The naval-scientific career of Charles Wilkes is an impressive record of achievement in spite of the subject's knack for disagreeing with his critics and creating tension among those with whom he worked. In spite of family pressure he could not be kept from the sea and at 17 was in the merchant marine which was to give him a bellyful of blue water but he went right on to the Navy as a midshipman. Service in the Mediterranean taught him to maintain discipline, set him on the path of nautical science, brought him bitter rivalry among his fellow officers, and in 1838 he was given command of a squadron for governmental survey. This first national voyage of discovery and scientific exploration made its way to the southern polar antarctic continent, toured the South Seas and its islands, went on to the Pacific Northwest and the Oregon territory, and Wilkes returned to Washington to a voluntary court martial. He was again in the public eye during the Civil War when the Trent affair created trouble with Great Britain; he wrote his monumental volumes on his official work; he suffered public neglect before his death. A contradictory character whose contributions to oceanic science and expansion receive full recognition here.