Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: The Boundless Sea

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pp. 1-13

In January 2013, the minesweeper USS Guardian struck a coral reef in the Philippines. Precariously listing, pounded by surf against coral, the ship was a total loss. The incident was an embarrassment for the navy and the United States, another moment in a long, complicated history with the Philippines. Filipinos and others openly wondered what the vessel was doing there in the first place, recalling the United States’ long imperial shadow in the islands going back to the Spanish-American War of 1898. The navy blamed inaccurate digital charts in attempting to explain why a modern warship,...

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1. Wilderness of Waters

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pp. 14-40

The mariner Robert Weir closed his journal on April 12, 1858, with a common notation. “The water here has a very light blue appearance,” he wrote as his ship, the Clara Bell, pitched in the swells of the South Atlantic. Weir and the Clara Bell were nearing the end of a three-year whaling voyage to the Pacific Ocean, during which, to judge from his journal, he had spent many hours reflecting on the waters that surrounded his cramped wooden world. Weir, however, followed his initial observation with a more philosophical thought. The sea’s appearance, he added, “by Maury’s Theory...

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2. Empire of Commerce and Science

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pp. 41-73

In March 1839, from a bluff high above the sea in the shadow of Cape Horn, Passed Midshipman William Reynolds gazed on the Pacific Ocean, pondering the ocean scape spread before him. “Seated here alone,” he recorded in his journal, “at the very verge of the Western World with a waste of waters before me that for half the circuit of the Globe rolls on unbroken by a single Isle there was something so imposing in the sublime and solitary nature of the scene, that it seemed to me as if I were like the last man, looking upon Eternity.” Reynolds was a passed midshipman, among the navy’s most...

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3. The Common Highway

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pp. 74-106

“How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the steamship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm,” wrote Walt Whitman in his paean to Heroes in the poem “Song of Myself.” He was referring to the loss of the steamship S.S. San Francisco bound from New York on its maiden voyage to its namesake port when it encountered a storm while traversing the Gulf Stream three hundred miles from Sandy Hook. San Francisco had been built for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and launched the previous June, promising to be “superior to any thing that has yet made its appearance”...

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4. Conquering Old Ocean

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pp. 107-139

In September 1873, a strange warship eased out of the Mare Island Navy Yard in San Francisco Bay, headed north to the coast of Alaska, then across the Pacific to Japan and back again, surveying a route for a trans-Pacific submarine telegraph cable. USS Tuscarora was a wooden-hulled, three-masted steam sloop commissioned in 1861. During the Civil War, it had hunted Southern commerce raiders, the same ships the naval-scientistturned-Confederate-agent Matthew Fontaine Maury had contracted from British shipbuilders. Now, though, no cannon protruded from Tuscarora’s...

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5. ’Twixt the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

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pp. 140-165

On February 5, 1901, Commander Joseph E. Craig and his command, the cruiser Albany, were in Hong Kong before a naval court of inquiry. The proceedings were to examine Albany’s grounding on December 17, 1900, as it delivered a detachment of Marines to the new naval station at Olongapo in Subic Bay on the Philippine island of Luzon. The sun had just set that evening over the mountains ringing the bay. The gathering darkness cast a uniform shadow across the water. Craig had consulted his chart, Hydrographic Office Number 1705. The gunner’s mate called out distances from Albany’s...

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6. Making War upon the Chart

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pp. 166-201

The District of Columbia’s Sons of the American Revolution met in Washington on December 28, 1898. It had been four months since the United States won its war with Spain. A contentious debate over ratification of the peace treaty, annexation of the Philippines, and indeed, the whole question of American empire was set to begin in the Senate. About two hundred Sons and their guests attended the flag-draped dinner. Toasts were made and speeches given. The evening’s most anticipated speaker then stepped to the rostrum with a toast, “In ye time of peace prepare for war.” He was Commander...

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Epilogue: Controlling the Great Common

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pp. 202-210

There is a story—perhaps partly apocryphal, but probably not—about the writer John Steinbeck and his friend, the marine biologist Ed Ricketts. As Steinbeck wrote in his memorial following Ricketts’s death, the two had just returned from a scientific research trip to the Gulf of California that formed the narrative for Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez. It was early 1942. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, and the United States was at war. In preparing their research findings and attempting to put their work in the context of the broader marine biology of the Pacific Ocean, Steinbeck and...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 211-214

“Exultation is the going of an inland soul to sea,” the poet Emily Dickinson once wrote. “Bred as we, among the mountains, can the sailor understand the divine intoxication of the first league out from land?” I admit that I am mostly a landlubber, happy to be near saltwater, but convinced, as the American writer Richard Henry Dana suggested, that seafaring soon disabuses the inland soul of what he called “the witchery in the sea,” or the divine intoxication to which Dickinson refers. I am more comfortable in the classroom both as a student and teacher, in the archives, or clumsily hammering away on my keyboard—half cat-crazed—early in the morning...

Notes

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pp. 215-240

Bibliography

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pp. 241-262

Index

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pp. 263-270