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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

Peacock and Flying Fish encountered squalls on their first day out and constantly throughout their voyage south. On the second day, the ships became separated. The expedition sustained its first fatality on 11 March when a sailor who fell from the maintopsail yard of Peacock into the sea two days earlier succumbed to his injuries. On the same day the Peacock sighted its first iceberg. By the 19th the ship was surrounded by them. On 25 March Flying Fish reappeared, and its commander, Lt. William Walker reported that they had been encircled by icebergs twice and finally stopped by them at 70° 14' latitiude, 105° W longitude, just short of Captain Cook's record. The commanders of the two ships consulted and reluctantly decided to head northward. Hudson took the battered Peacock to their next rendezvous point at Valpariso, Chile and sent word of his intentions with Walker to Orange Harbor.

View of Peacock In Ice Flows
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-GC

 

 

 

View of Peacock In Ice Flows
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-GD

 

 

 

Flying Fish in a Gale
Alfred T. Agate
Watercolor
98-89-CV (front)


Relief on its foray into the Straits of Magellan encountered harsh weather as soon as it left Orange Harbor. Wilkes claimed in his memoirs that he had instructed Lt. Long to hug the coast to be sheltered from the weather, but Long feared being driven onto rocks and headed for deep water. Whatever the case, storms soon forced him to seek shelter at Noir Island. There the crew spent a terror-filled night narrowly avoiding wrecking on the rocks. The ship lost its anchors in the fray and Long decided to discontinue his mission and head directly for Valpariso instead of returning, as ordered, to Orange Harbor. He attempted to send word to the Vincennes via a passing whaling ship, but his message failed to reach its destination.

Relief at Noir Island
Alfred T. Agate
Watercolor
98-89-GU

 

 

Lt. Commandant Andrew K. Long of U.S.S. Relief
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-GV

 

 


After returning from his southward voyage Wilkes waited for two weeks for the return of the other ships. Flying Fish brought word of Peacock's whereabouts in the first week of April, but they had no information of Relief. Wilkes became worried, particularly for the well-being of the scientists on board. Still, there was no other reason to stay at Orange Harbor, so he left Sea Gull and Flying Fish to remain there for a few more days before joining him at Valpariso.

The two tenders waited until 28 April before deciding to move on. The fall season was far advanced and the inhospitable weather was worsening. The ships departed together, but encountered a storm on leaving Cape Horn. Flying Fish returned to the harbor for shelter, but Sea Gull sailed on. Flying Fish lost sight of Sea Gull near midnight. Sea Gull was never seen again and eventually it was presumed lost in the storm with its commander, Passed Midshipman James W. E. Reid, two other officers, and fifteen men.

Sea Gull in Heavy Seas
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-O

 

 

Sea Gull in Heavy Seas
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-P

 

 

The Schooner Flying Fish
Alfred T. Agate
Pencil
98-89-T

 

 

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27 March 2004