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Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick

Sea of Glory

Biography / Autobiography   Historical Fiction   eBook Favourites   
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The tale of a remarkable 1838 expedition of six sailing ships, 346 men and four years spent surveying 280 Pacific islandsal novel that is highly topical, taut, witty and entertaining


Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick

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 seventy-one men, the expedition had 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’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 of coastline in the Pacific Northwest, providing the federal 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 would name 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 skilfull 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 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

About the Author

Nathaniel Philbrick
Nathaniel Philbrick is a historian and broadcaster who has writen 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.

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Book Info

Publication date

7th February 2005


Nathaniel Philbrick

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496 pages


Biography / Autobiography
Historical Fiction
eBook Favourites

Geographical discovery & exploration
General & world history
Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900



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