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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

That Snowbound Feeling: The USS Vincennes in the South Atlantic Ocean

This has been a winter to remember in the Washington, D.C. region. Early February brought at least a couple of feet of snow to the area, and it seems that everyone here at the Smithsonian has been looking through their collections for snowy scenes. Something with icebergs, frolicking penguins, and a tall-masted ship, for instance.

This lovely image shows the war sloop USS Vincennes in Disappointment Bay, near the coast of Antarctica in the South Atlantic Ocean, in early 1840. The Vincennes was the flagship of The United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842), commanded by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, whose sketch of the ship was used for this engraving.
The voyage (sometimes referred to as "the Wilkes Expedition") was commissioned by the United States Congress to conduct a geographic and scientific survey of the southern oceans. The Smithsonian was later given many of the scientific specimens, ethnological artifacts, drawings, correspondence, and other materials collected by The United States Exploring Expedition. The published reports of the Expedition can be found in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. The Smithsonian Institution Archives has a number of the manuscripts and sketches created by members of the Expedition, and the National Museum of Natural History has cultural and scientific specimens collected on the voyage.

The illustration is from Wilkes' Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842 (Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1845), Q115.W68 1845c SCNHRB, from the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History.

Diane Shaw, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

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