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Lt. Charles Wilkes

On Aug. 18, 1838, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes set sail from Norfolk, Va., leading the United States Exploring Expedition, a four-year journey around the globe that charted 280 Pacific islands, explored 800 miles of the northwest U.S. coast and confirmed the existence of Antarctica. Before leading the expedition, Wilkes headed the Navy’s Depot of Charts and Instruments – now the U.S. Naval Observatory.