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Publisher's Summary

"A treasure of a book." (David McCullough)

The harrowing story of a pathbreaking naval expedition that set out to map the entire Pacific Ocean, dwarfing Lewis and Clark with its discoveries, from The New York Times best-selling author of Valiant Ambition and In the Hurricane's Eye.

A New York Times Notable Book

America's first frontier was not the West; it was the sea, and no one writes more eloquently about that watery wilderness than Nathaniel Philbrick. In his best-selling In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick probed the nightmarish dangers of the vast Pacific. Now, in an epic sea adventure, he writes about one of the most ambitious voyages of discovery the Western world has ever seen - the US Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. On a scale that dwarfed the journey of Lewis and Clark, six magnificent sailing vessels and a crew of hundreds set out to map the entire Pacific Ocean and ended up naming the newly discovered continent of Antarctica, collecting what would become the basis of the Smithsonian Institution. 

Combining spellbinding human drama and meticulous research, Philbrick reconstructs the dark saga of the voyage to reveal why, instead of being celebrated and revered as that of Lewis and Clark, it has - until now - been relegated to a footnote in the national memory.

Winner of the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize

©2003 Nathaniel Philbrick (P)2003 Penguin Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"A breathtaking account of one of history's greatest adventures." (Entertainment Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    65
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    3

Performance

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    93
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    36
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    2
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Story

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A good solid voyage of discovery

If you like historical non-fiction about interesting expeditions, this should be a good listen (I read the paper version). Lt. Wilkes is a classic flawed leader, aloof, somewhat cruel, but his determination drove his crew on a great voyage though he struggled for notoriety. The amazing collection of artifacts that Wilkes brought home formed the foundation of the Smithsonian collection. I really like the detail of maritime life circa 1840, and Philbrick delivers. His writing makes even provisioning ships interesting. His previous book "Heart of the Sea" was a bit more gripping (albeit more harsh), but "Sea of Glory" is a very good book by a great historical writer.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Something’s Just not Speaking to me…

The Good – I am amazed that I never had heard of the ExEx before this book. Very disappointed in our public education system for that. From a purely historic point of view I liked the book. I liked learning about the expedition because I needed to learn about something so monumental. I made a few book marks for reference that I can return to later, but overall the book just didn’t give me what I had expected.

The Not So Good – To be fair I’m going to have to give this book a second listen, but on first pass it just lacks something. The book told a lot of the human stories, but didn’t tell much of the science stories at least not in much detail. The author went through great pains to explain in telling detail why a certain officer did a certain thing, but he didn’t go into much story telling about the science discoveries. This really didn’t strike me until the end of the book where he listed the hundreds of samples the expedition brought back with them. It left me saying; “why didn’t you tell more about those samples and how and where they came from?" I'm not sure if I should follow that question with an "ugh!" or a "duh!"?

The Narration - Scott Brick is one of my favorite narrators, but for some reason I don’t think he was the right fit for this particular book’s writing style. Not that it was bad by any measure, but I think someone with a deeper voice and slower cadence could have made the book more interesting? Perhaps a Brit don't you know? Although I’m sure someone would take umbrage to that given the national pride of the subject matter.

The Overall – Sea of Glory is okay and was fairly good overall. I definitely learned something, which I always appreciate. I will listen to it again to see if I missed something that would push my rating a bit higher, but I'm not sure that will happen. In closing, I’m not disappointed by the book, but I’m not overjoyed by it either.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it.

What did you love best about Sea of Glory?

Where to start? This is a detailed story of an American exploratory expedition, begun in 1838, that few people seem to know of or care about. I found it fascinating. Personalities, politics, and the course of history have managed to obscure the story of Wilkes, leader of the expedition, and the accomplishments of his lengthy voyage and explorations. This story is also a historical soap opera that will enthrall anyone who loves tales of explorers, the risks they took, the discoveries they made, and the interpersonal clashes and comradeship formed along the way.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Certainly not Wilkes himself. He is the epitome of the type of person whom I detest: an obsessive, insecure, self-serving bully who abused his crews and who took credit for their discoveries. He makes the British Captain Bligh appear warm and cuddly by comparison. My favorite character was a junior officer, William Reynolds, who was everything admirable that Wilkes was not, and who subsequently bore the brunt of Wilkes's jealousy and abusive treatment.

Which scene was your favorite?

There are far too many memorable scenes in this book to allow me to choose just one. I suspect Sea of Glory will be an earlier than usual re-listen for me.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Same as above--too many for me to choose one. Perhaps my favorite moments were any in which Reynolds received promotion, recognition or approval. Conversely, I was thrilled at any reference to Wilkes being discomfited by censure or inadequate recognition.

Any additional comments?

Great book. Perfect narration by Scott Brick.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Politics, tyranny, science and leadership at best!

What did you love best about Sea of Glory?

The reading (or listening) of historic events always amazes me, and Nathaniel Philbrick was again superb in his research (also seen on his "In the Heart of the Sea") and the story of almost 4 years of a little known fantastic expedition. On top of that, Scott Brick is able to put you on the scene. One said that when you come to hate (or admire) a character so much, the author has done a great job. That is the case with Charles Wilkes and why not to say, politicians of that area, who would undermine specialists and facts on behalf of their own interest (much like today...). The findings, maps and drawings produced by the Ex Ex must be amazing so I will stop by at the Smithsonian this Summer to see as much as it is available, in person.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Probably William Reynolds, for his well kept, unknown journal that has documented much of what really happened in that voyage, contrary to what was documented in the "well controlled by Wilkes" journals of other officers. A short note for Sydney...... a cool dog!!!!

Which character – as performed by Scott Brick – was your favorite?

No one specifically but I have to say that you don't get tired of listening Scott Brick. He is VERY good for such adventures.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, if I could. It is truly a captivating true story that raises the bar as far as what to read next....

Any additional comments?

Interesting to know the story of how the Poinsettia flower ended up in the United States and it got its name (don't Google, read the book...).

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Samuel
  • PEORIA, AZ, United States
  • 09-13-12

almost as good the second time

What made the experience of listening to Sea of Glory the most enjoyable?

very good narration gave meaning to the words

Would you recommend Sea of Glory to your friends? Why or why not?

yes as Nathaniel Philbrick is one of my favorite history authors writing style is superb. This topic is probably his least known and that simply shouldn't be given the enormous contributions of the US Ex Ex.

Which scene was your favorite?

Exploration of Antarctica

Any additional comments?

I had read the printed version of the book when it was new so this was a really good comparison for me. the audiobook was tougher to follow but that's usually true as compared to having the pages in your hand.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Very interesting book!

I really enjoyed this title. Some may find the level of detail of the voyage and what occurred daunting, but to me it was just right.

It's hard to say just how the author does it (good writing perhaps..), but somehow you feel swept away as if you were part of the expedition. Some of the passages were so captivating that I feel like I have actual memories of the events as if I were there at the time.

If you want to know about this fascinating chapter of history that remains surprisingly obscure, you will enjoy this audio book.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good History

This is a good account of a very obscure bit of American history. Well read and interesting.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

An interesting story about an unknown success

I picked this book out of the four we could choose from to read/review in my graduate class. I'm glad I did. At times, the story gets bogged down in details (I've learned more about old wooden sailing ships than I really ever wanted to know), but overall, it's a fascinating look at this voyage and its leader. In my group discussing the book, we all agreed that Wilkes was a pretty terrible leader. But did that matter? He got the job done--they discovered Antarctica, they went to new lands, they mapped new lands, they brought home knowledge. The expedition was a success. On the other hand, hardly anyone knows about it today. So was it really a success? I would recommend looking up the 2 videos on this expedition that are on C-Span if you want to know more about the expedition and see some of the artifacts and objects associated with it.

If you like history, anthropology, or learning about the way Americans viewed past cultures, you'll like this. It's detailed, but Philbrick writes in an interesting style. The narrator is excellent. I'm glad I "had" to read this one.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book. I enjoyed the pasionate narrative.

Excellent book. I enjoyed the pasionate narrative by Nathaniel Philbrick. from begining to end this book submerges the reader in the interesting feelings of voyage around the world.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Author and Great Narrator.

As with In The Heart Of The Sea, You can tell that Nathaniel Philbrick put a lot of research into this story. It contains a lot of facts but it's also a very interesting story. Scott Brick did an excellent job of reading it I recommend this look to anyone who is interested in Exploration, the sea and the personalities of men.