THE FORGOTTEN VOYAGE OF CHARGES WILKES by William Bixby

THE FORGOTTEN VOYAGE OF CHARGES WILKES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Charles Wilkes was appointed leader of an extremely broadly envisioned exploratory expedition which was intended to compete with the scientific and geographical discoveries that had been made by Europeans during the early nineteenth century. The voyage commenced in 1838 and was completed in 1842. During that time Antarctica was recognized as a continent for the first time, islands all over the world had been surveyed and mapped, ocean soundings had been made, new biological information had been acquired, and the Oregon Territory had been surveyed and mapped. This book offers a thorough reconstruction of the trip and of the work and discoveries accomplished. It also defines the reasons why the trip was never acclaimed. The newly elected President Tyler and his administration were eager to discredit the Van Buren administration, and the English and French explorers were looking to undermine their competition. Inexperience in taking sightings in polar regions led to some mistakes in mapping which were seized upon as evidence of falsification. Apparently, however, the major factor was Wilkes' own irascible temperament which prevented him from overcoming the politics of his situation, which caused him two court martials, and frequent controversies with his subordinates. By resurrecting the voyage, more as a log rather than on the basis of personality, the author has managed to provide some very interesting material, but Wilkes himself is still very forgettable.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1966
Publisher: McKay