The U.S. Exploring Expedition included a formidable group of botanists, naturalists, artists, taxidermists, and other scientists.
Credit: Popular Science Monthly

The "Scientifics"

The expedition included a formidable group of botanists, naturalists, artists, taxidermists, and other scientists to collect and catalog plant, animal, and cultural artifacts throughout the newly charted territories.

Referred to as the “Scientifics,” they included naturalist Titian Ramsay Peale and geologist James Dwight Dana. The scientific corps published 19 volumes on their findings. Wilkes himself contributed two volumes on meteorology and hydrology.

Collecting The World

The Wilkes Expedition returned with nearly 40 tons of specimens and artifacts, some of which are displayed in the Time and Navigation exhibition. In 1858, they were transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, where they became the foundation of the national collections.

The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species.

Map
Map of Geographical Distribution of Plants and Animals for the U.S. Exploring Expedition. In four years, the expedition effectively remapped the known world. Wilkes and his crew made the most of the accuracy of their navigational instruments. Their observations resulted in some of the most accurate charts and maps of the time. The United States used these invaluable charts and maps as late as the Pacific campaign during World War II.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
The “Scientifics” often sketched the wildlife specimens they came across during their travels. After careful study, many specimens then became dinner! The Wilkes Expedition discovered thousands of new plant and animal species. These images come from the volumes of the expedition’s findings.
Malay Dagger and Sheath, Indonesia
Ornament, Maori (New Zealand). Striking green ornaments, called Heitiki, were created from a kind of jade. The Maori people of New Zealand prized their Heitiki and often passed them down from generation to generation.
Mask, Oregon Territory
Pipe, Oregon Territory
Shell trumpet, Samoa
Sword Made from Shark Teeth, collected by the U.S. Exploring Expedition, Gilbert Islands
War club, collected by the U.S. Exploring Expedition in Fiji. Wooden clubs like this were collected en masse, usually when the Fijians were hurling them at the crew! During the expedition’s extensive survey of Fiji, Wilke’s own nephew and another crewman were killed during fights with Fijians. In addition to its islanders’ hostility, Fiji’s jagged coral reefs made it a treacherous place to navigate.