United States Exploring Expedition

In 1838, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes led the first US expedition to Antarctica. The flora, fauna, maps and other findings from the "Exploring Expedition" (or "Ex Ex," as it was known in the family) made up the first exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute – the building designed by his nephew, James Renwick, Jr.  

United States Exploring Expedition
(Oil painting of ship U.S.S. Vincennes attributed to Captain Charles Wilkes.)

Charles Wilkes' most exalted finding, however, was the proof that Antarctica is a separate continent. Many travelers had reached this part of the globe, but the captain of the U.S. Exploring Expedition obtained “proof.” From that time on, maps of the Earth were redrawn to include the seventh continent. A large portion of the east of Antarctica was named ‘Wilkes Land.’

Mary Anne Junqueira. “The Objectives of the U.S. Exploring Expedition's Circumnavigation (1838-1842): Longitude, Nautical Charting and the Establishment of Modern Geographic Coordinates.” História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos, vol.19 no.1 (January-March 2012) 

Parts of this Exhibit: The Intertwined Ancestries of John and Jane Wilkes      
  Jack and Jeanie's Early Years  
  Courtship, Wedding, and Relocation to Charlotte  
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