"Map of the Hawaiian Group or Sandwich Islands"
Published by Charles Wilkes, 1841
Large-scale scientific investigation in Hawai'i began with the visit of the United States Exploring Expedition in 1840. This expedition, which also visited many other parts of the Pacific, was under the command of Lt. Charles Wilkes. Among its many firsts, this expedition was the first overseas scientific project financed by the federal government. Its accomplishments were numerous, including the first extensive mapping of the Antarctic coastline, the first comprehensive charting of Fiji Islands, volcanologic studies in Hawai'i and elsewhere in the Pacific, and extensive survey work in the area of present-day Oregon and Washington.
Another major accomplishment from this expedition was the first time mapping of the Hawai'i volcanoes, including the summit of Mauna Loa, the crater of Kilauea on the Big Island and Haleakala on Maui.
The results of the U.S. Exploring Expedition were published in a five-volume narrative written by Charles Wilkes, the commander of the expedition, and a series of technical reports written by scientists who accompanied Wilkes. The botanical, zoological, and marine specimens brought back by the expedition formed the basic collections of the newly established Smithsonian Institution.