by Dean C. Allard
The Albatross began her third year of operation in
January 1885 when she
sailed from the Washington Navy Yard for a winter cruise in
Sea. As was typical, Baird’s letter of instruction to Tanner
directed that he combine practical with scientific work(13).
Initially the ship collected specimens and hydrographic data off
Cuba, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and the U.S. Gulf coast. Then
the ship proceeded to an International Exposition in New Orleans,
La., where many visitors came on board.
Figure 15. - The chart room
in another effort by the Fish Commission to expand American
fisheries, the Albatross surveyed known fishing grounds
and located a productive, new red snapper bank near Cape San
Blas on the west coast of Florida (Tanner, 1887:3-26; USFC,
1887:xxvi-xxviii; Schroeder, 1922:166-167).
Following a now-familiar pattern, the Albatross deployed
for the summer of 1885 in northern waters, using Woods Hole
as her base. Initially the ship cruised in the Grand Banks region
collecting hydrographic data for a new contour map of those
highly productive fishing banks. Joseph W. Collins, the Commission’s
commercial fishing expert, personally directed this work. Later,
the vessel operated in deep oceanic waters off the Continental
Fish Commission spokesmen continued to state that the Albatross
was searching for the tilefish, but this was not Baird’s
only motivation. During one of her cruises out of Woods Hole,
the ship logged 11 deep-water stations with an average depth
of 1,923 fathoms, yielding numerous bottom specimens. As was
typical in Albatross operations during this period,
plankton also was collected by surface nets, continual hydrographic
observations were made, and readings were obtained of the ocean’s
specific gravity, salinity, and temperature. In addition to
the scientists named previously, the Fish Commission’s
investigators during the summer of 1885 included Leslie A. Lee,
a naturalist from Bowdoin College, and William Libbey, Jr.,
a Princeton physical oceanographer (Tanner, 1887: 27–62;
NCAB, 1931:140–141; Deck Log(14).
On her return to Washington, D.C., in October 1885, the Albatross
undertook a limited investigation of the Gulf Stream region
off the Delaware and Chesapeake Capes and Cape Hatteras(15).
Aside from its scientific purpose, this activity probably was
associated with Baird’s interest in the spring and fall
migrations of coastal pelagic species. Nevertheless, a later
Congressional investigation of the Fish Commission alleged that
Spencer Baird never “thoroughly planned” an inquiry
into this subject (U.S. Congress, 1891:70–71).
The ship’s 1886 winter cruise was funded jointly by the
Navy and the Fish Commission. The Albatross cruised
mainly in the Bahamas area to collect hydrographic data. Baird
also directed the ship’s crew to determine if the Bahamas
were the winter home for the pelagic fish species that appeared
each spring off the Mid-Atlantic coast, but no evidence to support
that theory was found. However, useful data were collected for
the Commission on the sponge fisheries off Nassau. Productive
hauls of biological specimens also were taken from the Straits
of Florida and in the Gulf Stream south of Cape Hatteras (Tanner,
1888:605–606; USFC, 1892:x–xi).