The Americas

Greely Expedition

Disinterest in Washington and the failure of two annual resupply missions to arrive condemned Army Lieutenant Adolphus Greely’s scientific expedition in Arctic Canada to starvation, cannibalism, and death.  His plight and rescue were major news stories in the early 1880’s.

Voyage Through an Enchanted Land

In 1851-52 Navy Lieutenants William Herndon and Lardner Gibbon explored the Amazon River basin the hard way:  west to east, from the river’s headwaters in Peru to its mouth on the Atlantic.  Their superb official account of travels thousands of miles through the lush, fabulously strange heart of the continent became a best seller, and made Herndon into one of the age’s celebrity adventurers.

 The River of Doubt

Former President Theodore Roosevelt’s small expedition on the mysterious Amazon tributary, “the River of Doubt,” after his failed attempt at re-election, almost killed him.  Travel with Roosevelt through the political history of the United States in the first decades of the 20th century, and through Amazonia, then one of the last great unexplored regions of the world.

Rounding Cape Horn

For four centuries, from the 16th to the 20th, the perilous route around Cape Horn was the way that explorers and mariners sailed and steamed between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, seeking everything from fame and riches to whale oil and gold. Hear about the history of navigation through this fabled passage.

The Caribbean and the Early Age of Exploration

Global wind and ocean current circulation patterns determined where off the continents of the New World early European explorers, searching for the riches of the Orient, would make their first landfalls.  Those patterns, the limitations of late 15th century seafaring, and the lush islands of the Caribbean and their congenial climate, ensured that the Caribbean and later the shores of the Gulf of Mexico became early focal points in the colonization of the Americas, the enslavement of their native peoples, and the hunt for wealth.

The American Civil War Afloat

A description of the cabinet secretaries, strategies, ships, sailors, and key battles that shaped the war at sea, at the ports, and on the rivers of the Confederacy. 1861-65.

Lost in the Ice

Lightship Cross Rip vanished off her station near Nantucket, Massachusetts, in February 1918 during the record “freeze-up” that year, the coldest North American winter in a century.  Caught in pack ice, the old, small vessel with her crew of Cape Cod watermen drifted into the broad Atlantic and was never seen again.  What precisely happened to Cross Rip and why, and was her first mate a hero?

The Spanish American War

The war at the end of the 19th century signaled the end of history’s first truly global empire, Spain, and the rise of the brash new imperial power, the United States, which would soon dominate the 20th century.  The short, decisive naval battles in Philippine and Cuban waters sharpened American interest in building “a path between the seas” and reshaped the map of the world.

The Suez and Panama Canals

The Suez Canal, opened to commerce in 1869, centuries after the first Nile-Red Sea canal of the ancient Egyptians, shrank the globe, and changed the political map of three continents for a century.  Seduced by this apparent success, its chief entrepreneur looked to repeat his success in Panama… and failed miserably.

The Guns of August and the 1914-15 European Cruise of the Armored Cruiser USS Tennessee

The story of USS Tennessee’s extraordinary mission during the first months of World War I (to deliver gold to prime the continent’s paralyzed banking system; to ease the path home for tens of thousands of stranded American tourists, students and expatriates; and to relocate thousands of impoverished refugees in the Middle East, all desperate to avoid the fighting), and of the cruiser’s sudden and public death on the Santo Domingo waterfront a century ago.