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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

1839

Relief may have been a slow ship, but according to Titian Ramsay Peale, it was the only ship that afforded a comfortable cabin for scientific study, located on its poop deck. Also, since it spent a good deal of time separated from the rest of the flotilla, the ship's officers and crew were less subject to Wilkes' short temper, which was beginning to show. A proud man from a middle class background, Wilkes had advanced himself through a relentless campaign of self-improvement. He demanded much of himself and those around him. He freely expressed his displeasure in severest terms and did not hesitate to use strong discipline.

Two Sailors Working on Deck
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-GZ

 

 

 

 

Sailor with Bare Feet
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-GT

 

 

 

Seated Sailor
Alfred T. Agate
Ink, ink wash, and pencil
98-89-HA

 


After a three-month voyage, the ships arrived at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Peacock arrived first on November 20th and Relief arrived last on the 26th. Immediately Wilkes incurred difficulty with Commodore John B. Nicholson, commander of the United States' Brazil Squadron, which was in port when Vincennes arrived on the 23rd. Because of the delicacy of the chronometers on board, Wilkes did not fire the canon salutes customarily given to the flag of a superior officer, though he sent a lieutenant to Nicholson's ship to explain that their sailing instructions included an order not to fire salutes. Nonetheless, the Commodore regarded it as a breach of etiquette.

Peacock and Sea Gull
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-AH

 


Mindful of its shortcomings, Wilkes sent Relief onward to Orange Harbor, Tierra del Fuego after only three weeks in port. The rest of the flotilla waited at Rio de Janeiro for two more weeks while Peacock underwent extensive repairs. It had left Hampton Roads in less than ideal condition and now was in dire need of work to be able to survive the rest of the voyage.

While at Rio some of the scientifics took rooms ashore and pursued their studies. Horatio Hale, the ethnographer, was particularly interested in the physical characteristics of the African tribes represented among the slave population and Alfred Agate assisted his work. Wilkes established an observatory near the harbor's mouth for observations of weather and planetary magnetism, a practice that he would continue in ports for the rest of the voyage.

Mundjola Tribe
Alfred T. Agate
Engraving
98-89-DG

 

 

 

 

Nyambana Tribe
Alfred T. Agate
Engraving
98-89-DH

 

 

 

 

Caffre Proper Tribe
Alfred T. Agate
Engraving
98-89-DI

 

 

 

 

Kasanji Tribe
Alfred T. Agate
Engraving
98-89-DJ

 

 

 

 

Kasanji Tribe
Alfred T. Agate
Engraving
98-89-DK

 

 

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27 March 2004