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Smithsonian–Roosevelt African Expedition

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Smithsonian–Roosevelt African Expedition
Smithsonian Institution Archives - SIA2009-1371.jpg
Participants in the expedition. Smithsonian Institution Archives
Date1909–10
ParticipantsTheodore Roosevelt;
R. J. Cunninghame;
Frederick Selous;
Kermit Roosevelt;
Edgar Alexander Mearns;
Edmund Heller;
John Alden Loring.

The Smithsonian–Roosevelt African Expedition was an expedition to Africa led by outgoing American president Theodore Roosevelt and outfitted by the Smithsonian Institution.[1] Its purpose was to collect specimens for the Smithsonian's new Natural History museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History. The expedition collected around 11,400 animal specimens which took Smithsonian naturalists eight years to catalog.[2] Following the expedition, Roosevelt chronicled it in his book African Game Trails.

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Transcription

- Good evening. What a wonderful turnout. I'm Nancy Gwen, I'm the director of the Smithsonian Libraries and it's my very great pleasure to welcome you all on such a cold night. I think that is a tribute to our speaker and I know you'll feel well rewarded at the end of the evening. This program is co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Libraries and the National Museum of Natural History who's director you'll meet in a moment. The Smithsonian Libraries is a centrally administered but disbursed system of 20 libraries located around the Smithsonian museums, research center, and offices both here in Washington and in the Republic of Panama and in New York City and out on Chesapeake Bay. We have over one and a half million volumes and numerous electronic databases and journals as well as 40,000 rare books and manuscripts. We're separate from the museum's administratively but we're intricately enmeshed with them and their interests since our primary purpose is to provide the information, research materials and bibliographic guidance needed by the Smithsonian scientists and their historians, exhibitors, education experts, volunteers, docents and all the other people who are affiliated with the Smithsonian or who come in and visit us and use our collections. This leads us to many happy collaborations among which is tonight's event. Tonight we're really celebrating several things. First a fascinating episode in American history: The voyage of the United States Exploring Expedition which in the four years between 1838 and 1842 gathered the specimens and artifacts that a decade and a half later became the first major national collections of the new Washington institution called the Smithsonian. We're also celebrating a new book by a noted author that captures in an entertaining way the human side of that story and argues well that the voyage had a more profound effect on the shaping of America, perhaps than did the better-known Lewis and Clark expedition which is being celebrated as well this year. And the third thing is the launching that is it went live today on the Smithsonian library's website called very humbly Galaxy of Knowledge, of our digital collection on the US Exploring Expedition. And finally thanks to Mark Brettsfelder of the Smithsonian's Information Office, tonight we have the first live webcast at least of a library's event so if anyone out there in cyberspace is watching tonight we welcome you also. You may wonder why we call our digital product a collection. It's a collection of many things that relate to the exploring expedition already and it will continue to grow and expand. First and foremost it contains a complete copy of all 32 physical volumes of the publications that resulted from the US Exploring Expedition or the U.S. Ex.Ex. as we have come to know it. This includes the five volumes of the narrative of the expedition authored and produced by its leader, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, as well as the scientific volumes that describe the artifacts and specimens. This totals nearly 15,000 page and plate images that required over 32,000 image files and takes up 14.7 gigabytes of storage. Now it's possible for you to start with the title page and read all the way to the end if you wish but that isn't the way that books are used on the internet as we've discovered, so we'll be providing the full text for keyword searching as well and although that's not available now, it will be soon. We've created several searchable databases from that text that include databases of the photos and other illustrations, a database of all the officers and the men who served on the expedition and a database of over 2,100 cultural artifacts collected during the expedition and available in the anthropology department of this museum. You'll see the images from these databases during the presentation tonight and also upstairs during the reception. Then there are the introductory essays that describe the voyage, the publications, the collections and more by curators from this museum, Smithsonian staff and even tonight's featured guest. The result is already a rich resource for reading pleasure as well as serious investigation but more will be coming as we build the site and link to more expedition collections and more information from other repositories about the U.S. Ex.Ex. Now this has taken several years of effort and the work of many many Smithsonian libraries and other staff. I want specifically to mention Martin Kalfatovic, head of the library's new media office, who served as project manager from the beginning. Nicole Van Doren who designed the site. Erin Clements and David Hobart who went out of their way to get things done and two interns, John Shuster from the University of Maryland, and Marissa Ramirez from the University of North Carolina who worked with us much of the summer and not least Tom Garnet, Assistant Director for the digital library who helped raise the money and made sure the project worked. I also want to thank those who provided the essays for the site, including Leslie Overstreet, the library's curator of Natural History Rare Books, who can probably tell you anything you want to know about the publications. Jane Walsh of the anthropology department who's traveling and couldn't be here tonight and our honored guest, Nathaniel Philbrick. Many other staff also contributed including our preservation department who ensured that the volumes could be scanned safely, the cataloging department who provided metadata which you need to present things on the internet and even our shipping department who carried the volumes around to the various buildings where our staff do their work. Further this event tonight would not have happened without the efforts of Bob Kearns, Dale Miller and Elizabeth Perry-Ally of the Smithsonian Library staff and Gwen Deal at the Natural History special event staff who planned and promoted the event and created the flyers, postcards, ads and other publications to go with it. I'd like to ask all of those whom I have mentioned who are here tonight to please stand and would you join me in applauding their prodigious efforts. (audience applauding) And finally I want to thank Innodata Isogen, the company who provided the coding for the text of the expedition publications and who made a donation for the reception this evening. Would Peter Kaufman, who is the director of strategic initiatives and Martin Corson, who's vice president for business solutions stand up so that we can also thank you for your help and support? (audience applauding) And now I'd like to introduce Dr. Cristian Sampair, director of the National Museum of Natural History. Cristian? (applauding) - Thank You Nancy and thank you for those comments. I would like to welcome all of you to the National Museum of Natural History tonight. I think it's a fascinating experience in the voyage that we're going to start looking with this new project that we have, the wonderful resources and some of the work that you're going to listen and hear about in a few minutes. I think most of you are very familiar with this museum but this building was opened back in 1910, to house many of the collections the Natural History collections that the Smithsonian had been gathering at that point for almost 100 years and the mandate that what we've been trying to do is to understand the natural world that we live in and our place in it and from that point of view a lot of the work that we have been doing relates to understanding the geology and the formation of the planet Earth and volcanoes plate tectonics. Trying to understand life on Earth, everything from fossils to contemporary plants, animals, all over the globe and trying to understand people and how people interact in that world and everything from cultural elements and anthropology so this is a very noble mission that we've been doing. But what many of our visitors to the museum do not realize when they come here is that only 20% of the area of the museum's actually open to the public. The exhibits, some of you have mentioned them and the new Mammals hall and others that you've seen but behind those walls there's another 80%. That 80% contains some of the most valuable Natural History collections in the world. About 125 million specimens and objects from pretty much every corner in the earth. And some of these collections have tremendous historical value for the United States including some of the collections for the Wilkes Expedition and you'll actually get to see a couple of the original objects in a few minutes. I just want to acknowledge the close collaboration and the work that we have with the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and thank Nancy for everything that you've done. As scientists, we rely very heavily on having access to the best literature in the world and we are certainly honored to have the libraries here and we're grateful for all the support that you and your staff provide. The project that you're going to see in the webpage when you go and take a look at it is just one of several projects that we've been collaborating on including, let me just mention another one, project in the Biology Ascentralia Americana, which is an extremely extremely important set of volumes in Central American biology published more than 100 years ago. What we're trying to do is using digital technologies to bring that information, make them available to everyone, link them as Nancy mentioned in searchable databases and eventually hook them up with the collection so you can actually navigate through the text, click on it, go to our digital images and see the original specimens that are contained here. So we're really trying to use top-notch technologies and bring the best of the science of the collections that we have to everyone around the world. Just to tell you a little bit more about that, I would like to introduce the chairman of our Department of Botany, Dr. John Kress, who will tell you a little bit more and show you a few images of some of those treasures from the Wilkes Expedition that are here at this museum. Dr. Kress is a well known botanist who's been heading the department for the last six years and who's been instrumental in supporting our collaboration with the US Botanic Gardens, our botanical symposiums and others, so I'd like to introduce Dr. John Kress. (applauding) - Thank you very much Cristian. I will confess, I came to the Smithsonian in 1988 and I had not even heard of Wilkes before I came to the Smithsonian. I think the last decade or so, and particularly now culminating in this book by Nathaniel Philbrick, the myth and the legend of Wilkes will become known to a large, much larger proportion of the United States citizens which I think is very fitting so it's very fitting that he's here tonight to introduce this book. Nancy asked me if I would just take a few minutes of your time before the lecture by Nathaniel to to stress the scientific aspects of what were achieved by Wilkes and his team on the expedition that began in 19, excuse me in 1838. A Natural History Museum needs a number of things to actually get going. Among those things are funds, money, to actually build a museum and hire staff. The Smithsonian was fortunate enough to receive a bequest by a, until that time, unknown British citizen of a hundred thousand pounds sterling back in the 1800s. The US Congress didn't know what to do with that money so they put it aside and eventually it was the funds that we got that we used to get our museum going. The second thing, a museum, particularly a Natural History Museum needs are scientific collections. And it was really Wilkes in his voyage as leader of that voyage over four years that provided the collections that served as the foundation in the very beginning of his Smithsonian. When Wilkes took off in 1838, there was no Smithsonian. There was a Scientific Institute here in Washington that had a few collections, but there was really nothing that the Americans could look to as a significant Natural History collection. Wilkes and his team changed all that. In four years traveling around the world particularly focusing on the Pacific a team of naturalists that were on that voyage of six ships, their responsibility was to essentially document the national world as Wilkes explored and surveyed. They collected many objects. They collected anthropological objects, I'll show a few here. Native American objects that were collected in the Pacific Northwest. This one in Oregon, the last one in California. They collected rocks and minerals. They collected animals of various types. Marine animals and terrestrial animals. And as a botanist I have to emphasize the plants that they collected. This is, and when you collect a plant, for those that don't know, you take the specimen, you can't necessarily bring them all back alive so you have to preserve the specimen in some way and here's a specimen collected in California called darlingtonia, insect tubers plant. You dry the specimen, you press it, it eventually comes back and is mounted on a stiff piece of paper and studied by scientists. Wilkes and his team collected about 50,000 specimens during their voyage. Darlingtonia, this one is appropriate, it was collected in Hawaii. It's the genus Wilkesia, the genus it was named after Wilkes quite a few years later at the end of the voyage and I just brought along this specimen here, it's called a type specimen. It's one of the more valuable collections, I don't want to drop it in our herbarium here at the US National Herbarium, but this specimen, just to show you, has a number of different labels around it and you can see, these labels reflect how much study has gone into this specimen. Each one of these labels reflects a different specialist, or botanist, that has worked on these specimens over the course of 150 years. And with each of these studies of these specimens we find out something new and more about the natural history of the earth. From that 50,000 specimens that Wilkes brought back in 1842, that became the basis of the US National Barium and the Smithsonian founded in 1846, the art collection now, which is on the fourth and fifth floors here in the West Wing part of that unknown part of the museum for the public, we now have 4.7 million specimens of plants all like this that are being studied on a daily basis by the botany department. But there's another institution on the mall here that also receives some of the early Wilkes collections and that is the United States Botanic Garden and this is a photo of the Botanic Garden when it was first built at the turn the century and what it looks like today after a 33 million dollar renovation, Wilkes and his team brought back living plants as well. I actually don't know how many living plants but believe it or not, descendants of some of those living plants are still alive today and at the Botanic Garden and you can go and see those. This is one of them. Angiopteris erectus or erecta. A fern it was collected in the Philippines. We also have the type specimen of this Angiopteris here in the US National Herbarium so there's a very tight link between what one could find at the Botanic Garden, what we find in botany here. I should say that after 150 years the Botanic Garden and the Natural History Museum here have come together again and what we call Botanical Partners on the Mall to help and enhance our public education aspect of the botanical world with the Botanic Garden which is very important. But of course botany is not the only collection we have here. We have, as I said, minerals, vertebrates, invertebrates, insects, marine animals, anthropological artifacts, all together over 120 million specimens are found in this museum alone and this just gives you some idea of if you ever tried to pull out all the drawers what it would look like and the various things we have tucked away here and there but are studied on a daily basis. But the expedition is not over by any means. Just last year alone we had scientists at the Natural History Museum out in every corner of the world. Some retracing Wilkes's steps and visiting some of the places he visited 150 years ago but many of them exploring very new areas and this collections, which are the basis of our science here are continually being enhanced by our own research as well as scientists around the world. I will bring a few of these collections I have a few other specimens here after the reception afterwards and after the lecture for anyone that would actually like to maybe even hold a Wilkes collection in their hand. With supervision we'll let you do that. So I'd like to ask Nancy to come back up again who will introduce the lecturers. Thank you very much. (applauding) - You can actually see another specimen as well as one of the Wilkes' publications in a lobby case, an exhibition case out in the Constitution Avenue lobby. As you're leaving if you turn right it's sort of past the ladies restroom but it's there in the corner and the actual things are right there. Well it is certainly my pleasure at the moment to introduce our speaker, author of Sea of Glory America's Voyage of Discovery. The United States Exploring Expedition 1838 to 1842. On a brilliant sunny day, two days before 9/11, Nat Philbrick spoke to a packed tent at the First National Book Festival held on the grounds of the US Capitol and the Library of Congress which organized the event. He enthralled the audience with the tragic story of the Essex, a whaling ship hit and sunk by a whale and the alternately heartening and horrifying experience of its crew in the aftermath. The book, In the Heart of the Sea, won the National Book Award for 2000. I sat in that tent and afterwards had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Philbrick. I'd read the book and I saw in it that he'd written briefly about the Wilkes expedition. When I mentioned this he said that, in fact, the Wilkes expedition was going to be the topic of his next book. Since we in the libraries had just decided that we would create a digital edition of the publications resulting from the expedition this seemed too good to be true. But it was true and thus began a journey that has resulted in tonight's celebration. Nat shared a pre-publication copy of his work with us and many of the illustrations you'll see in the book and the presentation tonight are the result of the scanned images we made and that are on our website. Fortunately both he and my staff completed their work on time. Now most of you probably know the Philbrick biography. A former intercollegiate All American sailor and North American sunfish champion, he started writing in the 1980s about his passion for sailing and continued with books about his second passion, his home of Nantucket Island. His writing has appeared in leading newspapers but you'll soon see the engaging style that has also made him an attraction to television with appearances on NBC Dateline the Lehrer News Hour, C-SPAN and The History Channel, as well as on National Public Radio. In 2002 he was named the Nathaniel Bowditch Maritime Scholar of the Year by the American Merchant Marine Museum. Although he's hardly finished his book tour for Sea of Glory, he's already started work on his next book about the voyage of the Mayflower and the settlement of Plymouth Colony. Now how he has time also to be the director of the Egan Institute of Maritime Studies on Nantucket Island is anybody's guess but I'm very pleased that he found time to be with us tonight, so would you please join me in welcoming Nathaniel Philbrick. (applauding) - Well thank you. It is a real pleasure and a true honor to be speaking here tonight. My association with the Smithsonian Institution began I think like a lot of people's, with a school trip to Washington, D.C. when I was in eighth grade and I was introduced to the Smithsonian, this particular museum then and it was with my beginning with Sea of Glory that my own personal voyage of discovery into the Smithsonian began and I have to say it's been an absolute pleasure working with Nancy and the staff of the library, the Natural History Museum and you know I think we, we've all seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and in that last scene where the Ark is in a crate and is being put in this huge warehouse of other crates that just seem to be all over the place and one of the joys of working on this book was getting into that other 80% as was mentioned too, into that those hallways and I'm pleased to tell you that it's a lot better organized than it is in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is truly amazing how much stuff is not only in the the halls of this building but in what are known as storage pods off-site. Each one of which seemed to me to be about the size of Madison Square Garden and in there are Jayne Walsh, an anthropologist with the museum, gave me a guided tour of the Wilkes expedition ethnographic artifacts there and it was just amazing to go from Fijian war clubs brought back, some of them with human teeth still embedded in them, to looking at feather blankets brought back from California to tappa. It's just incredible and and it's cheek-by-jowl with other artifacts. Teddy Roosevelt's elephant bones brought back from a safari. They're all there, and it is a truly a hidden history and it's something with Sea of Glory that gave me a huge amount of respect for all that has gone into this institution and continues to go on because the Wilkes expedition was our first ocean-going voyage of discovery but it really was just the beginning in what was going to happen as far as the history of the United States and this institution and before we go to the slides I just want to say that my work on Sea of Glory would not have been possible without an exhibit that was given here in the Smithsonian 1985, known as Magnificent Voyagers which was just an absolute blockbuster of an exhibit that really for the first time at least in the 20th century brought the Wilkes expedition to the attention of the general public in terms of artifacts and specimens and it's with the digitization of the publications that the wheel is truly I think turned because there were about 15 scientific reports published by the scientists of the expedition in the decades after the expedition's return but Congress only published a hundred copies of each of them making them some have calculated to be the most expensive publications on earth given the cost that went into them. But only a hundred copies, they were almost impossible for the general public to track down but with this digitization project anyone can get on the net and take a look and I think it's it's just a wonderful development for the legacy of the Wilkes expedition so I think with that we'll go to the slides. The U.S. Ex.Ex. 1838. What you see there, that was as Nancy alluded to, that was shorthand for the United States Exploring Expedition and what you have you see here is actually from an artifact in the collection, this is how they would mark. Each artifact has its own tag and it was yes the U.S. Ex.Ex. Now most of what I'll be showing you are images from the publications of the expedition. The next two images are from my book. This is a wonderful image of the squadron of the U.S. Ex.Ex. at Orange Bay which is really the last good harbor in the southern portion of Tierra del Fuego, very near Cape Horn and this is the expedition assembled just before it made its first dab south towards the mystery that laid in the bottom of the world towards Antarctica. And what you see here are the six ships. Now ever since James Cook had set out in the 18th century 70 years before the United States Exploring Expeditions sent out, European countries had been sending out exploring expeditions and they were to chart unknown islands and waters. They usually had a small team of scientists, Charles Darwin for example, on the Beagle and they also were supporting the cause of empire and establishing diplomatic relations and potential colonies around the world. The United States had a different agenda. For one thing was very late in 1838 to get into the game of global exploration. For decades countries had been sending out these expeditions and most of these European expeditions had been only two vessels. The United States, a sort of typical American fashion, decided well we're gonna one-up those guys over there. We're gonna send one of the largest voyages of discovery in the history of Western exploration out into the unknown and so instead of two ships, we came up with six vessels. On the left is on the top left portion you see two small vessels, two schooners. They're my favorite vessels in this. The Flying Fish and the Seagull. They're originally New York pilot boats just about 70 feet long, a crew of about 17 men aboard and these were adapted to go on this voyage around the world. The big vessel on the left edge of the image here is the Vincennes, the flagship. 127 feet, the Vincennes had already gone around the world twice. In fact she was the first US naval vessel to circumnavigate the globe. She was one of the favorite ships in the Navy. She was fast, she was very stable and she was really the perfect vessel to take around the world. The next big one over there, when you see the men up in the rigging there, furling the sails, that's the Peacock. 118 foot sloop-of-war that 10 years earlier had been built for what was hoped to be the first exploration voyage. It never got off the ground but it would depart 10 years later on this voyage. Below that with the sails still up is the Porpoise. An 88 foot brig that Charles Wilkes, the leader of this expedition, had used in a survey of Georges Bank, just a few years before this expedition departed and then over in the far right, is the Relief, the store ship. And this was the only vessel that had been built expressively for this expedition. Unfortunately she had been woefully over built in anticipation of the shock she would received from the ice and and the coral atolls and she was so slow that soon after this scene, Wilkes would send her back because she was just slowing, that she was a virtual sea sea anchor to the the squadron. Now at this time exploration by sea was the preferred mode because with a ship you had your men had a place to live. They were protected and you had a way to bring back artifacts. Because this was before photography, this is before video cameras, binoculars. If you're gonna bring back tangible evidence of what you had seen, you had to bring back the specimens with you. This expedition would bring back more specimens and artifacts, specifically ethnographic artifacts, then all three of James Cook's voyages combined, 40 tons of stuff, just a tremendous amount and it would come back in the holds of these ships, they would send things back periodically in giant crates that would come back to Washington. There are 346 men on this expedition. Seven scientists, two artists. And the artists whose work you'll be seeing coming up, really did incredible. They are underappreciated. Their names were Alfred Agate and James Drayton. Agate was the real artist. He executed most of the drawings you'll see. Drayton did a lot of the scientific illustrations and he would also operate as the designer of Wilkes' narrative and many of the books and together they were a really incredible team. Now here is the root of the US Exploring Expedition. It was a big expedition and it was this wildly ambitious American endeavor. Beginning in New York, they went over, they sailed east towards Madeira off the western coast of Africa headed down to Rio de Janeiro to Rio Negro where they charted that River, down to Orange Bay just off Cape Horn where they made their first stab south, towards Antarctica. Now you know it's, we are perhaps about to begin a new space race to go to the moon, to Mars and perhaps beyond. This was a time when the space race involved our own planet and it was truly an international rivalry to discover and explore the last unknown portions of the earth. And in 1838 that last unknown portion was at the bottom of the world. Cook, in the previous century, had sailed for three days below the Antarctic Circle and I'm paraphrasing here, but in his journal he would write, I who have gone where no other man has ever gone before, I'm about to wimp out because what he realized was that sailing a wooden vessel amid the icebergs and gale force winds of the Antarctic was virtually a suicidal endeavor, and what was the point of discovery if, you know, you were going into a region that was so inhospitable? He had his suspicions that something lay down there to the south but he said I will reserve the glory of that discovery to someone else. The commander of this expedition, our American expedition Charles Wilkes, burned to have the glory of that discovery and America was involved in what was a really international race. The French had just sent an expedition under Dumont d'Urville to the south and the English were about to send their own expedition under the command of James Ross who had done a lot of exploration to the north and so this was America's first attempt to really get involved with the big boys when it came to global exploration. So they the first stab to the Antarctic, right around that what's now the Antarctic Peninsula I'm picking up with the route and if you want to go on an Antarctic tour that's usually where you'll end up and then they would go back up to Peru and then head out into the Pacific. 64 million square mile wilderness. And one of the the agendas that the Americans had in this expedition is that American Mariners, chiefly Nantucket whalers, sealers from Stonington, Connecticut, Besch the mare traders from Salem, Massachusetts. These Mariners were going to places that not even James Cook and the countless exploring expeditions that had followed in his wake had been to. As a consequence there were no charts for these Mariners and so our expedition was intended. Its chief motive was to provide charts for these Mariners and Wilkes' expedition would chart 280 Pacific Islands as it made its way through the Pacific creating 180 charts. We were using Wilkes charts as late as World War II when we were fighting the Japanese. They went to so many exotic locales. Okay then the expedition would get to Sydney, Australia and go one more stab to the south, to the Antarctica. And then they would make their way back up to Fiji, to Hawaii and then finally to the Pacific Northwest at a time when what is now the states of Oregon and Washington were jointly occupied by America and Britain but it was really Britain that controlled the Pacific Northwest. They had Hudson's Bay Company, a system of ports, forts and trading posts really controlled. If we were ever gonna lay a claim on that territory we needed charts and that's what the Wilkes expedition would provide and even though they're on their native shore, so to speak, they are almost farther than they had ever been from home because they would go back the long way to the Philippines to Singapore around the south tip of Africa and home. This is Charles Wilkes, the leader of the expedition. He was a most unusual naval officer because instead of spending most of his professional life at sea he had spent much of it on land as the head of Depot and Charts and Instruments right here in Washington D.C. He worked out of his home which was originally built by George Washington. Two brick boarding houses on Capitol Hill and there he created his own charts of Depot charts and instruments. He built an observatory at his own expense and it became known as the Capitol Hill Observatory and Wilkes established a reputation as a scientist and a surveyor. He would go to Georges Bank and then survey the waters around Savannah just prior to leaving on this expedition. He also cultivated his political connections. He was an ardent Jacksonian Democrat and the Martin Van Buren administration, Van Buren being Jackson's hand-picked successor, would pick Wilkes after just about every captain who was asked to lead this expedition declined because the Navy at this time wanted no part of an expedition around the world. They'd much rather shoot at people and defend our country. It was Wilkes the scientist and who had shown an ability as a great surveyor who ended up leading this expedition even though he was just a lieutenant was very controversial but in just a matter of months he pulled this expedition together and got it off the ground. He was just 40 years old and a lieutenant and it was hard for him to find a second-in-command who he outranked. He went with Lieutenant William Hudson, his best friend in the Navy, who actually outranked Wilkes by just a little bit but a letter from the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of War enabled Hudson to accompany his friend on what was America's first voyage of discovery. And here, this is Madeira, the island just off the west coast of Africa. And Madeira is really, you can think of it as the mythic launching pad of global discovery. Prince Henry the Navigator, the one who had really begun Portuguese global exploration and really all European global exploration was responsible for first getting settlements started in Madeira. Christopher Columbus lived here, his wife was actually from Madeira and it was the tales of sailors who came in and out of Madeira that led him to head west and just about any expedition into the Pacific would stop at Madeira to pick up the wine from Madeira and of course Americans had to do as the Europeans had done and stopped here. The seven scientists would fan out across the island. They had about 10 days here. Wilkes got plenty of Madeira and off they went. It's just a stunning island and researching this book I went out to Madeira with my family and the peaks are more than a mile high. It is just absolutely dramatic and many of the officers would comment in their journals and every officer kept a journal, would comment how they were reminded of Madeira and the volcanic islands they would see throughout the Pacific. This is the Peale dolphin. One of the scientists on this expedition was Titian Peale, son of the famous painter and museum founder Charles Wilson Peale from Philadelphia. And off the coast of Patagonia, Peale saw this dolphin and Peale was a capable artist and a crack shot. He was a collector par excellence. He had been on several expeditions to the west and to Florida and so he was really the scientists were the most collecting experience in this expedition. And he saw this black-chinned dolphin and it now bears his name. They're common around the southern portion of South America from Argentina right up to the western side up to Chile. Now here is the squadron at Orange Bay. This is the image that the earlier picture by Mark Myers was based on. This shows the squadron about to head south. Now they got to Orange Bay very late in the season. It was February by the time they reached there and this is an insanely late time to try head south. The Antarctic summer is beginning to wane, things are getting colder. It's the time when you should be heading north. But this expedition was late in getting off the ground and so a Wilkes decided to go for it anyways. They would leave the flagship, Vincennes, at Orange Bay where it would conduct experiments. The relief with the scientists would explore the Straits of Magellan while the other four vessels would head south. And here are the Porpoise and Seagull amid the Shetland Islands and this looks like pretty rough weather doesn't it? They had to go through the Drake Passage, 600 miles some of the most dangerous waters on the planet. This is the one part of the world where the winds can whip around the globe without encountering land. It's not a good place to be in a small sailing vessel and the men aboard the Seagull, only 70 feet, had a wild ride. They were riding on 40 foot waves on their way down. The irony is they set out from Cape Horn, going to where no man had gone before and a day out they ran into a whaling vessel from New Bedford on its way back and here they were, pumped up explorers and they see these these whalers and this whaler had been out for three years, had a full hold, everyone was drunk and, you know, big deal. Going south. These men figured... And the exploring expedition, they might never come back. Particularly the guys on the Seagull, thought this would be their coffin and so they all frantically wrote letters that they gave to the captain of the vessel and moved on. Now they soon encountered very rough weather, and as I was saying this was late in the season, and there was a lot of ice everywhere. And Wilkes who had lived in Washington for a number of years prior to this expedition, described what he was seeing in ways that only a Washingtonian could. I'm gonna quote from a letter he wrote to his wife Jane. Now Wilkes had a very close relationship with his wife throughout his working career in the Navy. She was really his assistant, he called her. He also called her his moderation because Wilkes had a fanatical personality. He pushed it and he pushed it and he pushed it and Jane knew when to tap him on the shoulder and say, "Charles, ease up." Unfortunately when Charles left on the expedition he was without Jane and his fanatical personality would begin to take over and by this point it was almost open warfare between Wilkes and his officers. But Wilkes could still communicate to Jane by letter and in 1978 a huge group of Wilkes papers was donated to Duke University and in those were almost a hundred letters that Wilkes wrote to Jane during the four years of this expedition. And for me, since these have never been used in any publications about the expedition, these were a huge treasure trove and Wilkes would tell his wife everything, even the bad stuff. But one of the great passages comes in his description of encountering the icebergs of the Antarctic. This is Wilkes to Jane. "We met with some large islands of ice. 50 times as large as the Capitol and much whiter and a great deal higher. Some were literally surrounded with them and a most magnificent sight too. The sea was literally studded with these beautiful masses, some of pure white. Others showing all the shades of opal, others emerald green and occasionally here and there some of a deep black forming strong contrast to the pure white." And as Wilkes's second-in-command on this vessel called Walter Ringgold would comment to Wilkes, "This is adventuring with a boldness." There was so much ice they realized they couldn't push very far south and they headed back. This was the end of their their voyages south, on the first attempt south. They would go up to Peru and then head out into the Pacific. And here we see two of the vessels in Pago Pago and Samoa. Now by this point, Wilkes had done an extraordinary thing. When the squadron left Peru, he had sent all the officers he wasn't getting along with back aboard the Relief and something that had rankled him throughout, ever since the beginning of the expedition was his rank. He had expected that the Secretary of the Navy would give him an acting appointment to captain. He deserved it. He had more than 30 lieutenants he was in charge of and if he was going to command them, he needed to outrank them. But his appointment was so controversial that the Secretary the Navy reneged on what Wilkes felt was a promise. But Wilkes didn't let that bother him too much because a year into the voyage, just as they left Peru, he appeared on the quarterdeck of the Vincennes in a captain's uniform. His astonished officers looked on in amazement and then he said as a captain of a squadron that he should have the honorary rank of Commodore and he had just happened to bring along a broad blue Swallowtail pennant of a naval Commodore. And so by the time the squadron pulled into Samoa Wilkes was the self crowned Commodore of the U.S. Exploring Expedition and here we see them in this unique Harbor in eastern Samoa. It was now American Samoa, it's almost a Canyon and it was a very difficult... It was easy enough to sail in with the south easterly trade winds but very difficult to sail out of and Wilkes almost lost the Vincennes on the way out of Pago Pago. Now here we see two fruit doves and you know when you explore the Wilkes expedition there's plants, there's these ethnographic artifacts and then there's a lot of dead birds and some of these are two of their discoveries in Samoa. And Titian Peale was responsible for collecting most of the birds. As I said earlier, it was a crack shot and the publications of the scientists often contained a hand colored illustration and they are absolutely stunning and that's what with the digitization of these reports they are now available. Now in Samoa this is an Alfred Agate wonderful engraving of a Samoan dance. And for the officers who had been more than a year at sea, for some of these young men, watching native dances was a little more than they could stand. As one of the officers, William Reynolds, who was a past midshipman whose secret log, Wilkes did not know about this, that would swell to 250,000 words was very helpful for me in writing this book, Reynolds would describe this Samoan dance as quote "highly immodest and indecent. Nay it might safely be termed wanton and lascivious." But what what they brought back from these were these incredib... Look at the... I was not an art history major but the composition of this image is just fantastic and the use of light, shadow, it really is remarkable. Ah, Emma. All the young officers on the expedition fell in love with Emma. She was the fifteen-year-old daughter of a chief in Samoa and Reynolds would write, "Emma was the image of faultless beauty and the pearl of pure and natural innocence." And she even tempted Reynolds to give up the exploring expedition because he, like all the rest of the officers, was at war with Wilkes and it was just driving him crazy and then this, the the image of Emma was enough to really make him think twice about going on. One of the scientists in this expedition was called a philologist, linguist. His name was Horatio Hale. He's only just 22 years old, a Harvard graduate when the expedition set out and he would do some of the most extraordinary work in this expedition and he was going from island to island getting information on the languages, creating vocabularies and he realized what many before him had realized, beginning with Cook, that the languages of these various ions are very similar. Clearly these people were a similar people that had somehow spread out across the Pacific. But one of the questions that plagued Cook and everyone after him was how did they do it? The trade winds of the Pacific blows, are from the southeast. They blow away from South America towards Asia and it was clear that these were not Native Americans. They had in all probability and with an archeological evidence has borne this out, they came from Southeast Asia. How did they work their way against the trade winds? They had outrigger canoes that, we will see one in a little bit, but how did they get against the trade winds? Well part of the Wilkes expedition was a meteorological component. Wilkes was in charge of that and they were keeping very detailed neurological data and what Hale realized is that during certain months in the winter, in January, February and March the winds don't blow from the Southeast, they blow from the west and the Northwest and what he began to realize is if someone had set out from an island at that time with the trade winds, they would know that once it came to June in the summer months they could be blown back and so he began to develop a theory of how the Polynesian culture migrated across the islands and here you see his chart of oceanic migration and I talked to several scholars throughout the South Pacific and for many of them Hale is their hero because he really was the first to view these peoples in a way that was free of many of the preconceptions that others before him had applied and he was you know what we'd call it now an ethnologist and he was one of the first to really rely on fieldwork. Not to apply preconceptions but to start with things brought back out of the field. Now here we see Sydney, the home of Russell Crow. Master and Commander. And I bring up Russell Crow because Wilkes was no Jack Aubrey. And by Sydney Australia his command style, Wilkes' command style was very clear. He was what he called the martinet and what made it hard for his officers that he had begun trying to be his officers' best friends. He realized it wasn't working and so he reinvented himself as someone who belittled and mocked the officers he had treated as his friends and they and they didn't take kindly to this. And it was in Sydney where he really asserted who he was and part of the problem was he was not a very good seaman. He had spent most of his time on land and there were past midshipmen with more sea experience than Wilkes had. And they were from Sydney. On the day after Christmas headed south into the wilderness of the southern ocean. The most dangerous waters on the planet and to have Wilkes as your leader was not something that inspired confidence among his men. And they headed south and very soon all of the vessels of the expedition became split up and it would be William Reynolds, aboard the Peacock, who a few days after encountering what they called the icy barrier, saw land for the first time. He was with another fellow past midshipman named Henry Elf. They're up on the cross trees and there they saw land on January 16, 1840. A really historic moment that has really been lost and when it comes to the history of global exploration. A few days after that, William Hudson, who was in command of the Peacock, because that's where Reynolds was would take the ship way into the ice in an attempt to get on the land they could see but they ran into trouble. Here's the Peacock slamming stern first into an Antarctic iceberg. Our hero, William Reynolds, is up on the aft most high yard trying to furl the sails, hanging on, as the ship which has broken its rudder by this point, a chunk of ice had slammed into the rudder, broken it, and the ship was being blown backwards into this huge iceberg. Now the icebergs down south are different from the icebergs up north. They are cabbed from the continent, they can be as many as a hundred miles long. They can be more than 200 feet high. You can see that the edge of this iceberg is towering over the aft mass of the Peacock and in Reynolds' log he describes hanging onto the yard as the ship backs into the iceberg and there was a ledge of ice, at the very top of the iceberg, he compared it to the eaves of a house and just as Reynolds was convinced that as soon as the Peacock slammed into this vertical wall of ice she would sink stern first. Incredibly, this 118-foot sloop-of-war would bounce, ricochet off the ice and that's just what's happening there and just as that was happening the eave of ice above William Reynolds house that head began to crack and fall. Just as the ship pulled away the ice would slam into the water, the upsurge of foam would drench the quarterdeck and you'll have to read the book to find out what happens to the mouth (audience laughing). Let me say they didn't go down but that was the end of their Antarctic exploration. It would be left to Wilkes to achieve what I think is one of the most extraordinary feats in the history of global exploration. Beginning where the Peacock would leave off, the flagship Vincennes would head west, turn right and chart a 1500 mile section of Antarctica dodging icebergs, weather in three different gales and come back with a chart of what's now called Wilkesland. If you look on your globe that's what it's called. And because of this would be the first to provide compelling evidence that lands of a continental proportion existed to the South. Wilkes assumed of course it was a continent and would dub it the Antarctic continent. And here we see the Vincennes at Disappointment Bay. Throughout this whole process Wilkes was bickering with his officers. At Disappointment Bay, one of his officers named Underwood, had dared to claim that Wilkes was afraid to go south but he saw an opening and Wilkes was so furious that he sailed back to prove that they couldn't sail south and he was reduced to that, but here you see the Vincennes stopping. The men on the ice on the left side of the picture are conducting magnetic experiments on the iceberg because they were in the vicinity of the southern magnetic pole and so all the time they were taking those kinds of readings. You know here you see it placid but in three different instances the Vincennes encountered gales and here is the Vincennes working its way through the ice and this was just terrifying for all of them because Wilkes did not inspire confidence in the middle of a storm. There are descriptions of him literally running about the quarterdeck asking his officers what they think that he should do, showing all the terror that all the men were feeling but amazingly, the Vincennes would get through it without losing a man. And in the middle of a gale they had to go at an insanely fast speed if they're going to be able to maintain a sufficient steerage and so they were like a tractor-trailer truck with the accelerator to the floor weaving through a crowded highway as they dodged icebergs. A collision seemed almost inevitable but somehow they made it. And one of the great passages in Wilkes's narrative is of after one of these gales looking back at the maze of icebergs they had sailed through and all of them wondering how had they made it. Wilkes' officers, many of them despised Wilkes, would admit that Wilkes seemed to be an extraordinary lucky man because they really did make it. Now here is one of my favorite images in the narrative. This was an Agate engraving based on a sketch provided by Wilkes and in the foreground on the left you see Wilkes. That's him scrunched up. He's got his mittens on, his hat on and he's sliding down this hill on an iceberg towards his only friend in the expedition, his dog Sydney. Sydney was a Newfie, a Newfoundland. Wonderful dog. They were known as ships dogs because they were so common on vessels. Big dogs, web-footed, ideally suited for swimming and Sydney was procured in Sydney, Australia, hence the name, and Wilkes would take this dog with him everywhere and was a very loyal, loyal beast and in this sketch Wilkes, I think it's almost a private joke. Here's Wilkes showing them and what strikes me with this image is the isolation because you know here's Wilkes and Sydney, there's someone almost standing guard looking at the other men. You see the men down in that hollow, they are collecting fresh water. They found that these icebergs provided fresh water which they desperately needed and then the man up on top are planting a flag too, so that if any of the other vessels come this way they'll have evidence that the Vincennes has gone this way and you can see them all sliding down. Now there are some literary critics who have claimed that Herman Melville would base Captain Ahab on Wilkes. Ahab's quest for the white whale, Wilkes's quest for the white continent and one critic has looked to this picture and said Melville looking at this because Melville bought a copy of Wilkes's narrative, saw a whale. See? There's the spout where the flag is and it goes to the tail. It's sort of like a Rorschach test. (audience laughing) Now speaking of Melville. The other argument that's made is that Melville based the appearance of Queequeg, Ishmael's cannibal sidekick, on this image of a Maori chief and I'd like to read you just briefly Ishmael's description of Queequeg. Because look at this guy. He looks like an American president. And this is what Melville said. "It may seem ridiculous, but it reminded me..." This is Ishmael looking at Queequeg. "...of General Washington's head. It had the same long regularly graded retreating slope from the brows which were likewise very projecting by two long promontories thickly wooded on top. Queequeg was George Washington, cannibalistically developed (audience laughing)." And you can almost see Melville and that's the extraordinary thing about Wilkes's book that is now available on the web. Wilkes's narrative is not very readable. It's a real disappointment as a book, but the images, the artwork is extraordinary. And it's clear people like Melville, and wasn't just Melville, Thoreau was fascinated with the U.S. Ex. Ex. Cooper, James Fenimore Cooper, read the narrative. They looked at these images and they brought back, they really would have a profound influence on American literature and culture. Here is a Wilkes's chart of Fiji. As I said earlier, he would survey 280 Pacific Islands. Here you can see the the triangulation that they used in Fiji and Fiji at this time, there were no reliable charts of Fiji and Fiji was very important to Americans for the best Ameritrade and so many American vessels had been lost in Fiji, that it was impossible to get insurance for an American vessel headed there. So this expedition was absolutely imperative to provide finally our Mariners with charts and these are the highly detailed charts that Wilkes would develop just three months, three to four months in the Fijis, would develop these extraordinarily detailed charts. It was in Fiji that they would come across the Magnificent site of the Aegean sailing canoe. This is the canoe of Tanoa who was really the the most powerful chief in Fiji and Tanoa agreed to meet Wilkes at one point and this is the image of him arriving. Wilkes described the speed of one of these outrigger canoes as almost inconceivable. I mean these things went so fast. Look at this illustration. You can see the wake behind them. Tanoa had 40 Tongans who had a reputation as the most skilled Mariners who manned this canoe and you see him sailing past on the right there, is the expedition's temporary scientific station. You can see the the US flag and the tents and this is Tanoa and he was the ruler of Fiji. He had established his reign through incredible violence. This was a very violent culture at this time. Constant wars going on and he had a reputation for really being a tough guy but in terms of the expedition, he agreed to meet Wilkes, was very accommodating and yet tensions were high between the squadron and the native Fijians and unfortunately it would it would reach a boiling point towards the end of their time in Fiji. Here we see the town of Rewa, the southern portion of the big island of Viti Levu. This is another wonderful composition and it was in this town that Wilkes had heard that there was a chief who had killed an American Mariner several years before by the name of Vendovi. Wilkes instructed Hudson in the Peacock to find Vendovi and to capture him. And through a variety of schemes, Hudson would do just that. And this is Vendovi at the time of his capture. The Chiefs had hairstyles that took a lot of maintenance and was not uncommon for a chief to have several hairdressers. If you look in the museum here, in the exhibits, they have things related to exactly this and they would sleep with neck braces so that their hair would not get messed up. It was that much of an important part of their culture and one of the things Wilkes did was soon after the capture of Vendovi, he would shave off his beard and ultimately shave off his hair and it was really a conscious attempt to strip him of his culture and it was very difficult obviously for Vendovi and Wilkes decided rather than to execute him which everyone assumed he would do, to bring Vendovi back, that Vendovi would become in a real sense the paramount specimen of the expedition. Wilkes's plan was to bring Vendovi back to America, show him the power of the white man and then take him back to Fiji where he would preach the gospel. Unfortunately Vendovi, who would sail around the world with this expedition would die the very day they arrived back in New York. And his skull would become part of the exploring expedition's collections. This is a club dance in Fiji. Once again a wonderful composition. Here you can see the officers of the expedition nervously looking on as they watch. The clubs that are part of the of the collections here may have been collected during this dance and what you can see is if you look, they have that the large clubs over their shoulders and then much smaller throwing clubs kept at their waist there and sometimes in their hands that they would throw at their at their victims and at some point after this, towards the end of their time in Fiji, violence would break out between a portion of the squadron and some Islanders in the island of Malolo in the western portion of Fiji and two officers would be killed in hand-to-hand combat on the beach. Their brain bashed out by these clubs. One of them was Wilkes's 19 year old nephew, Wilkes Henry. The eldest son of his widowed sister, Wilkes took this very personally and would respond by basically massacring the village that he felt was responsible and one of the many charges brought against Wilkes in a court-martial proceedings at the end of the voyage would be for the massacre of this village in retaliation for the loss of the two officers. On to Honolulu. Looks a little different today doesn't it? Honolulu was the most American of places in the Pacific because the whaling fleet. This was where American whalers congregated and Honolulu was the center of it all. There was also a strong missionary presence and the two cultures, the whaling culture and the missionary culture did not always get along. It was here that Wilkes would survey the islands of Hawaii and one of the islands they would survey... One of the portions would be at the Pearl River. Wilkes would comment that if you took out the coral at the mouth of this river it would make an extraordinary harbor. It's now Pearl Harbor. This is coral from Hawaii and this drawing was done by James Dana and Dana took over from the expedition's concollegeist, Joseph Kathoey, who ran into trouble with Wilkes and would eventually get cast off from the expedition. Dana would do extraordinary work with coral which what made it most extraordinary was that Dana was a geologist, but his work, he would really be the first to say "these aren't rocks, these are living organisms." And his report would be of immense value and he would write four different reports in a variety of fields and would eventually become a professor at Yale and and the foremost geologists of the age. Here Wilkes decided he needed some time out of a boat so while the Peacock and the Flying Fish, the schooner Flying Fish went surveying islands in the central Pacific, Wilkes led an expedition up to the top of the volcanoes of the Big Island of Hawaii. On their way they stopped at Kilauea and here we see images of that. You can still visit it now, it's very different today from what it was then. The image on the right, you can see what they called the black ledge, almost a ramp of lava that Wilkes used to walk down into the crater of the expedition. Sydney followed him, burned his feet and had to go back. One of the men would collect lava with a frying pan attached to a long pole and Wilkes described it as a cake of lava which is still part of the collections of the Smithsonian Institution. Wilkes' ultimate aim was to get to the top of Mauna Loa, 14,000 feet high, battling altitude sickness, frigid temperatures, relying on 200 native bearers to lug the scientific equipment. Wilkes would create what he called Pendulum Peak atop Mauna Loa, building these walls with clinkers, with pieces of lava to protect them from the winds that just howled across there. Wilkes would conduct the pendulum experiments. They were used to determine the force of gravity that would then be applied to determining the configuration of the earth and the density of the crust. Wilkes would conduct these pendulum experiments at one point in the midst of a hurricane where they were literally hanging on to the lava. It was it was pretty wild up there. This is Wilkes's idea of a time off from time at sea. It was while Hudson, along with William Reynolds, was in the Central Pacific that they would come to the Gilbert Islands. They called it Drummond Island. We now know it as Tabiteauea. But there they encountered some of the fiercest warriors in the Pacific. And in fact, what you see here, this armor, there's some of it here, on display here at the Museum. They would use coconut fibers to create the base armor and then they would have shark toothed utensils, stingray tipped spear and that's a porcupine fish on the guy to the left's head and it was so heavy, they're almost like knights because they had men that we would refer to as a squire accompanying them because the armor was so heavy and these were fierce warriors. Hudson, whose judgment was sometimes lacking, thought that there was nothing to worry about and they would lose one of the men, one of his sailors and he would retaliate by firing on these warriors and their armor did not hold up to guns and and about 20 of them were killed. Reynolds would write in his journal, "despairingly it seems, given what had happened in Fiji, that our path across the Pacific will be drenched in blood." Here we see Dana's Subsidence Map. Dana not only looked at coral, he looked at the islands as a geologist and in Hawaii he had seen, in the Big Island of Hawaii, a very young volcano and he began to see that the effects of erosion on these volcanoes and he began to come up with a way of dating the age of the islands and what he saw and he had been working towards when an island comes up a young volcano and then it works its way down and gradually erosion turns it into the look of a more traditional Pacific island and what Dana began to do is to see a pattern in the islands, a chronology and what he began to work towards and this is what he was mapping. This appeared in his geology narrative, was really a, at first, gesture towards what would become plate tectonics in the 20th century. He really was seeing things on a large scale and in a way that was truly revolutionary. Now they would head to the Pacific Northwest after Hawaii and Hudson who is there in the Central Pacific, it was his job to connect with Wilkes at the Columbia River and he was about three months late getting there and when he arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River he decided to push it and to sail across the bar even though conditions were not optimal. Now the mouth of the Columbia River even today is a frightful piece of water even with breakwaters and dams to domesticate it, the waters at the river mouth are horrendous and the Coast Guard station there is really cutting edge in terms of the vessels that's developed to deal with those conditions and at this time it was a lot worse. There were conditions at which the waves at the the bar of the Columbia River could reach a hundred feet. I mean that's a wave the size of the perfect storm wave. And Hudson, who had got there late, decided to push it and looked like, that's Cape Disappointment on the right which is the northern edge of the river mouth and they thought they were gonna make it but they fetched up on the bar and very quickly the Peacock was being pounded to pieces on the bar. That's the Flying Fish hovering nearby watching the demise. Hudson ordered them to stay put using signal flags and so they watched as the the ship was pulled apart by the breakers. The men took to the light to their boats. They could only get about a third of the crew into each, on each trip, and the third trip, the men... This is what is displayed here, the waves are so bad that one boat was capsized. The men thrown into the water. One of the men broke a hip. They had to go back Cape Disappointment and wait for the water to quiet, all the time thinking that the ship might go down but they were able to get Hudson out and the rest of the men. Unfortunately the ship was a total loss and hundreds if not thousands of specimens and artifacts were lost. These were them men that Hudson should have waited for. This is George and Ramsey, they were Chinook Indians and they were the pilots that knew the waters of this Harbor mouth and if Hudson had waited for these men to come out in a canoe and guide them through they would have probably made it. And they were legendary characters in the Pacific Northwest and they were absolutely essential for any Mariners wanting to make it across the bar at the Columbia River. Hudson and his men would retreat to Astoria, that the English referred to as Fort George. Astoria had been been founded by John Jacob Astor, earlier in the century, to be a trading post and it's the oldest white permanent settlement in the west coast of America. And it's still there, Astoria. It's a very interesting town and Hudson and his men would just take over this place. It was just occupied by one family at this point and they would create what they called the Village of Peacock and here you see the Peacock's ensign proudly waving. There were primeval forests just around there and here we see a couple of the officers measuring a giant tree, they called it a pine tree and this thing was huge. They estimated that the guy holding the tape there, that's 39 1/2 feet circumference and that tree was estimated to be 250 feet high. This is a Chinook dwelling, this is another wonderful composition and Horatio Hale who had done such good work among the Pacific Islands really perhaps his most important work would be in the Pacific Northwest. He would be the first to come up with a vocabulary of what was known as Chinook jargon. The Chinook Indians were the traders in that area, and they dealt with English, Russians, other tribes in the region and they developed a jargon in their trade dealings that was unique and Hale would be the first to come up with a vocabulary of that. And Hale would ask once it was time for the expedition to leave this part of the world, Hale would ask to remain so that he could continue with interviewing natives and employees of the Hudson's Bay Company in identifying the various tribes and their languages and this would be the ethnographical map that he would develop of that region and the timing was very important because this was just before settlers would rush in, begin to rush into here and many of the information was no longer be the found just a decade later. And just to give you a sense of the magnitude of the importance of Hales findings, none other than Franz Boas, who would really be the man to take anthropology to a new level and did a lot of work out there in the Pacific Northwest. When Hale died at the end of the century, Boaz would write "ethnology has lost a man who contributed more to our knowledge of the human race than perhaps any other single student." Now in the Pacific Northwest, Wilkes would chart a hundred miles, the Columbia River. He would chart the Puget Sound, naming Bainbridge Island. Elliott Bay where Seattle is located was named for midshipman Samuel Elliot of the U.S. Exploring Expedition. More 300 place names in Washington state alone were left by the U.S. Exploring Expedition. They would go down to San Francisco Bay and chart that great piece of water. Wilkes would predict that anyone who ever possessed that Harbor and Mexico had it at that point, would control the destiny of the West Coast of the continent. And they would also send an Overland Expedition from the Columbia River about where Portland is today, all the way down to San Francisco Bay and as they made their way down, this was a couple of scientists, they were being chased by hostile native tribes, several grizzly bears and also sketching. Tition Peale was one of the ones working their way and this is Mount Shasta as they were working their way into Northern California towards San Francisco. Now this is for me, the image that encapsulates Wilkes's command. This is the Vincennes at the San Francisco bar. After they had finished up at San Francisco bar and got their charts all put away and it was time for them to head back to America the long way via Singapore and Cape Town, Wilkes was about to depart and the local pilot said, "You know you should really wait a day because given these conditions things can get bad at the bar and I just got a bad feeling with what's gonna happen." Wilkes said, "you don't know what you're talking about" and headed out and the rest of the squadron went a little farther. The winds died, the currents are very strong there so they decided to throw out the anchor for the night, little knowing that they were right over the bar and the tidal conditions created, even though there wasn't much wind at all, created this huge swell here, 40 foot waves that bashed the Vincennes and a marine who happened to made the mistake of trying to go on deck in the middle of this would get hit by a spar and killed. They would bury him the next day and all the other vessels had a quiet night because they were just about a quarter mile beyond this and they were astonished to hear that the Vincennes had had this wild night and Wilkes would become known as the stormy petrel, a bird that appears when a storm is brewing. And Wilkes had this way about him. He invited conflict, he seemed to thrive in it and he had a suspicion that this would happen but he did not know that the magnitude of it. He was headed back for storm, going back to America. He had been dismissing officers right and left and he was really laying the groundwork for his own undoing. Because all these officers returned to Washington telling the same story of a commander run amok. And by the time they returned to Washington it was a new administration. You know what that can do and instead of Democrats they were Whigs and President Tyler had no interest in lionizing the achievements of an expedition from a previous administration and his Secretary of the Navy really wanted to make an example of Wilkes as an officer who tyrannized those below him and so even though it really wasn't warranted, Wilkes would be court-martialed. Even though he had done some outrageous things, impersonating a superior officer, all these kinds of things, he would get away with just only a reprimand for over whipping his men. But the damage to the legacy of this expedition had been done. It was very difficult for the American people to take pride in the remarkable accomplishments of the exploring expedition. Because in the series of court-martials, because not only Wilkes, but several of his officers who he had brought charges against, it would be all the bad things of the expedition that were put on display for all to see and so unlike Lewis and Clark which has really become a mythic example of what Democratic leadership can achieve, the U.S. Exploring Expedition was the opposite of that. A tyrant run wild. And even though the achievements that they came back with far outweigh anything that had happened before, it would slowly slip off the radar screen of American history and yet what I think is the true legacy of this expedition, Wilkes would have a very important part because Wilkes's fanatical personality made him what we would call today a bad boss but it was the perfect thing for harassing congressmen and without Wilkes's fanatical personality there would not have been the funding from Congress to publish these extraordinary reports from the scientific community that went out on this expedition as well as Wilkes's narrative. And I just want to sort of show you a group, just a smattering of some of the illustrations and this is just a smattering. These are parrots. Wolves that they saw in the Pacific Northwest. Here are war clubs that are part of the collection from Fiji. Tappa brought back from the Pacific Islands. All of these things were brought back and the scientific reports were published largely because Wilkes harassed Congress for decades after the exploring expedition. He was, and without Wilkes's energy applied in that direction, much of the really important work of the expedition might never have... And here we go, here is lizards. They're beautiful and when you get on the website I challenge you to spend less than an hour just weaving your way through these images. They are really extraordinary. Now as I said Wilkes, this is Rear Admiral Wilkes. He had lived and worked on Capitol Hill in the shadow of Congress. His wife Jane would die tragically, early age in 48. He would remarry and move to Lafayette Square, live in the Dolly Madison house. If you go there, there's a plaque that says that Wilkes lived there and this was while he was working on his own scientific reports and organized and overseeing the publication of the others and then the Civil War would erupt. By this point the collection was part of the Smithsonian Institution and Wilkes had always been very bitter that he was not recognized as the the hero he felt he should be recognized as, and he looked to the Civil War as a chance to redeem everything. And in the early days of the war, he would he was in charge of a vessel and he would stop a British vessel called the Trent that had two Confederate diplomats aboard and even though it was completely illegal, he would abduct them and he would return to Boston crowned as a hero. This was shortly after Bull Run. The North needed some good news and Wilkes, impetuous Wilkes, had dared to do something and unfortunately this almost brought Britain into the war on the side of the south. Lincoln had to return the Confederate diplomats and Wilkes would return out to sea. He would quickly once again get into trouble with the new Secretary of the Navy. He would be court-martialed once again and this time the charges would stick and that was pretty much the end of his legacy and of his naval career. And you know what's ironic is his obituary. He would be remembered as the hero of the Trent affair and no mention made of the U.S. Ex. Ex., the expedition that had been so important to him and to the history of the nation. I just want to leave you with where we began, with this, you know as we contemplate the exploration of our solar system, of the universe, we're dazzled by the potential of our technology. Here we are in 1838, you're looking here at what was truly high-tech. This was the exploring expedition of its age and I think we do look to the Lewis and Clark, and we look to the West as the wilderness, the frontier that defined us as a nation. Well I say that the U.S. Ex. Ex. speaks to a different kind of frontier that was just as essential to America: the sea. And instead of cowboys and Indians, instead of the conquest of our own interior, this was a wilderness that spoke to a time when exploration was truly global. Instead of conquest it was Star Trek. It was venturing to new worlds in pursuit of knowledge. And it's a legacy that I think is important to not only United States but to the world and it's just delightful to be here at the Smithsonian that has kept this legacy alive. Thank you very much. (audience applauding) - Well I told you you wouldn't regret coming out on a cold night and I think you'll agree with me. I'm afraid that we won't be able to take questions because if we do we won't get to our reception which is upstairs in the rotunda where Nat will be available for signing. I invite you all to join us upstairs and I also hope if you haven't gotten your Wilkes button, I see most of you have, please pick one up and help us help the world understand the importance of the U.S. Ex. Ex. Let's give Nat another round of applause. (audience applauding)

Contents

Participants and resources

The group, led by the legendary hunter-tracker R. J. Cunninghame, included scientists from the Smithsonian and was joined from time to time by Frederick Selous, the famous big game hunter and explorer. Among other items, Roosevelt brought with him four tons of salt for preserving animal hides, a lucky rabbit's foot given to him by boxer John L. Sullivan, a Holland & Holland double rifle in .500/450 donated by a group of 56 admiring Britons, a Winchester 1895 rifle in .405 Winchester, an Army (M1903) Springfield in .30-06 caliber stocked and sighted for him, Maxim silencers for the Winchester and Springfield rifles[3], a Fox No. 12 shotgun, and the famous Pigskin Library, a collection of classics bound in pig leather and transported in a single reinforced trunk. Participants on the Expedition included Roosevelt's son, Kermit, Edgar Alexander Mearns, Edmund Heller, and John Alden Loring.

Timeline and route

Map of the route taken by the party.  From the Edmund Heller Papers, Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Map of the route taken by the party. From the Edmund Heller Papers, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

The party set sail from New York City on the steamer Hamburg on March 23, 1909, shortly after the end of Roosevelt's presidency on March 4.[2] The party landed in Mombasa, British East Africa (now Kenya), traveled to the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) before following the Nile to Khartoum in modern Sudan. Financed by Andrew Carnegie and by his own proposed writings, Roosevelt's party hunted for specimens for the Smithsonian Institution and for the American Museum of Natural History in New York.[4]

Results

Roosevelt and his companions killed or trapped approximately 11,397[4] animals. According to Theodore Roosevelt’s own tally, the figure included about four thousand birds, two thousand reptiles and amphibians, five hundred fish, and 4,897 mammals (other sources put this figure at 5,103). Add to this marine, land and freshwater shells, crabs, beetles and other invertebrates, not to mention several thousand plants, and the number of natural history specimens totals 23,151.[4] A separate collection was made of ethnographic objects. The material took eight years to catalogue. The larger animals shot by Theodore and Kermit Roosevelt are listed on pages 457 to 459 of his book African Game Trails. The total is 512, of which 43 are birds. The number of big game animals killed, was 17 lion, 3 leopard, 7 cheetah, 9 hyena, 11 elephant, 10 buffalo, 11 (now very rare) black rhino and 9 White rhino. Most of the 469 larger non big game mammals included 37 species and subspecies of antelopes. The expedition consumed 262 of the animals which were required to provide fresh meat for the large number of porters employed to service the expedition. Tons of salted animals and their skins were shipped to Washington, D.C.; the quantity took years to mount, and the Smithsonian shared many duplicate animals with other museums. Regarding the large number of animals taken, Roosevelt said, "I can be condemned only if the existence of the National Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and all similar zoological institutions are to be condemned."[5] In assessing whether the toll of animals was excessive in that the animals taken spanned a period of ten months, and were procured over an area that ranged from Mombasa through Kenya, to Uganda and the Southern Sudan, a distance travelled, with side trips, of several thousand kilometres. The diversity of larger mammal species collected was such that few individuals of any species were shot in any given area, and the large mammals collected had a negligible impact on the great herds of game that roamed East Africa at that time. Apologists for the Roosevelts have pointed out that the number of each big game species shot was very modest by the standards of the time: many white hunters of that period, for example, such as Karamoja Bell, had killed over 1,000 elephants each, while the Roosevelts between them killed just eleven. In making this comparison it has to be remembered that the white hunters weren’t collecting specimens for museums, but were employed by landowners to clear animals from land they wanted to use for plantations.

Although the safari was conducted in the name of science, it was as much a political and social event as it was a hunting excursion; Roosevelt interacted with renowned professional hunters and land-owning families, and met many native peoples and local leaders. Roosevelt became a Life Member of the National Rifle Association, while President, in 1907 after paying a $25 fee.[6] He later wrote a detailed account in the book African Game Trails, where he describes the excitement of the chase, the people he met, and the flora and fauna he collected in the name of science.[7]

While Theodore Roosevelt greatly enjoyed hunting, he was also an avid conservationist. In African Game Trails he condemns "game butchery as objectionable as any form of wanton cruelty and barbarity" (although he does note that "to protest against all hunting of game is a sign of softness of head, not of soundness of heart") and as a pioneer of wilderness conservation in the USA he fully supported the British Government's attempts at that time to set aside wilderness areas as game reserves, some of the first on the African continent. He notes (page 17) that "in the creation of the great game reserve through which the Uganda railway runs the British Government has conferred a boon upon mankind", a conservation attitude which Roosevelt helped sow that finally grew and blossomed in the form of the great game parks of East Africa today.

See also

Further reading

  • TheodoreRoosevelt.com's account of the trip and review of African Game Trails with photos
  • John Alden Loring (1914). African adventure stories. C. Scribner's sons. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  • On Safari With Theodore Roosevelt, 1909 from Eye Witness to History.com

References

  1. ^ "President Roosevelt's African Trip". Science. 28 (729): 876–877. December 18, 1908. doi:10.1126/science.28.729.876. JSTOR 1635075. PMID 17743798.
  2. ^ a b "Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition". National Museum of Natural History: Celebrating 100 Years. Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  3. ^ "President Teddy Roosevelt Liked His Rifles Suppressed". The Truth About Guns.
  4. ^ a b c "Roosevelt African Expedition Collects for SI". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  5. ^ O'Toole, Patricia (2005) When Trumpets Call, p. 67, Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-684-86477-0
  6. ^ Raymond, Emilie (2006). From my cold, dead hands: Charlton Heston and American politics. University Press of Kentucky. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-8131-2408-7.
  7. ^ Theodore Roosevelt (1910). African Game Trails: An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-naturalist. Illustrated. Charles Scribner's Sons. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
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