The U.S. Exploring Expedition
Yesterday at Walgreen’s, of all places, I happened across a pile of cut-price books, and among mystery potboilers like The Sesame Street Murders and thrillers such as The Postmaster General’s Mistress and copies of Danielle Steel’s 439th bestseller, there was a hardback copy of Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick. Originally published at $27.95, mine for $5 plus tax. It became my impulse purchase for the day.
It’s about the U.S. Exploring Expedition from 1838-1842. “By any measure, the achievements of the Expedition would be extraordinary,” the preface says. “After four years at sea... the Expedition logged 87,000 miles, surveyed 280 Pacific islands, and created 180 charts -- some of which were still being used as late as World War II. The Expedition also mapped 800 miles of coastline in the Pacific Northwest and 1,500 miles of the icebound Antarctic coast. Just as important would be its contribution to the rise of science in America. The thousands of specimens and artefacts amassed by the Expedition’s scientists would become the foundation of the collections of the Smithsonian Institution. Indeed, without [the Expedition], there might never have been a national museum in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Botanic Gardens, the U.S. Hydrographic Office and the Naval Observatory all owe their existence, in varying degrees, to the Expedition.”
And yet the Expedition's largely been forgotten. This is a book for me.