Charles Wilkes, US naval officer and explorer

Charles Wilkes, US naval officer and explorer

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Caption: Charles Wilkes (1798-1877), American naval officer and explorer. Wilkes was made head of the Depot of Charts and Instruments in 1830. During 1839-42 he commanded a naval expedition that surveyed the north-west coast of North America, the South Pacific and Antarctica. This voyage discovered 280 new islands in the South Pacific and helped to establish that Antarctica was a single continent. Wilkes was also responsible for the Trent Affair when he stopped a British vessel during the US Civil War in 1861 and removed Confederate diplomats who were aboard. As this action nearly began a war between Britain and America, Wilkes, who reached the rank of Rear Admiral, was retired from duty. This portrait, from the Brady National Photographic Art Gallery, dates from between 1860 and 1865.

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