Gallery

In 1838, the U.S. government launched the largest discovery voyage the Western world had ever seen—6 sailing vessels and 346 men bound for the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The images collected here show the ships of the U.S. Exploring Expedition and several of the discoveries made by the explorers on this journey.

 


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The Six Ships
Image of the six ships by Mark Meyers of the U.S. Exploring Expedition at Orange Bay near Cape Horn
(Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Libraries)

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Track of the U.S. Exploring Expedition 1838-1842
Jeffrey Ward, Cartographer

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First Sail South, February-March 1839
Jeffrey Ward, Cartographer

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Oregon Territory
Jeffrey Ward, Cartographer

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Charles Wilkes
Lieutenant Charles Wilkes as painted by Thomas Sully
(Courtesy U.S. Naval Academy Museum)

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William Hudson
William Hudson, second-in-command of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, and captain of The Peacock. Hudson was one of Wilkes's best friends in the navy and a respected seaman but lacked nautical surveying experience.
(From the narrative, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries)

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James Dwight Dana
James Dwight Dana, just twenty-five years old at the beginning of the Expedition, proved to be the Charles Darwin of the voyage. He would publish several important scientific reports and eventually become a professor at Yale, where he was recognized as America's foremost geologist.
(Courtesy Yale University Art Gallery, bequest of Edward Salisbury Dana, B.A. 1870)

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Madeira
The Expedition's first landfall: Madeira.
(From the Narrative, courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Libraries)

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Kotowatowa
Kotowatowa, a Maori chief from New Zealand. Herman Melville is said to have based his description of Queequeg in Moby-Dick on this image.
(From the Narrative, courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Libraries)

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Necklaces
Necklaces from the Expedition's collection of Fijian artifacts, some of which feature human teeth.
(Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, photo by Victor Kranz)

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Birds
Image of birds from the Expedition's scientific reports, showing the hand-colored illustrations that graced these magnificently produced volumes. Only a hundred copies of each report were printed by the U.S. government.
(Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Libraries)

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Lizards
Image of lizards from the Expedition's scientific reports, showing the hand-colored illustrations that graced these magnificently produced volumes. Only a hundred copies of each report were printed by the U.S. government.
(Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Libraries)

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Shells
Image of shells from the Expedition's scientific reports, showing the hand-colored illustrations that graced these magnificently produced volumes. Only a hundred copies of each report were printed by the U.S. government.
(Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Libraries)

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Wolves
Image of wolves from the Expedition's scientific reports, showing the hand-colored illustrations that graced these magnificently produced volumes. Only a hundred copies of each report were printed by the U.S. government.
(Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Libraries)


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