of courage, arrogance and adventure on the high seas.
Headed by the controversial Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, and consisting of six sailing vessels and 346 men, the 'Ex. Ex.' (the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-42) represented the largest voyage of discovery in the history of the world. Four years later, after losing two ships and 71 men, the expedition had logged 87,000 miles (140,000 km), surveyed 280 Pacific islands, and created 180 charts - some of which were still being used as late as World War II.
The expedition's scientists collected 4000 zoological specimens, including 2000 new species, and thousands of ethnographic artifacts that would become the basis of the Smithsonian Institution. The expedition also mapped 800 miles (1200 km) of coastline in the Pacific Northwest, providing the US government with the information it needed to stake its claim on the Oregon Territory. The expedition's crowning achievement was the discovery of a new southern continent that Wilkes named Antarctica. The expedition ended in a dramatic series of court- martials, with Wilkes and his crew levelling accusations of misconduct against each other.
Nathaniel Philbrick's skilful retelling of this forgotten, yet astounding, episode in the history of sea-faring is a fantastic adventure and a masterful work of historical reconstruction.
'Philbrick reconstructs this remarkable expedition in heroic detail...an exemplary account of an important and neglected expedition.' The Times 'A stirring yarn, a satisfying lump of cultural history, and a thoughtful moral fable.' Daily Telegraph 'Elegant and meticulously researched...Philbrick's book brings the motivation and nature of exploration into sharp relief.' Independent 'It is a fine salty tale, with a becalmed beginning, a stormy centre and a long, messy accusation-filled return to shore.' Sunday Times 'A gripping history of the remarkable search for the "ice studded mystery" at the bottom of the world...Superb.' The Economist 'Philbrick, a conscientious historian and an articulate writer, manages to bring a strong sense of narrative to his tale while still placing it within the broader historical perspective ! Perhaps the greatest merit of the book is in its redressing the oversights of history ! [It is] a reappraisal of naval history and a powerful study of flawed genius.' Times Literary Supplement PRAISE FOR IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: 'William Hootkins can barely hide the disdain in his deep, throaty, American voice as he tells of the massacre. If you listen hard enough you can detect a hint of poetic justice as he relays the horrors of the survivors, found sucking the marrow from their dead shipmates' bone. Brilliant.' Observer 'Nathaniel Philbrick has taken one of the most horrifying stories in maritime history and turned it into a classic. Rich with detail on topics ranging from celestial navigation and whale biology to the history of cannibalism, this is historical writing at its best -- and at the same time, one of the most chilling books I have ever read.' Sebastian Junger, author of THE PERFECT STORM.
Nathaniel Philbrick is a historian and broadcaster who has written extensively about sailing. He is director of the Egan Institute of Maritime Studies on Nantucket Island, and a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association. He was a consultant on the movie Moby Dick. Aged 41, he has lived on Nantucket with his wife and two children since 1986. His previous book, In the Heart of the Sea was a Top Ten best seller in hardback and paperback.