In 1838, the United States launched a world-wide exploratory mission called, cleverly enough, the United States South Seas Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. Catchy, right? So most people just referred to it as the "Ex. Ex." Much easier for everyone. It was commanded by naval officer, Lieutenant Commander Charles Wilkes who had very little educational experience but was an established leader, though a tyrant.
|Wilkes on his return made commander|
He carried a scientific team as well as surveyors - he was more focused on the surveying aspect which frustrated the scientific team no end. There was little to explore that would offer a new opportunity - that hadn't already been pretty well documented by English navigator, James Cook. After time in New Zealand and Australia, Wilkes turned his eye south, and headed for the frozen wasteland of Antarctica.
The Wilkes expedition, the Ex.Ex. brought back a huge collection of "stuff" which became the genesis of not only the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, but also the National Botanic Gardens there. There are still remaining a host of artifacts that have never been displayed. The artists he brought along created amazing drawings and paintings of scenes, flora and fauna, and indigent people.
|scene from the Andes in Peru|