United States Exploring Expedition, Vol XXIII

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United States Exploring Expedition, Vol XXIII


For those not familiar, the US Exploring Expedition (USXX) was the first oceanic research expedition, and the most audacious of its time. It sought to explore, map, and catalogue the lands, creatures, and peoples living in the lesser known island areas of the world. Most notably it sought to make landfall in Antarctica and map several river mouths in the Pacific Northwest.

There are a large number of volumes written by the expedition's leader, Charles Wilkes, but volume 23 is the only one to mention Palmyra, which was one of the islands visited. It offers a brief description of the place at the time, but most notably the fact that is was inhabited. Its likely these were only temporary visitors who may have made regular trips from nearby Fanning.


Charles Wilkes


Smithsonian Institue


C. Sherman




Public Domain





Text Item Type Metadata


Palmyra is a lagoon island, discovered by Captain Sawle, of the American ship Palmyra, in November, 1802. It is 14 miles in length, east and west, and 7 miles in width. The lagoon is 7 miles in length by 2 in width. This island is inhabited, and is situated in latitude 5° 50' north, and longitude 162° 23' west. An opening is reported on its west side, through which the tide flows. The Palmyra an­ chored on a bank near its northwest side, in 20 fathoms, on a sandy and coral bottom, three-quarters of a mile from the island.

The Porpoise sighted this island, and found the position assigned it correct. It is low, and cannot be seen over 10 or 12 miles in fine weather. Water and fruits may be obtained in small quantities.

It is to be regretted that all these detached islands should not be visited by our national vessels, and friendly intercourse kept up with them. The benefit and assistance that any shipwrecked mariners might derive from their rude inhabitants, would repay the time, trouble, and expense such visits would occasion.

Original Format



Charles Wilkes, “United States Exploring Expedition, Vol XXIII,” Palmyra Archive, accessed October 28, 2020, http://palmyraarchive.org/items/show/58.


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