THE LINDA HALL LIBRARY HISTORY OF SCIENCE COLLECTION
United States Exploring Expedition 1838-1842
From Samoa, the expedition sailed to Australia and then south
to seek land at the pole. Wilkes was the first to chart and
map a significant portion of the coastline of the continent
of Antarctica, the achievement for which the expedition is perhaps
He wrote: "…who
was there prior to 1840… that had the least idea that
any large body of land existed to the south of New Holland?
…none was known or even suspected to exist."
Apparently he had not read the
voyage account of the great Captain Cook, who specifically wrote
that he believed there was a continent near the pole, and indeed
that he had sighted a part of it..
Procellaria Nivea (Antarctic) Snowy
John Cassin's United States Exploring Expedition. During the Years 1838-1842.
Under the Command of Charles Wilkes… Mammalogy and Ornithology.
Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1858..
While Cook was correct in his
prediction that fauna would be scarce there, the naturalist
Cassin had more optimistic hopes:
"Of the Zoology
of the Antarctic continent very little is known; but, there
is no reason why it should not be inhabited by a peculiar Fauna,
analogous to, but probably very different from that of its antipodes
of the North… Of this especially Polar Fauna, the bird
now before us [shown in the plate] possesses the high interest
of being, as yet, the only known species of the Antarctic regions."
Certainly there were more birds
than land animals.