United States Exploring Expedition

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The United States Exploring Expedition , also US Ex.Ex. , Ex. Ex. Or Wilkes Expedition , was an American expedition to the Pacific , which served as an exploration and mapping trip. It was operated by the United States Navy from 1838 to 1842 under the command of Charles Wilkes . She was instrumental in making science popular in the United States.

Main itinerary (some ships went different routes): 1. Hampton Roads 2. Madeira 3. Rio de Janeiro 4. Tierra del Fuego 5. Valparaíso 6. Callao 7. Samoa 8. Fiji 9. Sydney 10. Antarctica 11. Hawaii

The expedition consisted of the following ships:

  • USS Vincennes, flagship
  • USS Peacock , sunk at the mouth of the Columbia River
  • USS Relief , supply ship
  • USS Porpoise
  • USS Sea Gull , missing, last sighted near Cape Horn
  • USS Flying Fish , sold in Singapore due to poor condition
  • USS Oregon , bought to replace the sunken Peacock in Astoria
Return journey (some ships drove different routes): 1. Puget Sound 2. Columbia River 3. San Francisco 4. Polynesia 5. Philippines 6. Borneo 7. Singapore 8. Cape of Good Hope 9. New York

The expedition also included 9 scientists, including the linguist Horatio Hale , the mineralogist James Dana, and the naturalists Titian Peale and Charles Pickering . During the expedition, during which the earth was circled once, 280 islands, most of them in the Pacific Ocean, were explored and mapped. In clashes with islanders in Fiji, several people were killed or seriously injured on both sides.

It also mapped 800 miles of the coast of what was then known as the Oregon Country (now Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia).

The scientists collected over 60,000 plants and bird hides . The collected specimens made up a substantial part of the basic equipment of the Smithsonian Institution, which was founded shortly after the end of the expedition . Most of the specimens collected during the expedition are still there today.

There were a number of military court cases following the expedition, primarily due to the poor relationship between Charles Wilkes and his subordinate officers . Wilkes was acquitted of all charges, with the exception of an unlawful flogging. However, the penalty for this was only a public reprimand.

An essential point for the poisoned relationship between Wilkes, who was often perceived as despotic, and his officers was that he did not hold a higher rank than the officers subordinate to him, but, like some of his officers, held the rank of lieutenant . Since his request to be promoted to a captain's or commodore rank was not granted before and during the voyage, he rose to become captain and commodore himself during the expedition.


  • Nathaniel Philbrick : Sea of ​​Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery. The US Exploring Expedition, 1838-842 . Viking, New York City 2003, ISBN 0-670-03231-X .
    • German by Enrico Heinemann and Andrea Kann: Demons of the Sea: The dramatic expedition to open up the Pacific and the Antarctic (1838–1842) . Btb, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-442-73495-9 .

Web links

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