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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

The Alfred Agate Collection: The United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842

1840

Vincennes departed the next day for the island of Hawaii and an expedition to the top of Mauna Loa. Along the way to the summit, they encountered one of Mauna Loa's lower volcanic craters, Kilauea. Purser R. R. Waldron and Joseph Drayton ventured inside the crater and walked on the dome's hot surface until lava oozed through cracks that formed within fifteen feet of them. Wilkes' dog Sydney accompanied them down and scorched his paws on the surface. The train then continued on for the summit. The party swelled to over three hundred with more than two hundred hired porters and the family members who insisted on accompanying them, and food and water supplies soon ran critically low. The guides they brought were not as familiar with the territory as they purported and did not know where water supplies lay. Soon a supply party Wilkes sent back returned with two other guides who knew the area well, one of whom was Keaweehu. He told Wilkes that the path his original guides had chosen was not near regular water supplies and that the nearest regular source was ten miles distant. Wilkes had hoped to encounter snow at a higher elevation to solve the problem, but Keaweehu told him that sufficient snow on the mountain was not to be depended upon. Because of the shortage, and because many of the porters were lightly dressed and the temperature was falling as they ascended, and some were beginning to suffer from altitude sickness, Wilkes established a base camp at about 9000 feet and took forward only enough men and provisions to reach the summit. As he neared it, they were caught in high winds and snow, though the snow never supplied ample water. Wilkes spent three weeks, including Christmas, at the summit surveying its volcanic crater, Moku-a-Weo-Weo, and making geologic and meteorologic observations. Finally, on 13 January 1841 they broke camp at the summit and returned to the sea, stopping to study the Kilauea crater and others as they descended.

Pandanus Tree
Alfred T. Agate
Ink, ink wash, and pencil
98-89-GS

 

 

 

 

Keaweehu Wrapped in His Tapa
Original image attributed to Charles W. Wilkes
Pencil
98-89-BO

 

 

 

 

Keaweehu Wrapped in His Tapa
Original image attributed to Charles W. Wilkes
Pencil
98-89-BP

 

 

 

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27 March 2004