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Rio Janeiro, Brazil

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.


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.