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August 03, 2010

Dempression reading list - Sea of Glory

When you're mired in the midst of economic depression, you'll be wanting books that deliver genuine value for the scarce coin you can afford to spend on them, right? Books that significantly expand your knowledge far beyond the pathetic propaganda the schools fed you as a child.

Amidst all the typical loser landfill candidates, Dollar Tree served up a real gem recently if you can still find it for a buck on the shelves - Sea of Glory by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Its the story of the 1838-1842 American Exploring Expedition, which set out to chart hundreds of south pacific islands, the Columbia river, San Francisco bay, and search for the rumored existence of land at the bottom of the world.

You probably never heard of the Ex Ex in grade school unless you're an amateur naval historian or history major - I know I never did, and I went to a supposedly pretty good high school. In fact, American history post Revolution/War of 1812 through pre-Civil War was generally kinda light - i.e. non-existent and probably still is.

Did you know that when we invaded Tarawa during WWII, the only available nautical charts of the area were those produced by the Ex Ex 100 years prior?

Remember the Vincennes incident in the Gulf, Iranian airliner shot down blah, blah? Did you know there was an earlier Vincennes? It was the flagship of the Ex Ex squadron.

The Ex Ex found Antarctica, charted over 1,000 miles of coastline, the specimens and collecting prompted the creation of what later became the Smithsonian and outclassed anything Cook or any of the other European explorers ever did. Did you know the Smithsonian is named not after an American, rather an Englishman named Smithson who donated about a half million bucks (in mid-1800's dollars) for its creation.

Its a truly amazing story of madness, cruelty, cannibalism, petty revenge, reckless daring, cowardice, heroism, incredible sacrifice, and spectacular accomplishment in spite of shifting ill political winds in Washington, a cast of officers and scientists who came to hate the expedition leader, and a leader who often treated his officers and seamen like crap.

If you can pick this gem up for a buck at Dollar Tree, do it. You won't be disappointed.

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posted by Purp at 01:19 AM

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