August 18, 2010

The Wilkes Expedition Sets Off – 1838

Nineteenth-century science and the U.S. science establishment got a huge boost from this expedition, which used U.S. Naval ships to explore the world, primarily the Pacific Ocean, including Hawaii, Fiji, and the coastlines of Oregon and Antarctica. More than 60,000 plant and bird specimens were collected, and many of these formed the bulk of the original collections of the Smithsonian Institution.

Formally called “the United States Exploring Expedition,” the venture was nicknamed the “Ex. Ex.” After years of planning, the Ex. Ex. finally weighed anchor on this day in 1838.

There were six ships, but in the four years of the expedition, one sank. In addition to ship pilots and crew, the expedition included naturalists, botanists, engraver/illustrators, a mineralogist, a conchologist, taxidermists, an interpreter, and a philogist. Match the job titles in this list with the descriptions below:

  1. naturalist

  2. botanist

  3. engraver / illustrator

  4. mineralogist

  5. conchologist

  6. taxidermist

  7. interpreter

  8. philogist

A. one who stuffs dead animals for exhibition

B. one who studies plants

C. one who studies rocks and minerals

D. one who creates pictures through printmaking techniques

E. one who studies mollusks and their shells

F. one who translates from one language to another

G. one who studies plants and animals

H. one who studies languages and linguistics

ANSWERS: 1.G – 2.B – 3.D – 4.C – 5.E – 6.A – 7.F – 8.H

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