The dramatic story of the largest voyage of discovery in the history of the world - and the last such all-sail convoy.
Headed by the controversial Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, and consisting of six sailing vessels and 346 men, the "Ex. Ex." (the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-42) represented the largest voyage of discovery in the history of the world.
Four years after setting out, and losing two ships and 71 men, the expedition had logged 87,000 miles, surveyed 280 Pacific islands, and created 180 charts - some of which were still being used as late as World War Two.
The expedition's scientists collected 4,000 zoological specimens, including 2,000 new species, and thousands of ethnographic artefacts, which would become the basis of the Smithsonian Institution. The expedition also mapped 800 miles of coastline in the Pacific Northwest, providing the US Government with the information it needed to stake its claim on the Oregon Territory.
The expedition's crowning achievement was the discovery of a new southern continent that Wilkes would name Antarctica. The expedition ended in a dramatic series of courts martial, with Wilkes and his crew levelling accusations of misconduct against each other.