Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Sea of Glory:

You’d think exploring around the world would get you remembered but apparently not.

Quick synopsis:

A narrative of the U.S Exploring Expedition of 1838 – 1842. Yeah, I hadn’t heard of it before either.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

This expedition explored 280 islands, mapped 800 miles of Oregon, and documented over 60,000 plant and bird specimens.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Why don’t we know more about this epic expedition? Probably because it was very scientific and it didn’t help that the leader, Charles Wilkes, was kind of a jerk. How big a jerk? His men hated him for over the top discipline, he flouted a rank he didn’t actually have, and read the book to find out why Fiji isn’t a fan. It is very possible Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick is based on him.

My Take on Sea of Glory:

I love anything Nathaniel Philbrick writes. The next way to classify his books in my mind is whether or not I know too much about the subject already. Philbrick has written about George Washington and he writes wonderfully for someone learning about a subject. He is not going to write the bricks (pun intended) that Ron Chernow writes which are meant to capture EVERYTHING about his subject (and to be clear, I love him, too).

That is a long-winded way of saying, I love Philbrick’s books when I know nothing about the story. In the Heart of the Sea is one of my favorite books of all time because I was new to the entire subject. This book is the same and it is fantastic.

The U.S. Ex. Ex. (yes, there were apparently hipsters in 1838 abbreviating things) is an absolute feat of scientific discovery and, at best, is a small footnote in most history books. Why? Drama, pure and simple. The leader, Charles Wilkes, was a (word that rhymes with sick). Run-ins with natives where they went sometimes ended extremely poorly. Politics shaded everything that was done. The takeaway from the entire episode, however, is that the scientists and surveyors performed some of the most important work done in the time period.

The book is great for anyone. It’s interesting even for non-nerds.


It’s Nathaniel Philbrick. Of course, it’s good. Buy it here!

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Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick
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