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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Around the world with the Ex. Ex. and a Tosser
What native-born American hasn't heard of the Lewis and Clark Expedition? (Well, OK, the quality of public education being what it is, there are, perhaps, contemporary high school graduates that haven't a clue. But, you get my point.) However, I'd never heard of the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-42, even after a primary and secondary education...
Published on 30 Dec 2005 by Joseph Haschka

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The whole truth, and nothing but the truth...
Once upon a time, the USA saw itself a nation of doers, not thinkers. But that view was changing, and so they decided to go exploring - something Europeans had been doing for a while, in the name of science and conquest. A bit late to the game, there was only one area of the world left to explore: the far South, where, rumours had it, a continent might be found...
Published on 8 Aug 2011 by Federhirn


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Around the world with the Ex. Ex. and a Tosser, 30 Dec 2005
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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What native-born American hasn't heard of the Lewis and Clark Expedition? (Well, OK, the quality of public education being what it is, there are, perhaps, contemporary high school graduates that haven't a clue. But, you get my point.) However, I'd never heard of the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-42, even after a primary and secondary education in private schools and fifty-six years of reading and general awareness.
During the four years the intrepid Ex. Ex. naval squadron was at sea sailing 87,000 miles, it surveyed 1500 miles of the Antarctic coast, 280 Pacific islands (including all of the Fiji Group), Puget Sound, 800 miles of the Oregon coast, the Columbia River from its mouth to the vicinity of Portland, and San Francisco Bay. Almost as asides, it also scaled Mauna Loa to its summit and surveyed the overland route from Oregon to San Francisco. During its circumnavigation of the globe, the Ex. Ex. suffered the disappearance or shipwreck of two vessels and the deaths of a couple dozen men.
Like his other narrative IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: THE TRAGEDY OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX, this volume by Nathaniel Philbrick is a splendid, immensely readable book. It covers the genesis and 10-year preparation for the Ex. Ex., the odyssey itself, and its aftermath, with special emphasis on the leadership skills, or lack thereof, of its turbulent, troubled, and remarkable commander, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes. Contrary to other otherwise excellent works of popular history, SEA OF GLORY also includes maps and three sections of perfectly apropos illustrations; kudos to the author for including them.
What was a monumental achievement was ultimately overshadowed by America's preoccupation with its western territories and the controversy, including court-martial, surrounding the martinet Wilkes, truly a Tosser with a capital "T" if there ever was one.
SEA OF GLORY was a major revelation about a largely forgotten event in United States history. I'm glad I took the time to read it, and heartily recommend it as an instructive and entertaining volume.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb reading for the Exploration Enthuasist, 24 Nov 2004
By 
Jared M (New Zealand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition 1838-42 (Hardcover)
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good book about a horrid man, 28 Nov 2010
By 
M. Notman "northernfag" (sheffield uk) - See all my reviews
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Its quite refreshing to read an epic tale of discovery with a central character as deeply flawed as Charles Wilkes. He really is very very unlikable,- although some attempt is made to show quite why he became so horrid. The good thing about this is that the rest of the crew (those that wrote accounts anyway) get to play counterpoint to Wilkes, playing the good guys if you like, so you get to know them a lot better than say Captain Cook or Magellans crew who are very much over shadowed by their brilliant Captains.
The Maps are excellent, the illustrations also tie in well the the narrative- the only major downsides (and why this gets 4 not 5) is that it is VERY American orientated. There were British and French expeditions going on at the same time which ive read something of and it would have improved the book by including something more of them. Also whilst the Ex Ex may be an important milestone in US history, its really a fairly minor one in world exploration, and i cant help detecting a touch of special pleading for it in some of the writing.
Not bad in general though..worth a read,
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The whole truth, and nothing but the truth..., 8 Aug 2011
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Once upon a time, the USA saw itself a nation of doers, not thinkers. But that view was changing, and so they decided to go exploring - something Europeans had been doing for a while, in the name of science and conquest. A bit late to the game, there was only one area of the world left to explore: the far South, where, rumours had it, a continent might be found.

Exploration was not enough: there had to be usable, pragmatic aims. These included charting hundreds of Pacific islands and atolls so that whalers might find their way around them, and approaching the Western coast of the US (not yet part of the USA at that point, and largely controlled by the Hudson Bay company) to chart and explore that area.

The man who would lead this expedition was Charles Wilkes: a somewhat frustrated, solitary, stubborn, vindictive and paranoid man, who could be diplomatic and casual when having a trusted voice of common sense around, but who was not generous with his trust and never forgiving of any perceived slight. This book is the story of that expedition - and the failings of Charles Wilkes as a leader and man, as well as his virtues as an explorer, scientist and visionary.

It is a book full of naval vocabulary, high adventure, and repetition: Charles Wilkes makes the same mistakes over and over and over again. It is entirely factual, so there is an added element of excitement in knowing that this tale is revealing something genuine and real. It is also a tale about an expedition that, if not forgotten, has certainly been overshadowed by others. Above all, it is a tale of the strange and unhealthy chemistry between men at sea, under a flawed and unstable leader.

The book has a slow start - it takes the expedition almost 10 years to get going, and at times the political labyrinth is a tiring read. Once at sea, the pace of the story picks up - only to soon fall into the habit of repetition (and the narration can get a bit preachy, telling the reader what to think a little too often). There are some tragic moments in the book that are stunted by slavish adherence to known facts: where no evidence exists, the book does not fictionalise anything, so when one of the ships is lost, we never find out how or when or what happened, but merely realise that its absence must mean its loss.

It is nonetheless a gripping book, and after getting about halfway through, I could barely put it down. It's a shame it takes so long to build up momentum, and sometimes over-quotes relatively unimportant observations made by the officers in order to present the narrative in their own words. Sometimes, it feels like there are too many officers aboard, and not enough sailors (towards the end, we realise there is a reason why only one sailor's voice is ever heard: the other sailors never produced a written record, and are therefore never quoted, never fictionalised, never included in this factually driven narrative). It's not quite as memorable as the Heart of the Sea, but it is definitely a worthy addition to any bookshelf. I have to admit though, it could have gotten away with being a little more free with the facts, and perhaps a little more tightly edited towards the start...
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5.0 out of 5 stars a very good read, 10 Jan 2014
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Bought this book for my husband for Christmas who isn't a big reader but enjoyed it very much in the fact he didn't put it down until he read all
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of tyranny, 9 Aug 2007
A lot of people will have heard of Captain Bligh or the Mutiny on the Bounty, but compared to Lt Charles Wilkes, Bligh was a saint. It is Wilkes that made this book fascinating for me. You will really want to see justice done in the end. Wilkes endurance however is something to be admired " If Wilkes drove his men hard, he drove himself harder. Every night, he worked well past midnight on his charts Surgeon John Fox reported that Wilkes averaged no more than five hours a night, and often went for days at a time with no sleep at all. Sleep deprivation leads to a loss of emotional control as well as a failure to make complex social judgements-just the areas in which Wilke's personality was already lacking'.

If you like books about the sea this is well worth reading.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sea of Glory, 2 July 2010
This review is from: Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition 1838-42 (Hardcover)
A Sea Of Glory is one of the most absorbing and interesting Historical books that I have ever readIt is easy to read and difficult to break away from even if only for a short time . It is about a most unusual character Lt Charles Wilkes who through sheer determination succeded in leading one of Americas most important and epic expeditions in 1838. Strangely after so much achieved, this very important episode in history is little known today.I found the book excellant and historically facinating' I strongly recommend this piece of maritime History to anyone into maritime expeditions and I would jump on any book carrying the Author named as Nathaniel Philbrick. I have read his book "Mayflower" that was excellent but this one is a absolute Wow!
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Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition 1838-42
Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition 1838-42 by Nathaniel Philbrick (Hardcover - 1 Mar 2004)
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