Sea of Glory

So I finally finished Sea of Glory yesterday. In spite of the fact it took me months to read, I’m still giving it a big thumbs up. I’m mostly a fiction reader and when I have a choice between a novel and a non-fiction volume, I tend to grab the former. Ergo the long time spent on my night stand.

Anyway, I’d never heard of the US Exploring Expedition directly, but I’ve heard of its results. For instance a big part of the initial collection of the Smithsonian Institute came from the “Ex Ex” as they called it. And one of the sailors on board, Charles Erskind, wrote Twenty Years Before the Mast based in part on his time with the Ex Ex (during which he learned to read and write!). Some of the charts prepared by the Ex Ex were used as late as World War II, and some of the discoveries influenced or reinforced theories as broad as Darwinian Evolution and plate tectonics.

But this is mostly about the commander of the Ex Ex, Charles Wilkes, and how his drive led the Expedition to be a success while his paranoia more or less caused it to fade into obscurity. Its a very curious tale, slow in the update and slow in the ending. But the middle of the book, when the Ex Ex is actually underway, is fascinating reading.

Highly recommended.