Biblical Archaeology Review 2:4, December 1976

BAR's Bicentennial Salute—The United States Navy Explores the Holy Land

By Emanuel Levine

In 1847 Lieutenant William F. Lynch of the United States Navy had completed his tour of duty in the recent Mexican War. He was restless and 46 years old. For 20 years he had had a dream. The time had come to realize his dream.

In his own words, “On the 8th of May 1847, the town and castle of Vera Cruz having some time before surrendered and there being nothing left for the navy to perform, I preferred an application to the Hon. John Y. Mason, the head of the department, for permission to circumnavigate and thoroughly explore the Lake Aspaltites or Dead Sea.”

On July 31, Lynch was informed that his application had been favorably acted upon, and on October 2, he was ordered to take command of the United States storeship, The Supply.

He carefully selected a crew of “young, muscular, native-born Americans, of sober habits, from each of whom I exacted a pledge to abstain from all intoxicating drinks.” The original crew numbered fourteen, including two additional officers.

The ship itself carried two metal boats, one of copper and the other of galvanized iron, made in sections, so that they might be taken apart for overland trips when necessary. Lynch also stowed aboard two wagon frames or low trucks on which the boats could be set and pulled by draft animals.

In addition, Lynch took aboard some arms and ammunition, scientific instruments, tents, many flags, spare sails, oars, preserved meats, and a few cooking utensils.

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