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List of Islands surveyed for the first time, ca. 1842

The U.S. Exploring Expedition surveyed the Pacific Ocean, mapping nearly 300 islands, including the Hawaiian Islands, the Marianas and the Fijis. For many of the Pacific islands, including the ones listed on this page, the surveys and charts were the first ever made.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

List of Islands surveyed for the first time, ca. 1842

Mapping the World

Throughout the 19th century Congress funded expeditions to explore land and sea. In 1836 Congress authorized the United States Exploring Expedition—also called the Wilkes Expedition after its leader, naval officer Charles Wilkes. Its purpose was to circumnavigate the world, promote commerce and “extend the bounds of science and … Knowledge.” The four-year expedition mapped South Sea islands and Pacific coastlines, established trade, and gathered voluminous information that aided the United States in becoming a leading scientific and naval power.